by Kathy Failla
November 9, 2018 — The Weston Historical Society recently received two major grants totaling $600,000 from the Daniel E. Offutt Charitable Trust. The grants will enable the Historical Society to launch a major restoration of the Coley Homestead farm house, carriage barn, and barn, located at 104 Weston Road.
"The realization of our vision thanks to the generosity of the Daniel E. Offutt III, Charitable Trust will bring more people, from Weston and beyond, to the Coley Homestead for a unique experience of Weston Connecticut's history," said Pam Kersey, president of the Weston Historical Society. "This exciting new initiative will enable us to provide the community with a historic campus that includes the recently built museum and archive, in addition to the Coley farmhouse, barn, and its outbuildings."
The Historical Society's 1841 farmhouse, the David Dimon Coley house, is an architecturally significant historic structure that holds an important role in our community. A classical Greek-revival house, the Coley House is unique in comparison to other Greek-revival homes due to its five-bay gable front. In fact, the Society has learned through the Architectural Preservation Studio, its consultant on the restoration project, that this appears to be the only one of its kind.
Plans are underway to provide major structural restoration of the farmhouse and barn. In the past, the Society has worked with the Weston schools to host student groups to the Coley House, but those tours have been put on hold until the project is completed and the Coley House reopens to visitors.
The Coley House was the home of five generations of the Coley family over 130 years. The house will be reinterpreted in the 1941-45 period when three generations of the family lived there. The stories of the five generations will be woven into the tour. In addition, there will be a thematic exhibit on the first floor that will make comparisons between 1841, the year the house was built, with 1941, the year the last owners of the house took up residency.
The exhibition will also look to the future and will ask visitors to speculate on what might happen in 2041. Two bedrooms on the second floor will be installed with exhibits from the Historical Society's collections. The goal of the exhibition is to focus on the compelling story of this family and their house in Weston.
Since the Coley House is part of a larger campus, signage will be installed throughout the property directing visitors. Visitors may come for a tour, take part in learning more about the period through discussions and hands-on activities, explore the exhibition in both the Coley House and barn, visit the museum/archives, walk the site, and attend the many diverse and interesting programs and events the Historical Society sponsors.
"We are indebted to the Daniel E. Offutt, III Charitable Trust," said Mrs. Kersey. "The restoration and subsequent reopening of these historically and architecturally significant buildings will uphold the legacy of Daniel E. Offutt III's love for Weston."
Born in Oakland, Maryland on August 4, 1931, Mr. Offutt (photo, left) made his home on Kettle Creek Road in Weston for more than 30 years in a house he built himself. Mr. Offutt has been described as "metal sculptor, wood worker, farmer, fixer of anything, collector of everything and a good friend." His interests were many, and one resulted in his moving a Connecticut tobacco barn to his property.
To the delight of the community, he displayed his whimsical sculptures on his front lawn. Mr. Offutt served in the U.S. Army and graduated from the University of Maryland and then Columbia University, where he received his MBA. He made his career in New York City as a stock trader and then retired to Weston. Mr. Offutt died on Thanksgiving Day, November 24, 2016.
"We want to thank Dick Orenstein, trustee of the Daniel E. Offutt, III Charitable Trust, who has spent considerable time at the Weston Historical Society as we have developed the scope of the project," said Mrs. Kersey.
The Weston Historical Society was founded in 1961 and is a non-profit that depends on contributions and volunteers, whose assistance is invaluable in helping the Board of Trustees to achieve the Society's mission of collecting and preserving Weston's history.
The Society welcomes residents to its many programs and events which provide financial support for its mission. Volunteers are always needed to help with the variety of projects the Society undertakes, including exhibits, events, lectures, archival research, and educating the community on local, regional and national history. To learn more please visit the Weston Historical Society website.
The Coley Barn