An old aristocrat seeking asylum in a changing world, a 51-acre estate has been approved as a three-lot resubdivision that leaves the brick manor house with its wide lawns, pool and tennis court on 46 acres, while creating a pair or two-acre house lots for potential development.

Built in 1939 by Wadsworth R. Lewis, creator of the Lewis Fund which has donated millions to local charities over the years, the property is at 183 Great Hill Road. It stretches over to Limestone Road and other amenities include a caretaker’s cottage and a greenhouse.

The estate served as the country home of Time magazine founder Henry Luce and his wife Congresswoman and Ambassador to Italy Claire Booth Luce from 1946 to 1966. It is currently owned by the estate of Basha Szymanska.

“The family hopes to, ideally, sell the entire parcel to one buyer,” engineer Steven Trinkaus told the Planning and Zoning Commission. “But they want to see if they can get two previously approved lots that had not been built upon reapproved.”

The two house lots are each a little over two acres. The both front on and have access from Limestone Road. The 46-acre estate property has gated access off Great Hill Road.

The three-lot resubdivision was approved by the Planning and Zoning Commission after a brief public hearing conducted by Zoom on Tuesday, June 9. There were no comments from the general public at the hearing.

The vote was 8-to-0 with on abstention, by Susan Consentino — she hadn’t been able to walk the site due to an injury.

2002 subdivision

“I did the original subdivision in the early 2000s,” Trinkhaus told the commission. “In 2016 there was a consolidation of lots because the market was nowhere to be found. And, unfortunately, Basha passed away last fall.

“The estate house is kind of in the center. The two lots we’re asking approval for are fronting on Limestone Road,” he said.

“The estate hopes to sell everything in a package.”

Trinkhaus said the plans already had their wetlands review.

“There are no wetlands on these two lots. The wetlands are on the estate parcel,” he said. “...So, no regulated activities.”

Any houses built on the two new lots would have septic systems.

“The soils on the site are very suitable,” he said, “…very suitable for septic.”

The property is in a two-acre zone.

Open space of more than seven acres was donated back in 2002 when the original subdivision of some 66 acres approved. Since then three lots on the east side of Great Hill Road — across from the estate parcel — were given to the Ridgefileld Land Conservancy as open space.

Local philanthropist

The estate was built for Wadsworth R. Lewis in 1939, and called “Taghkanick.” The mansion house was designed by the architectural firm of Noël and Miller, whose other work included the Whitney Museum of American Art.

Historian Jack Sanders said in his Notable Ridgefielders that Wadsworth Lewis had been a lieutenant in the Naval intelligence service during World War I. Sanders described Lewis as “active in the community, serving on the school board, Draft Board, the Ration Board, and the Town Hall Building Committee. He was also an award-winning grower of orchids…”

Lewis has grown up on the across town on the estate of his father, F. E Lewis, off West Lane.

He died in 1942, and The Lewis Fund began distributing money under terms set up in his will eight years later, after the death of his mother, Mary Russell Lewis, in 1950.

Over the years the fund has donated close to $4 million. In recent years distributions exceeding $100,000 annually have gone to nearly 50 non-profit organizations that benefit Ridgefielders, from the Library to the Boys and Girls Club to Meals on Wheels.