POUND RIDGE, N.Y. – Carol Cioppa looks at the early architecture of Pound Ridge homes through a two-sided prism. She is the Chairman of the Pound Ridge Landmarks and Historic District Commission, as well as an award-winning architect.
“When I moved here from New York, I had to rethink what I was doing,’’ said Cioppa, who has lived in Pound Ridge since 1997 and has been on the commission for nine years, serving as chairman for the last six. “In New York I did corporate interiors and lobby renovations, and the occasional apartment and residence. When I moved here my specialty become working with older homes and antiques. I always thought if I can’t build my own home, I’d find an historic home because they’re so basic and straightforward, but they always have some character.”
Cioppa is a perfect fit on the nine-member Historic District Commission, which preserves historic homes, landmarks, landmark sites and the town’s historic districts. Cioppa said that as of January, Pound Ridge had 71 landmark homes, many of which date back to the 1700s.
“We try to have people landmark their homes so that the exterior stays with the past,’’ Cioppa said. “We don’t have anything to do with the interior, and we can’t control what color they paint their house. We try to encourage people not to do anything too radical, but that’s not something we can control.”
Cioppa said documenting the history of homes requires extensive research of land records. Some homes that are documented as having been built in the 1700s might have even been built before that. Interestingly, there are few common threads in the historic homes of Pound Ridge, Cioppa said.
“Part of the character is how they grew,’’ she said. “Some are a story and a half. Some of them look like salt boxes. The ones in the hamlet, where the wealthier people lived, are a full two stories and quite elegant.”
One common denominator in the older homes is the central chimney. “It was the most economical way to build,’’ Cioppa said. “All the fireplaces wound around that one chimney. Some homes have stairways that are totally enclosed. You didn’t go upstairs until you were ready to go to sleep. They didn’t want that heat to go upstairs. Most houses had two or three fireplaces, including one in the kitchen. A lot of the homes even have bake ovens.”
Cioppa said Pound Ridge was also “the basket making capital for the seafood industry” in the 1700s, and a couple of houses were actually “basket shops.” The town’s population dipped to just 515 in 1920, but Cleveland born millionaire Hiram Halle arrived shortly afterwards and remodeled many old farmhouses and barns.
He had owned and remodeled 33 properties by the time of his death in 1944, and 13 are on the National Register of Historic Places. “The Hamlet," a one mile stretch of restored homes along 124, is also listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
“Halley saved many of them from falling down,’’ Cioppa said. “But a bunch of things he did were probably inappropriate from an historical perspective. Still, what he did to the homes is considered a good thing.”
Cioppa enjoys working with the other members of the commission, who strive to maintain the historical integrity of the older homes while also keeping them updated for use in the 21st century.
“We have a lot of people on the Commission who have lived in historic homes, so they know the challenges associated with it,’’ she said. “Having an older home landmarked gives it some cache. We feel compelled to help maintain the character of the homes.”