Tree crews to give Handy House some breathing room

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Westport's Handy House, and the extensive restoration work going on there, will soon be more visible to passersby thanks to tree and shrub clearing that has already begun.

Arborists Tom Morra and Westport's Eric Whipple, who now work together at RF Morra Tree Care, will bring crew and equipment to the historic Hix Bridge Road house to remove and trim shrubs and bushes that have grown wild and uncontrolled for many years.

Those trees, which include three large overgrown yews on the south and southeast side of the house, are having unintended and unwelcome impacts on the old structure, said Betty Slade, vice president of the Westport Historical Society.

"The three trees are close to the Handy House and block a lot of the light causing increased dampness," she said. "They affect the drainage patterns which now tend to direct water to the house" and their presence prevents grading work that is needed to redirect water away from the house.

"We also believe that removal of these trees will enable people driving by to appreciate the beauty of the Handy House in full.  It will be a much more dramatic sight and will attract a lot of attention from locals as well as from visitors," Ms. Slade said.

After studying the situation, the Historical Society concluded that the best course would be to remove the large yews (which are not native trees) and trim back on other plants. Ms. Slade said the tree company is doing the work free of charge.

That work corresponds with other work being done by local landscaper Tim Palmer (also at no charge) and his crew of volunteers.

With their help, "the two acres around the Handy House have really begun to shape up," Ms. Slade said. "They have removed dead trees and vines and kept the grass mown."

Some prized native trees on the property will be spared and tended to.

"We will be able to take care of our beautiful beech tree and maples and add some native and appropriate trees, shrubs and flowers to the to the wonderful property that the people of Westport gave to us to steward. We are beginning what we are calling a master plan for utilization of the entire property  and landscaping will be a very important component."

"A lot of unseen work such as shoring up the foundation, removing asbestos, fixing structural weaknesses, dealing with excess moisture and the like is complete." Outside, new shingles and repaired bulkheads will be more visible once the tree trimming is done.

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