Reimagining a Grace Church Street Family Home on the Circle

Even though the Everetts knew it would be a Herculean task, their initial plan was to renovate the 160-year-old structure.

Grace Church Street home
Photo courtesy Nick Everett
Published June 27, 2024 9:26 AM
6 min read


The stately white clapboard home gracing the hill above the traffic circle since 1863 was a fixture in Rye — until one day in the spring of last year, when it wasn’t.

A demo crew came in, the house went down and almost immediately the online and offline reactions started up. Rye Moms Facebook Group was abuzz with comments from those who were shocked and saddened to see it go and expressed worries about what would replace it.

Those in the know quickly stepped in with reassuring comments. They posted that the rebuild of Two Grace Church Street was being done by Nancy and Nick Everett, whose families have lived in Rye for generations. And that they intended to preserve the home’s architectural integrity.

For the Everetts, giving the home a second life was a labor of love. Nancy, a real estate broker with Houlihan Lawrence, grew up in the house. In 1987, when she and Nick were hunting for a house in Rye after moving back from Australia, Nancy’s father, Robert Reade, offered to subdivide the property so the couple could build a home directly behind her childhood home.

On the back portion of the lot where her father grew vegetables, Nancy and Nick built a house of their own. There, they raised their now-grown, three children — Clemmie, Jamie, and Reade — who had the benefit of living a stone’s throw from their grandparents.

After Nancy’s father died in 1992, her mother, Doris, continued to live at Two Grace Church Street until she could no longer live by herself. Nancy and Nick looked after both Doris and the house. “We sort of became the caretakers as Nancy’s mother aged in place and then moved to The Osborn,” said Nick.

Her mother’s attachment to the house ran deep. “My mother loved this house,” said Nancy, “She lived there from the time they bought it until she moved to The Osborn in her 90s where she passed away at 103.”

A photo of 2 Grace Church St. following its extensive rebuild.

When Nancy’s parents bought the house in 1951, they were residing in an apartment in Rye Colony with a toddler and new baby. Before moving into their “new” old home, they updated the bathrooms and kitchen, and added a powder room.

That was pretty much the extent of the changes they made. As a couple shaped by the Great Depression, they lived modestly. “They maintained the house, but they didn’t do any major renovations,” said Nancy.

Even though the Everetts knew it would be a Herculean task, their initial plan was to renovate the 160-year-old structure before they offered it up for sale.

After consulting with three architects, they came to realize that would be easier said than done. The home’s existing foundation wasn’t strong enough to support a gut renovation and expansion. “I would have loved to have been able to renovate the pre-existing structure, but it just didn’t make sense,” said Nancy.

While a total rebuild was the most feasible option, they were adamant about duplicating the front facade down to the full-length windows, customizing the unique second floor railing, which was a variation of the Chippendale style, and keeping a portion of the original home’s layout.

To help them achieve their vision, The Everetts chose local architect, Rex Gedney, of Crozier Gedney Architects. Gedney also grew up in Rye, as did multiple generations of his family since the late 1600s. “Rex got it right away,” said Nick. “He understood what we wanted and that made us feel very comfortable.”

“The whole intention for me was to keep the spirit and the look of the prior house and to keep some of the best of what had been here and recreate that for the 21st century,” said Nancy. In addition to retaining the exterior look, the first-floor layout is very similar to the original, including a replica of the fireplace flanking the family room, a restored transom window over what is now the entrance to the living room, and a portion of the interior staircase’s mahogany railing.

The planning and construction took almost two years with Nancy overseeing the design and Nick the construction and landscape, a job for which he was well-suited. His career included work as a landscape architect and in construction management.

A rich and varied knowledge gleaned from his volunteer commitments to Rye also served him well. He has been the chair of Rye’s Planning Commission since 2011 and a member since 2003. Prior to that he was chair of the City’s Board of Architectural Review from 1994 through 2002.

He was also the driving force behind the home’s environmentally friendly geothermal heating and cooling systems. “I wanted to make this house as sustainable as possible,” said Nick.

To provide clean electricity, he tucked 2 solar panels onto discrete portions of the roof.

The new version of the house has 5,220 square feet of living space, a little over 2,000 square feet more than the original. Spanning three floors, it has five bedrooms and 5-1/2 bathrooms. To put the garage underneath the house, the new house is a foot and a half higher than the original.

Specimen plants, many that have been there since before Nancy’s parents moved in, dot the half-acre landscape. Nick painstakingly safeguarded yews, beeches, and a Chinese chestnut tree from the heavy machinery and construction crews that were on site during the demolition and build.

In addition to spearheading the house’s design, Nancy, who has been a top real estate agent in Rye for more than 25 years, is the listing agent. Houlihan Lawrence is offering the house at $4,950,000.

Despite the ups and downs that come with building a home, especially one with such emotional ties, it’s obvious from the vision they achieved that Nancy and Nick make a solid team. Their strong foundation is cemented by a long history together.

“Nick’s parents met in Rye. My parents met in Rye. And we met in Rye growing up,” said Nancy. Nick lived at the corner of Green and Forest Avenues and attended Milton School. Nancy went to Midland. They started dating in high school. “We were in the same class at Rye Country Day,” said Nancy.

After she graduated from college and Nick was finishing graduate school, they tied the knot at Christ’s Church right across the street from Nancy’s childhood home. “I walked to the church,” said Nancy. “There’s a picture of me walking down the front lawn in my gown with my bridesmaids and parents. You just see the old house in the background.”

Two Grace Church Street holds many fond memories for Nancy, Nick, their children and six grandchildren. It was the gathering place for holidays, birthday parties and summer meals on the back terrace. “It was a happy house,” said Nancy. “That’s part of the reason we wanted to recreate the space.”

In addition to the strong bonds that Nancy has to her childhood home, she’s well aware of the pride of place it engenders in the community and its historical charm. “It’s such an important location in Rye, it’s such a signature,” said Nancy. “If somebody had changed it, it just wouldn’t be
right.” Thanks to the Everetts, this distinguished home which embodies Rye’s past and present will continue to grace the traffic circle for years to come.

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