Historical Society hands out preservation awards

The Greenwich Historical Society has announced the winners of its 2012 Preservation awards, created to honor projects and initiatives that demonstrate historical and/or architectural significance and represent the aesthetic, cultural and economic benefits of preservation.

“It is now especially important to remind everyone that saving a building means preserving the resources embedded in it as well as protecting our architectural heritage,” said awards committee chair John Morris Dixon.

Amos Brush House was cited for a historically sensitive addition. One of the town’s most elegant surviving houses in the Second Empire style has been thoughtfully expanded by owners Faith and Darius Toraby. Located in the Strickland Road Historic District and listed on the National Register of Historic Places, the 1873 landmark property lacked any garage and the house needed a “modest expansion.” The completed addition with ornamental details adapted from the original house includes a two-car garage with a library above it, a reorganized kitchen, and a solarium for family dining overlooking the side yard.

Shell Island Tower received an award for restoration. This stone tower on one of the town’s islands, long a landmark for boaters, has been thoroughly restored after decades of deterioration. Constructed in 1925 as a memorial, the 60-foot-tall cylindrical structure is built of local Byram granite, and an iron spiral stair links the four interior levels. Moisture entering through bullet holes in the copper roof caused continuing deterioration of interior wood framing and masonry walls. Now, meticulously restored, the tower continues to serve as a maritime landmark.

Great Captain Island Lighthouse also received an award for restoration. Built in 1868 to replace earlier, less substantial lighthouses, this one was taken out of service in 1970, when an automated navigation light took over its function. After the town purchased the portion of the island in 1973, the abandoned structure continued its gradual deterioration. The Return the Light Committee rallied support for its restoration and collected contributions toward the largely town-funded project. A memorial to victims of the World Trade Center tragedy has also been erected on the lighthouse grounds.

Work on the structure included abatement of mercury contamination from the original tower light, insulation of walls and windows, and assurance of a dependable power supply. The modernized caretaker’s apartment within the lighthouse now includes restored wood floors and original wood trim. A solar-powered green light, clearly distinguishable from actual navigation aids, now shines from the tower.

Brant Foundation Art Study Center was recognized as an example of creative adaptive reuse. A stone barn built in 1902 as a cold storage facility for local orchards, then altered and expanded in 1985 as a sports venue, has now been adapted as an art study center for a private foundation. An extensive skylight unobtrusively located on the rear slope of the roof lights the varied gallery spaces of the 9,800-square-foot interior. A mezzanine gallery is set back from the exterior walls, so that it reads clearly as an insertion into the expansive space and allows skylight illumination to reach the main-floor gallery below. The “club room” with its hardwood floors and stone fireplace (built during the sports venue years), has been retained as a combination library and exhibition space. A new stone and grass terrace wrapping the structure provides a viewing platform for the adjacent polo field.

Greenwich Preservation Trust was recognized for preservation action. The trust, which grew out of efforts to preserve the early 18th-century Thomas Lyon house in Byram, the town’s oldest unaltered Colonial structure, was created in 2009 and has assisted the Bethel A.M.E. Church in its National Register nomination; sponsored public lectures on preservation, taken public stands against cell towers near historically recognized areas and mounted the exhibition Greenwich Lost and Preserved at the Bruce Museum.

The Trust in now focusing on the restoration and adaptive use of the Lyon house.

The winners were formally recognized at the Greenwich Historical Society’s 81st Annual Meeting on Sept. 19.

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