STONINGTON — The public will have the opportunity to view progress on the restoration of Forge Farm at a community open house hosted by Connecticut Landmarks on Saturday from noon to 3 p.m. at the farm, 330 Al Harvey Road.
Connecticut Landmarks, of Hartford, which owns and manages the site, will give a presentation of the current preservation work and a tour of the farmhouse's interior. The farmhouse was built in 1780 and added onto in 1790.
Landmarks board member Patrick Pinnell, the preservation architect overseeing the restoration, discussed the project during a tour on Wednesday, accompanied by Connecticut Landmarks' executive director, Sheryl Hack. On the ground floor, Dean Roy, of Windsor, the contractor responsible for the interior work, was building wooden Shaker-style cabinets in the kitchen, which has been reconfigured.
According to a press release from the organization, the interior restoration is intended to maintain and restore period-characteristic features such as the hearths and baking chamber, exposed post-and-beam structure, and wide softwood flooring.
Pinnell said the kitchen will not replicate the house’s original design, and will accommodate modern conveniences.
“The 18th century kitchens did not have cabinets,” Pinnell said. “It’s designed so that someone can live here comfortably in 21st century fashion and have contemporary appliances.”
Upstairs, the two bedrooms have been reconfigured with new doorways to provide access from each room to a shared bathroom and to the hallway. Previously, an occupant had to walk through one bedroom to get to the other bedroom.
Throughout the house, 22 new windows with historically accurate “9 over 6” panes and mullions have replaced white vinyl windows that were installed around 2007.
The new windows, needed in three different sizes, cost about $30,000, Pinnell said as he opened a window to demonstrate how the screens roll up inside the window frames, giving the appearance of a period window, which did not have screens. The house has one surviving original window in the attic, which is protected by plastic glass.
“These windows were developed by Pella in consultation with the National Trust for Historic Preservation,” Pinnell said. “It is about as well-vetted a window for sensitive historic situations that you could ask for.”
Connecticut Landmarks has spent $160,000 on the current restoration work, which includes exterior repairs to the house, barn, shed and corn crib, and new roofs, interior restoration, a new septic tank and driveway improvements.
The project is being executed in partnership with a committee of neighbors and other residents designated by the Stonington Historical Society.
The open house this weekend follows a few rocky years for Connecticut Landmarks after it sought court permission to sell the farm in July 2017. Members of the community asserted that Connecticut Landmarks had let the house fall apart despite a $1.55 million endowment left for the property in 1983 by owners Charles and Virginia Berry. The Berrys had sought to maintain and preserve the 20.8-acre property and its three buildings as a historic landmark. The organization also had disputes with its former tenant, Terra Firma Farm, which relocated to North Stonington in 2016.
In January, following an investigation, the Office of the Attorney General found no evidence of misappropriation of charitable funds but said Connecticut Landmarks should improve its management and preservation of the property according to the donors’ intent.
The open house this weekend represents the culmination of “months of planning, work and community outreach,” according to the organization.
Roy will be on hand to answer questions about the interior restoration, and contractor Mike Einsiedel of Yankee Restoration and Remodeling will show photos of his exterior restoration work at Forge Farm and on the Palmer-Warner Barn in East Haddam, another Connecticut Landmarks property.
"We are pleased to welcome the Southeastern Connecticut community to Forge Farm as we make these restorations and bring the property up to modern historic preservation standards," Hack said in an email on Wednesday. “This open house is a fantastic opportunity to not only showcase early American architecture, but also provide a glimpse of Connecticut history. Connecticut Landmarks looks forward to this property becoming a shining representation of Stonington’s long-standing historical focus."
This event is free and open to the public. For more information and to register, please contact email@example.com.