Historic Preservation: New Canaan Family’s ‘Ponus Ridge Chapel’ Project Underway

A closely followed historic preservation project is underway on Ponus Ridge. 

The new owners of the “Ponus Ridge Chapel,” a 1911-built structure located a few hundred feet north of Davenport Ridge Road, have had the interior of the long-neglected building cleaned and its main floor replaced. Once a community hub that functioned as gathering place for important events—church services, Sunday School, group dinners, fairs, christenings, weddings, holiday parties, meetings and the very first Walter Schalk dance classes—the Chapel hasn’t been used in some 50 years, according to town records. In December, after clearing legal hurdles that had dragged on for years, the Chapel’s next-door neighbors Brendan and Ainsley Hayes—owners of their own antique house—finally acquired the property and immediately set about a restoration project that local preservationists long have supported. After taking ownership of the property, they found a “ton of rot inside” the Chapel, Brendan Hayes told NewCanaanite.com when asked for an update. “The wood was all rotted and destroyed, including the framing, so that was fixed,” he said.

‘It Has Started To Fail’: $2.2 Million South School Roof Replacement Drives Board of Ed’s Capital Budget Request 

The estimated $2.2 million replacement of the roof at South School is driving the superintendent of schools’ overall $4.1 million capital request for next fiscal year. 

The project had been scheduled three years ago, yet the Board of Finance at the time asked whether the district could defer it, “so we did,” according to the Dr. Bryan Luizzi. “We really feel you cannot defer it any more,” he told members of the Board of Education during their regular meeting Monday night, in the Wagner Room at New Canaan High School. “We are spending a lot of time with rain problems after storms and water incursion is an issue. And so we need to keep up with it, or other problems happen and we want to avoid those.”

The comments came as Luizzi proposed an approximately $92 million operating budget for fiscal year 2020, a 2.55 percent increase over current spending. The Board of Ed is to vote on the proposed budgets next week, at which point it goes to municipal bodies for discussion and approval, with a final vote in April. 

The South School roof replacement should be able to get done in a single summer starting when school lets out, Luizzi said.

School Start Times: Superintendent Floats Proposal To Start Elementary Schools Earlier, Followed by High School and Saxe

Local elementary schools could start as early as 7:30 a.m., with New Canaan High School starting later in the morning and all of Saxe Middle School starting last, under a new proposal that Superintendent of Schools Dr. Bryan Luizzi unveiled Monday night. Citing anecdotal evidence that younger children tend to tire in the afternoon, Luizzi said the proposed new system—suggested by New Canaan Public Schools Transportation Coordinator Roy Walder—could largely preserve the current and cost-effective three-tier busing system, though it also comes with tradeoffs. “I’m not going to say this is the scenario I am recommending yet, because there is more work to be done,” Luizzi told members of the Board of Education at their regular meeting, held in the Wagner Room at New Canaan High School and attended by about 25 parents. “But I want to share it with you because work is being done and continues to be done. The magnitude of the change—it moves everybody.