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Lachat Project Moves Forward

The Lachat committee speaks to Board of Selectmen about the state of the renovation of the property in northern Weston.

Slowly but surely, progress is being made on the plan which aims to restore the Lachat property in northern Weston and turn it into a facility all Westonites can learn from and enjoy.

Last week, Carol Baldwin, of Friends of Lachat, and Ellen McCormick, who chairs the town’s Lachat committee, updated the Board of Selectmen on progress being made on plans to renovate the property’s 1770 farmhouse and put in proper parking on site. The women, who were also accompanied by historical architect Bob Hatch, discussed potential uses for the facility and its layout as well.

First Selectman Gayle Weinstein said the use of the property—which sits on the corner of Godfrey Road West and Newtown Turnpike and is owned by the town and the Nature Conservancy—can’t be determined until public meetings are held.

“The first step is to have a discussion about what the committee is thinking” in regards to the use of the house, Weinstein said. “I don’t believe they’ve created a master plan for the property.”

A $20,000 grant was recently secured for the property to create construction-ready documents, Weinstein said, adding that Friends of Lachat posted the $20,000 matching fee required to obtain the grant. The deadline for the completion of those documents is Dec. 8, though there’s a potential to ask for an extension.

McCormick said the foundation work currently being completed on the farmhouse is something that had to be done first, and the committee was wondering whether renovation of the front porch should be the next phase of the project.

“It’s what everybody sees,” she said.

Studies are being conducted to determine how many parking spaces should be installed on the property, as well as where overflow parking could go as well. But preserving the property’s overall character remains a priority.

“We want to maintain the integrity of the property,” Weinstein said. “We want to make sure it maintains its rural character.”

Weinstein said the first floor of the farmhouse will likely be public educational or museum kind of space, while the second floor will be private space for the property’s caretaker.

“What I like about it is that the rooms are kind of open into each other so you can break them off if you want to have a separate activity in there,” she said, pointing to blueprints of the farmhouse. “I don’t see more than 10 or 12 people in the demonstration room at any one time because the house is just that small.”

Selectman Dennis Tracey suggested trying to create more open space.

“I can see situations where you’d want to have more than [10 or 12 people],” he said, mentioning cocktail parties or book readings. Tracey said “a design that had more open space with the ability to close it off somehow with a temporary wall would be more useful.”

Baldwin said Friends of Lachat wants the house to maintain its original feel.

“The problem is we wanted to keep the 1770 nature of the house,” she said. “That would have precluded taking down a lot of things that were original to the house.”

Chimneys were in the center of houses back in those days, McCormick said, which makes moving things around difficult.

McCormick said to committee hopes to allow for flexibility for the property’s future.

“We’d like it to be a space the town is comfortable using,” she said. “We want it to be able to grow. Ten years from now, people might want to use it in a different way.”

Weinstein said after it’s determined what kind of uses the building will have, the fire marshal will determine the building’s occupancy limits.

“While we want it to be organic and flexible, we’re going to have to make some decisions as to what the use is,” she said.

Tracey said his desire would be to open the property to community use even if the house is not yet fully renovated.

Selectman David Muller said he was happy to see the project moving forward. 

“It’s great to see incremental progress,” he said. “I’m thrilled.”

The Lachat committee meets next on the first Tuesday of December. 

Richard Hershner December 24, 2012 at 12:53 AM
Agree with preserving historic floor plan. Frequency and size of events may turn out to be less than anticipated and changes to room lay-out are irreversible. Valid question as plan emerges will be whether restoration will preserve all later changes to house or will attempt to return the house to one point in time.

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