Organization Seeks Changes to ‘Gores Pavilion’ Agreement with Town


Gores Pavilion at Irwin Park. Credit: Michael Dinan

A venerable nonprofit organization is seeking changes to its lease with the town regarding an historic building located in a public park.

The New Canaan Museum & Historical Society has proposed changes to its lease agreement for Gores Pavilion, an iconic structure in Irwin Park, including that “exterior painting” be added to a list of repairs that NCM&HS can request town funds for, according to documents obtained by through a public records request. 

Painting had been in the existing 2007 agreement as the sole responsibility of NCM&HS, but under the proposed change, the responsibility for the cost of exterior painting would be incurred by the town while interior painting remains the responsibility of the nonprofit organization.

The drafted revisions appeared to have been submitted to the town in January by NCM&HS Executive Director Nancy Geary, though no action has yet been taken, according to Selectman Nick Williams.

During the July 11 Board of Selectmen meeting, Williams mentioned to First Selectmen Kevin Moynihan that he had been contacted by Historical Society officials asking for an update.

“The Historical Society, I guess there was a request from Nancy to make some minor modifications to the Irwin agreement,” Williams said at the meeting, held at Town Hall and via videoconference. “The Gores Pavilion agreement. And apparently that was sent to you in January and she has yet to hear back from you.”

He spoke during a section of the meeting dedicated to general matters before the town. This exchange followed:

Moynihan: I talked to Nancy about it.

Williams: Okay, so that’s covered.

Moynihan: I don’t understand what you’re, what you’re asking about. 

Williams: She said you hadn’t addressed her request in January to make modifications.

Moynihan: I’ve talked to Nancy about it a couple times. 

Williams: Well, maybe you should get back to her. She’s telling me you haven’t talked. 

The original agreement, signed in 2007 by then-First Selectmen Judy Neville and former Historical Society President Susan Bishop, gave the organization permission to use Gores Pavilion as a “display area and space for educational and cultural purposes relating to modern architecture, art and design in New Canaan.”

Under the proposed changes, a section of the agreement that allows the town to authorize events at the pavilion with more than 25 people would be removed.

Also removed from the “Uses” section of the existing agreement is a sentence which gave NCM&HS permission to waive rental fees for events that generated no revenue. The revised “Uses” paragraph adds a sentence that states any overages in rental fees accrued by the Historical Society be held in escrow to be used toward maintenance or improvements of the building.

The largest proposed change to the agreement regards the section which outlines “Administration.” Previously, a committee formed by NCM&HS called the “Friends of the Gores Pavilion” served as the primary liaison between the town and the organization. The previous agreement also required that the Parks & Recreation Commission appoint a member to serve as a liaison in kind.

Under the proposed revisions, those conditions would be deleted in favor of having the executive director of NCM&HS serve as liaison instead.

Designed by famous American architect Landis Gores and constructed in 1960 as a winter lodge and pool home for John Irwin and Jane Watson, Gores Pavilion was planned to be demolished by the town after purchasing the Irwin estate, according to the NCM&HS website. It was then that the “Friends of Gores Pavilion” group was founded by a small group of New Canaan residents. In 2006, the building was recognized by the Connecticut Register of Historic Places.

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