With their two young children in tow, Marcia Santoni and John Morris would often leave their apartment in Manhattan and retreat to the family cottage in Stonington that Morris’ grandfather had built in 1938. They dreamed of one day having a place of their own here, and looked at property off and on. But first, they were on the hunt for a bigger apartment in the city for their expanding family.
“A broker told us that a property had come on the market that he thought we’d love, and said he’d show it to us if we were going to be up that weekend,” says Santoni, who figured they’d look “for the heck of it.”
“When we toured, I didn’t even go upstairs. I knew that it would be a great project for someone, but not us. I thought we’d continue to look for that bigger apartment.” But the house, a 1775 Colonial with a central chimney, spoke to something deep inside Morris. It was owned by a couple in their 80s who had raised their family and lived there for 40 years. While it had been added to a few times in the 1970s and ’80s, Morris was moved by the home’s history and simplicity, and relished the opportunity to tend to its picturesque 40 acres of wild, natural beauty. He looked through this haze of many projects and instantly envisioned possibilities.
“It hit me in the gut that I could peel back the layers that had grown over the property both literally and figuratively over the years,” remembers Morris, who at the time was a financial analyst in New York City and didn’t know the first thing about tractors. “This whole area was part of the Wheeler farm, and I don’t know if this particular property is part of that, but we’re right next to Wheeler Road and my family are direct descendants of the Wheelers. It’s hard to describe how passionate and visceral it was for me. I’m not superstitious, but I’ve come to believe that there was something calling me back.”
“Well, we bought the house 20 years ago and still have the same small apartment in New York,” says Santoni, who had the couple’s third child after buying the property. “It’s become the epicenter of our family over the years — the place where we spend our holidays and escape to in summer.”
With signs of use and weathering, wide wood planks were preserved to show the farmhouse’s 18th-century character.
Chris Fondulas/ Contributed photo
Today, their three children are young adults, and the couple are empty nesters. Morris lives …….