Extown Farm is a 17+ acre spread, with a main farmhouse and seven other structures, on a property that spans Laurel Road, on a hill in backcountry New Canaan. Its history is…historic! The original core of the house, on one of the choice pieces of farmland in what was then Canaan Parish, was constructed circa 1776! Over time the property was used as a farm and the main house was expanded and reconfigured into a two-family, and it’s believed the Kellogg family, established in the local community, were residents during this period. By 1850, the property had been acquired by the Town of New Canaan and, called The Poor House, was used as the Town’s alms house, with up to 20 rooms for townsfolk who were down on their luck. There’s also anecdotal evidence that the house may also have been used as a kind of a ‘drunk tank’ or overnight holding facility – there’s still a jail door in the basement. And it wasn’t until the Roaring Twenties – the 1920s! – when wealthy New Yorkers began buying up ‘gentleman farms’ in Fairfield and Westchester, that the Town sold the property…resulting in the name ‘Ex Town’…to the first of a series of affluent ‘gentleman farmer’ families, including notably the Findlay family associated with the Findlay Galleries in Manhattan.
Fast forward to 2006, and a new gentleman farmer, a wealthy Wall Streeter, acquired the then ‘well-aged’ property, and began an epic restoration. With teams of planners, architects, builders and tradesmen priming the pump, he managed to invest an eight figure fortune in the place, doing things like overbuilding the main house with a steel structural framework and overdoing the infrastructure with items like multiple water wells and back-up generators for the back-up generators…before giving up.
Enter ‘The House Whisperer’, custom builder extraordinaire and New Canaan local, Dave Prutting, leader of the full service contracting firm Prutting + Co., and well known for breathing new life into period architectural masterpieces. In 2021, he picked up the property for less than his predecessor had paid just for the land, and began the patient and painstaking process of making everything perfect. Unlike his predecessor, Prutting has the experience and expertise to fulfill the grand vision, and the project now nears a completion which could have a new owner moved-in in time to celebrate the Fourth.
Prutting enlisted Joeb Moore & Partners Architects to rethink the main house, including moving a staircase in order to open a siteline down the length of the original structure, and a two-story addition more than doubling the size of the residence, to 6,600 square feet, and including the new kitchen on the first floor and the primary bedroom suite upstairs. There are now a total of 6 bedrooms and 5 baths. The antique feel throughout is highlighted by original 10+ wide-plank Oak floorboards, original fireplaces, and authentic-looking but newly done wood-beamed plastered walls. There’s a mix of rich quality craftsmanship – like a pair of Craftsman style Chestnut pocket doors with Remy glass panels that Prutting had made several decades ago and was waiting to use in just the right place, and the gray Brazilian slate floor that’s been installed in the front hall – that enhances the overall rich and rustic character. And – best of all, when it comes to actually living in the house – every inch, including the rooms that were renovated and the new section of the house, and every bathroom, and all the windows, and all the appliances and utilities, are brand spanking new.
It’s obvious that every one of the craftsmen that Prutting brought-in – folks who’ve been working for Prutting and his business partner and wife Debbie over the course of their half-century in the business of building homes – did their best work here. The woodwork throughout the house is top notch. The design and finish of the bathrooms is most desireable. Even seemingly tangential items, like the way the stone stairs to the front door are built over a cobblestone water trough, evidence a mature understanding of the way the property works and an artisan’s careful attention.
Next to the main house, there’s a six-car carriage house, with a 1,200 square foot finished two- bedroom apartment on the second floor. On the other side of the property, there’s a comfortable 1,700 square foot one-bedroom guesthouse done in the same farmhouse style as the main house, nice enough to function as a full-time residence for family or other esteemed users. There’s a cute two-room cottage waiting to be purposed as an additional guest suite or an artist’s studio. There’s a five-stall horse barn and woodshed that’s in good shape. There’s a small shed suitable for planting or potting or another passion. And then there are two giant red barns on the property. One has various work and storage rooms and a huge two-story open loft that’s just waiting to be turned into a party space, and stalls and complete horse stable and livestock dairying facilities in the walk-out basement. The other is one big, open, vaulted space – already ready for a party.
Ancient stone walls run around the perimeter and through the rolling green fields, orchards and gardens. An amphitheater-styled outdoor patio next to the main house, with vast views, adds a hint of formality. All it takes to make this an equestrian estate is the horses. All it takes to play outdoor sports is the chalk lines. All it takes for the best BBQs and picnics are the fixin’s. And all it takes to host a wonderful wedding…is the participants.
While it remains to be seen whether the next occupant of Extown Farm will be a family with kids who are going to get to grow up on a real farm with as many sheep and chickens and fruit trees and vegetable gardens and beehives as may be desired – and New Canaan schools, or weekenders wanting a real country experience – but only an hour from Manhattan, with all the class, culture, comfort and convenience of New Canaan, and the ability to host a horde of houseguests…the dream is now move-in ready!