This 17-acre farm was established in 1778 and took several interesting turns (including a stint as a jail for locals recovering from public drunkenness) before a “deed of conservation” was established in 1998 to protect its historic assets. Fortunately, the modest caretaker’s cottage, which had been added to the property’s south side in the 1930s, wasn’t beholden to the same stringent preservation requirements as the venerable main house. That gave architect David Harlan some latitude to exercise a little revisionist history. One could easily argue that the Georgian classical makeover of the cottage looks even more historic than the original.
Working with EMR Builders, Harlan was able to retain roughly 75 percent of the existing concrete foundation and some of the original framing. He kept the 1,250-square-foot salt box intact, but then skirted it with a wide front porch, and bumped up the roof lines to create a raised central great room. Clerestory windows were added to channel in natural light, along with a new fireplace and chimney. A porch on the east side was enclosed to create a sun room, thus increasing the amount of functional conditioned space.
As one of several accessory buildings complementing the main residence (which is currently being restored), the cottage does abide by a controlled vocabulary. “The design language of the property has a hierarchy,” Harlan explains. All of the barns have vertical red siding, while outbuildings are shingle-clad with plain moldings, simple corner boards, and historically accurate window sizes.
“This farm is a living history project, not a museum like Mt. Vernon or Monticello,” says the architect. “Preservation was a goal, but that had to be balanced by meeting the functional everyday needs of the family.”
Category: Whole-house makeover or significant addition
Entrant/Architect: David D. Harlan Architects, New Haven, Conn.
Builder: EMR Builders, Branford, Conn.
Landscape architect: Diane Devore Associates, Fairfield, Conn.
Interior designer: A. Defne Veral Interiors, New Haven