Willett of the Day: The Willett House(s)

Not all interesting Willetts are people. There are also businesses, such as The Willett House, which “has made a name for itself as one of Westchester Country’s premier steak houses.” (Fair warning: its web site also features a really annoying theme song. )

Located approximately one hour north of Manhattan and hugging the Connecticut border, the Willett House occupies a turn-of-the-century grain storage facility on the Byram River in the industrial town of Port Chester.

The restaurant emulates the old-style New York steak house, giving those outside the city a chance to sample prime U.S.D.A. steaks and chops without having to travel an hour south to places like Spark’s Peter Luger Steak House, The Palm and Smith & Wollensky’s.

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One of the first buildings as part of a major revitalization project for downtown Port Chester, Greenwich, Conn.-based architect Paul F. Hopper retained the brick exterior and filled the arched windows with etched glass. The authentic factory floor, wood plank ceiling, exposed pipes and block and tackle hanging from a 30-foot skylight bring diners back to an era long gone.

Situated near the mahogany bar area are pictorial reminders of the town’s economic heyday, when the Byram river was a bustling port, bringing goods to and from New York City. The Willett House parking lot is where schooners were docked at the turn of the century, and customers can get a feel for it from the mural that is the centerpiece of the main dining room.

Local artist Cecilia Barnett researched the area and created a mural depicting a port scene 80 or so years ago. Like looking out onto the river of the past, the 6-foot-by-15-foot painting is done on three arched brick trompe l’oeil windows.

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Or perhaps you prefer this Willett House, in Granville Ferry, Nova Scotia:

This two-and-a-half storey New England colonial wood frame house was built by Walter Willett, a leading Granville Ferry merchant and son of Loyalist Samuel Willett, cornet in a cavalry regiment during the American War of Independence.

Walter Willett, who had married Mary Wheelock in the summer of 1832, bought the eastern part of this lot in 1833 for 175 pounds, and probably built the house shortly thereafter. Situated on a slope overlooking the Annapolis Basin, it has a medium pitched end gable roof with return eaves and two chimneys one quarter inset. The five-bay facade features an enclosed entranceway with sidelights and fanlight transom. The entranceway is reached by railed steps. Members of the Willett family owned the house until 1971.

Technically, I suppose my on house is a Willett House now, but I doubt anyone will ever call it that.

Permanent link to this article: https://edwardwillett.com/2008/07/willett-of-the-day-the-willett-houses/

2 comments

    • Valerie Young Mount on June 17, 2020 at 12:30 pm
    • Reply

    I can’t tell if this blog is recent. I am researching a 1900-01 diary of a woman who lived in Deep Brook. She tells of a Mr Willett who came to her house, installed and demonstrated a newer type of washing and wringer machine. Do you have any knowledge of who this may be, Walter Willett of Granville Ferry, a merchant who died 1914, married to Melinda Churchill of Digby. His father Walter, merchant before him, but died earlier than 1901. Also could be Lawrence C who died in 1930, also of the Ferry.

    Can you help or direct me to a source of family history? Many thanks.

    1. I wish I could help, but it’s not a branch of the family I know anything about. Our bunch of Willetts are mostly from down Texas/Oklahoma way.

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