Monday, July 20, 2009

Salvaging New Milford’s big red barn: Preservation group grant awarded to Weatinogue land trust

NEW MILFORD — A $6,500 grant will help preserve an early 19th century barn at Smyrski Farm on Merryall Road.
The Connecticut Trust for Historic Preservation, through the Historic Barns of Connecticut program, awarded the grant to the Weatinogue Heritage Land Trust.
The hayloft at the farm is still in use and Black Angus cows from Greyledge Farm in Bridgewater graze in a nearby pasture on the farmland.
But paint is peeling from the outside of the barn in thick strips. Inside, cobwebs hang from thick wooden beams that, despite being centuries old, are still intact.
"It's actually one of the finest examples of a New England bank barn in the region," said Liba H. Furhman, executive director of the land trust. "It's this wonderful barn with a fabulous hay loft."
Weatinogue, a regional land trust based in town with 8,500 acres in its care throughout Litchfield and Fairfield counties, applied for the grant to help replace the roof, which Furhman said could leak. Part of the grant, $5,000, will pay a small portion of the $32,000 it will cost to replace the rood.
Another $15,000 from an anonymous donor will also help, and Weatinogue is counting on donations for the rest.
Weatinogue will hire an architect to assess the building with $1,500 of the grant the Connecticut Trust has designated for an adaptive use feasibility study.
"The red barn is really not being used by the farming operation, and that's why we're trying to determine what would be a good use. Perhaps as an education center, community facility .. or perhaps it just remains a barn," Furhman said. "We will also be seeking neighborhood input."
Todd Levine, director of the Historic Barns of Connecticut program, said of 75 preliminary applications, 15 barns were funded. The grant awarded to Weatinogue is the largest amount available.
The trust awarded $81,000 this year.
"The goal is really to bring awareness to the plight that our historic barns face in terms of demolition by neglect or demolition by design," Levine said. "In one case you don't have the money to upkeep your barn, and eventually it deteriorates until it is no longer safe to be standing. In the other case, when you have a barn in the middle of an area that is targeted for development, there's no place for a historic barn. Sometimes developers can find a way to incorporate them, but not often."
The farm was formerly owned by Sophie and John Smyrski.
In 1988, the Smyrski siblings sold the farm's development rights so it would never be subdivided or developed. Their vision was to give the land as a gift to future generations who would restore it to working farmland.
In 2008, in accordance with their wills, the land was donated to Weatinogue.
Soon after, the trust purchased the barn.
Originally appeared 7/17/2009 on page B1 and B4 of the Republican-American©

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