A nonprofit group’s effort to place one of New Canaan’s most treasured public buildings on the National Register of Historic Places took a step forward this month by gaining support from the Park and Recreation Commission.
The head of the New Canaan Preservation Alliance said at the commission’s May meeting that the town will qualify for grants and matching funding on the state and federal levels for upkeep and improvements at Waveny House if the group’s application for registry succeeds.
After raising funds through a 2012 event marking Waveny House’s 100th birthday, the alliance formed a committee that includes an architect, preservation architect, engineer and a former owner of a major New York City-based construction firm to focus on the town building, Rose Scott Long, current president of the NCPA, said during the commission’s May 14 meeting.
“This team has been working with the town of New Canaan on a number of potential projects for Waveny House,” she said during the meeting, held at Lapham Community Center. “Together we’ve developed documents for the restoration of the veneer wood flooring and the limestone fireplace in the Great Hall.”
Designed by Greenwich’s W.B. Tubbs and built in 1912 under the Laphams, Waveny House is named for the River ‘Waveney’—part of the Norfolk Broads, an area of eastern England from which the Lapham family hails, historians say. Waveny Park has been public property since Mrs. Ruth Lapham Lloyd sold it to the town in 1967—the actor Christopher Lloyd’s mother, she passed away 30 years ago (Lloyd came to the 2012 event).
The commission voiced unanimous support for the NCPA’s efforts to obtain the designation on state and national historic registries.
Long noted in addressing the group that the Plan of Conservation and Development includes this language: “While listing on the National Register of Historic Places is largely ceremonial, it does increase the recognition of areas of historic relevance and encourages preservation.”
Local preservationists see the Waveny House effort as a “test case” that will show the town that it’s easy and beneficial to register its public buildings.
Long noted that inclusion in the national, and by extension state, registry, would qualify Waveny House as an historic property with “exclusions and variances from particular codes and regulations.”
Commissioner Andrew Gordon asked whether historic registration would “prohibit the town from making certain changes or enhancements to Waveny House?”
Long said the “conversation starts early on and you generally work with the state historic preservation office so that there are no surprises as you go along.”
Nomination to the national register can take up to six months and cost about $10,000—a fee the NCPA has proposed paying.
Here’s a little video that features the River Waveney in England, namesake of our Waveny House: