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Eastonite of the Week: Will Tressler

An architect, activist and musician talks Easton preservation.

Name:  Will Tressler

Family: Wife Katie, son Dan and daughter Sally.

Occupation: Retired, architectural designer restoring historic properties, community activist and antique musician

How long have you lived in Easton?

I have lived in Easton 50 years, which makes me a newbie to people and families that have lived here for centuries. We moved here in 1961, I bought the house from a songwriter who had lived here for the 20 years prior to our purchase.

How did you become to be an architect working in the realm of historic restoration?

In the mid 1990s I worked on a project involving the Tammany Feed Store that used to be situated behind where the current EMS building is. It had fallen in disrepair so with the town's consent I took it apart piece by piece and moved it to my property where it became a second barn. As a result of my work the town of Easton gave me an award. That got me interested in historic homes, barns and restoration. Before that project I was just an architect designing general additions and restorations.

Do you have a signature restoration?

Yes and once again it was in Easton. In the 1920s what is now the Easton Village Store was a blacksmiths shop called Halzack's. It had gotten old and run down it was not appealing to Eastonites. The owner at the time Bill Tustian contacted me and asked me to make it more appealing and I restored the building to the feel of an old country store that would sell the basic staples for everyday living.

How did annual event at Tressler’s Barn come about?

I had been playing music around the area throughout the 1960s. I started a group called the Jackson Pike Skifflers and we soon had a lot of business for people looking for us to play. I was also teaching music at UB and a lot of the students were looking for a place to play. So I got some of my musician friends to come by my barn to play with some of my students so they could see what it was like to play with professionals. Then one August afternoon in the 60s we had a big group of people come by one Sunday from 1 to 8 p.m. to play all over the property. By the 70s that one annual event grew to 500 people playing bluegrass, country, Irish and mainly old time traditional music. The event developed a life of it’s own and it was hard for us to turn it off, so we just kept doing it.

Is it true that Pete Seeger played one year?

Yes it is. We had some mutual friends and I had tried to get him to play many times. Then in 2006 he came and played.

Who were some of the famous acts or musicians that have played?

Paul Cadwell was a regular at the event, a terrific banjo player. The Beers family was another group that would come by as well.

What is your favorite thing about Easton?

I like the rural, agricultural and open space it offers its residents. From the 60s on I voiced concern about the potential loss of farms in Easton and it wasn’t until First Selectman Bill Kapinski was in office that the concerns about Easton’s agricultural history were taken seriously. I helped start the Citizens For Easton and in conjunction with the Garden Club we have been able to support and preserve the farms.

Can you give us an example of a CFE project you worked on?

had been a farm for 200 years. We lobbied for the front of the school to continue to be used as farmland. We were able to get the First Selectman to incorporate agriculture and nutrition into the curriculum. This will help inspire people to buy and eat local farm food.

How long can Eastonites stave off developers?

We are trying to attack at the state level to change the legislation regarding affordable housing. As we see it the statute is just used by developers to break zoning and small town codes. We introduced a bill into legislation to make the zoning law on affordable housing be applicable to towns of 15,000 or more. That was shot down. The will affect the watershed on that site there are three brooks on that lead into the reservoirs.

If approved, it will open up for future zoning in other situations. Zoning has protected farms and open space. Frank McGuire, an Easton resident, anticipated that after the war that people would want to build and he created our current zoning of one-acre parcels from Beers south and 3 and above north of Beers. If Saddle Ridge gets approved residents could literally sell off parts of their property to developers. They could break up their three-acre plot into six plots.

Has there been a particular project that was a labor of love?

In the 60s having traveled to Vermont on many occasions, I figured it would be nice to have a gazebo in Easton. In 1969 I approached the town with my proposal. I had done all the required land use surveys. The gazebo would showcase only those bands that played music not requiring electricity such as, jazz bands, Barbershop Quartets and the like.

The town, in light of Woodstock, thought it would bring riff raff to the community and they denied it. We even offered the town a seat on the program committee so they could veto any inappropriate act. Ten years later I went back and it was denied again for the same reason. I tried again in the 80ss but it was denied it again. In the early 2000s Athan Crist came to me and said why doesn’t Easton have a gazebo like all the other New England towns? I handed him my five inch file of information gathered from my three previous attempts to get it built. Five years later it was build were it currently is situated in the parking lot.

What other civic affiliations do you have in town?

I am on the Agricultural Committee, which a group of us fought to be accepted by the town as a legislative entity and not just a group with no power. In April 2011 we became a permanent part of the town's committees.

If you were going to play one song with any musician you wanted to who would it be and what would be the song?

My wife Katie and the song would be Keep In The Sunny Side by the Carter Family.

What is your favorite spot in Easton?

Right here at my house.

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