Town Pursues State Grant To Help Pay for Roof Restoration at Gores Pavilion 


Gores Pavilion at Irwin Park. Credit: Michael Dinan

The Board of Selectmen last week voted 3-0 to apply for a state grant that would help fund the restoration of a roof on a historic building in Irwin Park.

If awarded, the Historic Restoration Fund Grant would provide matching funds for the estimated $100,000 roof job at Gores Pavilion, according to Bill Oestmann, superintendent of buildings with the New Canaan Department of Public Works.

“If all things go well, we will have mostly like a spring project to get that roof up and on that building,” Oestmann told the Board at its Dec. 3 meeting at Town Hall.

First Selectman Kevin Moynihan and Selectmen Kit Devereaux and Nick Williams voted in favor of the town applying for the grant. The town in its Five-Year Capital Plan has earmarked about $111,000 for Gores Pavilion this fiscal year.

According to the New Canaan Historical Society, the Gores Pavilion had been designed by famed architect Landis Gores as a pool house for John Irwin and Jane Watson, the daughter of IBM’s founder. 

“It was dedicated in 1960 at a grand surprise party arranged by Philip Johnson in honor of Gores, his friend and former associate on The Glass House,” according to the Historical Society. “Special features of this impeccably constructed glass and redwood structure include façade columns inspired by Mies van der Rohe’s Barcelona pavilion and a massive Prairie-style fireplace that runs floor to ceiling.”

The town acquired the Irwin property in 2005, filled in the pool and planned to demolish the Pavilion, according to the Historical Society. 

“A small group of New Canaan residents formed the Friends of the Gores Pavilion and saved the building,” according to the Historical Society. “It was listed on the CT Register of Historic Places in 2006. The Historical Society entered into an agreement with the Town of New Canaan to restore and maintain it.”

According to a 2017 report from a selectmen-appointed committee, the Historical Society under its 2007 agreement with the town “assumes financial responsibility for operating expenses” and some repairs while funds are to be requested of the town “for any major repairs” that include the roof.

Oestmann said that representatives from the New Canaan Historical Society and New Canaan Preservation Alliance, as well as local preservation architect Carl Rothbart, helped research for the 100-page application, which is due this month and whose funds would be available next year. 

Oestmann said that there’s money in the grant fund, which is overseen by the Connecticut Department of Economic and Community Development, but that the state is in the process of hiring an administrator to help release it.

Williams said it’s “usually [the] other way around, there’s no money but somebody is there.”

The Board of Finance and Town Council also are to vote on the grant application, Oestmann said.

Gores was one of the Harvard Five architects. His daughter, Liz Donovan, sits on the Town Council.

The Gores Pavilion is overseen by the Historical Society as a museum that’s open to the public during limited hours for half the year.

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