New Haven Register (New Haven, CT)
‘It was the best-kept secret in Madison’
Few members, financial ills force 70-year-old social club to sell for $1.45M
MADISON — It’s the end of an era for the 70-year-old Madison Winter Club on Route 1, which is listed for sale at $1.45 million
The social club, which is open from September through June, is located in a circa 1870 house with an attached antique barn on little under two acres.
While members are disappointed they must sell to meet financial obligations, the future of the structure is uncertain. The real estate listing calls the stately white building a “storybook property.”
The 7,030-square-foot clubhouse is in a residential zone. However, new owners could continue to operate it as a club without a zoning change, according to Page Taft Realtor John Campbell, who is handling the listing.
Campbell said he showed it to three people in one day this week, all of whom were interested in opening a restaurant there, as it is outfitted with a full 43-by-30-foot professional kitchen.
To turn the club into a restaurant would most likely require a zoning change, Campbell said. Before it was made a club in 1956, “It was a restaurant on three occasions, but that predated zoning,” he said.
“My take is, it’s on the cusp of a commercial zone right across the street,” he added.
“A lot of our Shoreline towns are amenable to creative approaches to different properties, because we’re kind of looking for different ways to generate tax revenues. Madison could definitely use another restaurant,” Campbell said.
But he cautioned, “It’s not something that’s granted without some sort of conversation with the town.”
Campbell added that new owners may also seek a zoning change for condos or commercial use. “It would be a shame to see it knocked down and developed residentially, I think, and subdivided into condominiums, or whatever,” he said.
Campbell has also had interest from potential buyers looking for office space.
The property has an interesting history. The old barn was moved from the back of the land in 1950 and later became the club’s ballroom. A restaurant — The Carriage Drive — briefly occupied the space. In 1954, under
different owners, it continued as a restaurant, and, in 1956, it was also leased to the Madison Post House eatery.
In 1956, the club purchased the building.
Members will miss their clubhouse
When the Winter Club was a fledgling social club without a home, it counted on the hospitality of its members.
“The Winter Club is not a building,” said Joanne Wilcox, club president. “The history of the club is that it was founded by friends getting together for potluck dinners, and, over time, those friendships grew and grew.”
Treasurer Tom King noted that it was started by members of the Madison Country Club “because they really wanted to do something socially over the winter.”
Back then, King said, “Basically it was a fraternal organization.”
“Our goal is to keep the club going, but sell the building,” she added. One option is to rent a room at a local restaurant to hold their dinners and activities, she said. Wilcox noted that they rent space at the townowned Surf Club one night a week in the summer.
“What we’re looking at right now is holding small events periodically — doing a oncea-month gathering and keeping the membership together,” Wilcox said.
But that might not be so simple. Many restaurants do not have the waitstaff to service such a large group because of staffing shortages caused by the pandemic, one member said.