On Saturday, June 16, the public will have the rare opportunity to tour and explore eight diverse historic homes and three one-of-a-kind revitalized gardens in the seaside village of Noank.
Ticket proceeds benefit Our Shoreline Community Association, a nonprofit group that helps local seniors stay safely in their own homes by providing them with a wide range services and social activities.
“It’s been 12 years since the last house and garden tour in Noank,” says Nancy Codeanne, one of the event chairs. “And this is the first major fundraiser for OSCA (of which she is a board member).”
“We wanted to get a cross-section of homes and periods,” Codeanne says, “and to spread the tour out from one end of the village to the other.”
Some of the houses on the tour have been expanded and modernized, Codeanne says, but all of them have in common colorful stories connecting them to the past.
According to local legend, The Palmer Inn exists today because a fisherman lured his reticent bride-to-be to the old fishing village with the promise of building her any house she wanted, which turned out to be a Georgian Revival, the plans selected from a Sears, Roebuck catalog.
Codeanne points out that although several of the more formal houses have undergone extensive work to restore them to their original glory, other humbler structures are equally charming, thanks to owners who have added a little whimsy to their homes.
One owner brought a lobsterman’s shack onto the property and turned it into a guesthouse. Another used an old woodstove discovered in the basement, brought it upstairs, cleaned it up, and transformed it into the base of the kitchen’s center island. Installed in one of the backyards is a model train layout consisting of 800 feet of track on which G-scale trains run over trestle bridges and a waterfall with koi fishpond.
“There’s truly a lot of variety and lots of great details and ideas for things people can do on their own homes,” Codeanne says.
Codeanne says the tour also reflects what an artistic community Noank has become, with many artists and art patrons residing in the village.
“There’s so much art in this area,” she says. The owner of one of the homes was related to Robert Brackman—a turn-of-the-century Noank artist—and the home is filled with older art. Another house is filled with the work of local contemporary artists.
The three gardens on the tour are very much in keeping with the village architecture and landscape, Codeanne says.
“Nothing is overdone. People have respected the lay of the land and have added tastefully to it,” she says.
She refers to a garden on Spring St. owned by a master gardener who has created a collection of gardens with lots of flowering plants, herbs, wildflowers and a vegetable garden featuring heirloom tomatoes, leeks, lima beans and chili peppers.
Helping to sustain OSCA
The tour will help OSCA continue to provide all the benefits of a retirement community to elderly residents of the shoreline communities of Noank, Mystic, Stonington, Groton and Groton Long Point, who want to live independently in their own homes.
There is a membership fee to join OSCA but it doesn’t cover all the costs of the nonprofit’s many services—from providing transportation to doctors’ visits to social and cultural events and activities.
OSCA is made up of a 12-member board of directors (all members) and 20 volunteers. About 103 people are currently served by the organization.
“We’re not meant to solve the entire issue—we don’t do anything medical,” says Stephanie Panagos, OSCA coordinator. “We’re here to be a piece of that puzzle of aging and keeping you in your home.
“The mission of the tour is two-fold,” Panagos adds. “It’s to raise funds, obviously, but also for people to get to know more about what we do—we’re the world’s best-kept secret. We’ll provide brochures at the tour and some of the volunteers will be present to explain the organization.”