Town officials on Tuesday imposed a 90-day stay of demolition for an antique barn on New Canaan Country School property.
In planning to raze the structure as well as a row of smaller sheds that originally had been used as chicken coops to make way for a new outdoor pool and pool house, the Frogtown Road private school appears not to have considered using the original barn in some way, according to members of the Historical Review Committee.
Committee member Marty Skrelunas said he was disappointed that the project’s architect appeared not to looked at the “adaptive reuse” of the barn.
“Given the structure, the style of construction, it would be a very easy building to redesign,” Skrelunas said during the Committee’s meeting, held in the Janet Lindstrom Room of the New Canaan Historical Society.
“It is not like a brick building where the spaces are defined by the structure. The nature of a barn is pure open space, so it could have been adapted quite well for outbuildings serving the athletic buildings or the pool. The irony is that it really reminds me of new building at the Country Club that supports the new pool. I could see this for something like that.”
Skrelunas and fellow Committee members Rose Scott Long Rothbart, Laszlo Papp, Ed Vollmer and Mark Markiewicz voted 5-0 to impose a 90-day demolition delay.
Under the Town Code, once a formal letter objecting to a proposed demolition is lodged with the town building official, the Committee meets to determine whether the structure in question “is of historical, architectural or cultural significance to the Town of New Canaan.” If so, it can force a 90-day delay on the demolition from the date of the demo permit application. In this case, the delay could push the issuance of a demolition permit as far back as about Nov. 1.
However, if the Committee reaches an accord with the New Canaan Country School, the demo delay could be lifted sooner so that work could commence.
Markiewicz said that the barn is attractive and that, once inside the structure during a site visit to the New Canaan Country School that preceded the meeting, he found an “amazing roof structure that seemed to be in very good shape” in the attic.
“So from that point of view, I find it very favorable, I would like to explore what its potential is, especially considering that the barn as we looked at it from the outside has additions which where added later which I could imagine being removed to bring it down to its original pure structure, perhaps making it more useful than it is now,” he said.
During the site visit, committee members asked representatives from New Canaan Country School whether the barn could be made part of pool house (it’s more space than needed and may exceed allowable coverage), when it was built (best guess is late-1800s) and whether the school had contacted the Connecticut Trust for Historic Preservation (not yet).
Findlay during the meeting suggested that the since New Canaan Country School owns so much property, including the 8.3-acre property next door—which the school purchased in June for $3 million—that new pool be located elsewhere on the campus.
Told that the school plans to site the new pool where the sheds now stand, and to use part of the current barn location for a pool house but otherwise raze the antique structure to may way for open space, Findlay said, “That is even worse.”
In terms of history, the barn “relates to certain period of New Canaan when it was farming,” she said.
“We are losing, bit by bit, everything that relates to our 18th century life here and it is too bad,” Findlay said.
New Canaan is losing its “small-town look, the quaintness of it and so on, is going, and I regret that,” she said.
“The building and the outbuildings certainly represent an era that was the background of this town,” Findlay said. “It was a farming town and shoe making town in the 18th century, amen.”
Papp agreed saying that in the 60-odd years he’s been in New Canaan, he’s seen “that the agricultural heritage of the original town is being lost—partially lost or —and any significant memorial of this like a barn should be considered important for maintain that heritage, at least in part.”
“And their location, the large open space around it, would lend itself very well to really have this memory preserved and I also agree that since the school intends to build a new pool house, maybe part of this building or in some fashion could be used for that, considered for that purpose,” he said.
The barn could be disassembled and reassembled so that it can preserved, he said.
Scott Long Rothbart said it would be useful to discuss the matter with the Country School’s architect and perhaps bring in the Connecticut Trust for Historic Preservation, which has a barn program.
“The structure is sound and interesting and the building is very handsome,” she said.