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On Board with Phil Esser

Phil brings his extensive historic preservation experience to our organization helping us to safeguard significant buildings in town.

Can you tell us about your background and what drew you to the Ridgefield Historical Society?

I love history, particularly architectural history. The Ridgefield Historical Society has its origins in the Ridgefield Preservation Trust, which was instrumental in saving the Scott House from demolition many yeas ago. Historic Preservation engagement is critical to assisting Ridgefield in retaining its historic character, so the RHS is a great way to further appreciation and education about this often, fragile resource.

How long have you lived in Ridgefield and what brought you here? 

As a native of Ridgefield, my love for the town runs deep. From my earliest memories, its historic character, natural beauty, and wonderful people, have had me always stay engaged — it is truly my hometown. Even though I have lived in the Southwest for fifteen years now, I can’t help but want to give back to a town that I was so privileged to grow up in.

What is your educational/professional background?

After working with my brother managing the rehabilitation of my family’s historic home in Ridgefield, I pursued a BS in Historic Preservation from Roger Williams University. For ten years I worked in private practice documenting historic properties in Los Angeles, Seattle and, returning East, in the Tri-State area. For the past 15 years, I have been working for the US military documenting Cold-War era missile development and test facilities in California and New Mexico. I received an MS degree in Historic Preservation from Roger Williams University in 2019.

What is your area of focus on the Board of Directors at the Historical Society? 

I chair the Historic Preservation Committee which is charged to comment on and engage in  Ridgefield’s Demolition Delay Ordinance, as well as educate and assist the public in historic preservation opportunities. Our committee took the lead on partnering with the town’s HDC in receiving state grant funding to update Ridgefield’s Historic Resource Inventory, now underway. I also chair the Architectural Archives Committee which is evolving as a new component of the organization.      

What is your favorite era of history? Is there a particular historical person, event, or topic you’re most interested in?

My favorite period of history is the first part of the twentieth century, the period in which the finest and most artistic expression in American historical revival architecture was produced. My life’s work has been the recordation of, and conservation of the architectural records of Roger H. Bullard, a notable New York architect whose architectural records I helped preserve 25 years ago. It is going to be donated by the family to the RHS as the first large architectural commissions collection. Bullard designed two significant historic homes in Ridgefield as well as designing the first clubhouse at the Silver Spring Country Club.

What other interests do you have?

I have a passion for automobile heritage, collecting classic cars mostly from the 1970s and 1980s over the years. Like historic buildings, we don’t really own them, we act as generational stewards in their preservation, paying particular attention to authenticity. I have been the steward of many classics, though my first passion is Cadillac. I have enjoyed caring for numerous Mercedes-Benz’s, Lincolns, and Jaguars as well.     

Photo Caption: Phil at White Sands Missile Range in New Mexico where he works as an on-site Architectural Historian documenting the built environment and making recommendations for the US Army with their preservation compliance requirements.

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4 Sunset Lane
Ridgefield, CT 06877
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