GREENWICH — When Larry Imbrogno heard about a great housing opportunity, he all but jumped at it.
The old caretaker’s cottage at Greenwich Point was going to be renovated for residency by a town employee, and Imbrogno, who works in the Parks Department, was smitten with the idea of living at the little spit of land at the very tip of Tod’s Point. The house comes with the job of park caretaker.
“When the position came up, and the house, I said I’ve got to go for it,” said Imbrogno, a fourth-generation Greenwichite whose family has worked for the town for generations.
But the old caretaker’s house was in a serious state of decline, and it wasn’t clear a year ago that a major renovation would turn it into a comfortable home.
The rehab job done by contractors working for the town came out fine, however, re-cladding the roughly 110-year-old home in cedar shingles and installing new insulation that makes it feel snug inside. The contractors also preserved the original Queen Anne-style architectural features that Jon Kennedy Tod employed on his vast estate when he began acquiring land there in the 1880s.
Eager to live there, Imbrogno knew he couldn’t make the decision alone.
“I had to do a little convincing,” he said.
Not too much. His family, including two young sons, moved in a few weeks ago.
Jennifer Imbrogno said she’s adjusting happily to their new house.
“Mornings I love: coming out and having a cup of coffee, the fresh air, the salt water,” said the mother of two. She and her family enjoy cycling, and they’re out on their bikes just about every day. They’re also enjoying exploring the attractions of Old Greenwich.
“So far it’s lovely,” she said.
Imbrogno said the work on the house was impressive. “They did a really nice job, they wanted to make sure it felt like a home,” he said, adding that the extensive installation of hardwood inside the house was an especially nice touch.
The site itself is unique. The park gets one million visitors a year, but it’s still very much a wild place, and has its own distinct micro-climate.
When the sun goes down, coyotes, foxes and other wildlife come out, Imbrogno said, and the place takes on the feel of untamed wilderness. The weather there is also hard to predict — it can be raining at the Point when it’s snowing in the rest of town. It’s typically 5 to 10 degrees cooler there.
Winter weather is uniquely severe at the Point, the caretaker said.
“It gets brutal down here with the wind. It’s not like back on the mainland,” Imbrogno said. The house has extra layers of insulation keep the elements at bay. And it’s shaded by old maple and elm trees that could soften the hard winds coming off the Sound.
The home also had to be raised about 14 inches during the renovation to comply with insurance regulations on flooding.
The old house is one of the last structures still standing from the original Tod estate. When it was built has never been definitively ascertained, but Imbrogno said he found a 1903 newspaper, published in German from New York City, in the wall of the house when it was being renovated.
Tod, a Scottish immigrant, made a fortune in railroads and finance at the turn of the 20th century. He and his wife, Maria, built a sumptuous country estate and a golf course on the Point. They also built summer bungalows for nurses to visit the shore from New York City as a philanthropic gesture, and some of those structures still exist at the town park.
The house definitely feels a bit other-worldly, its owners say.
“Some days when I get home from work, I feel like I’m in a vacation home,” Imbrogno said. “It’s so different. And to be this secluded, it’s like being deep in the country.”
The caretaker wakes at 5 a.m. every morning, and he’s on call for 24 hours, sometimes all week. He likes getting up early and seeing the sun coming up over the park, but the evenings are truly magical, he said.
As the twilight falls over the sea, the distant city skyline turns into a jewel box of lights and colors.
“You can see New York City all lit up, the bridges, the planes coming in,” Imbrogno said, “It’s a heckuva shot.”