WILTON, Conn. – After 10 years of planning, eight years of doing restoration work and over $5 million in spending, Weir Farm National Historic Park is opening three historic buildings on the property to the public for the first time.
The Weir House and two artists' studios, belonging to painter Julian Alden Weir and his son-in-law sculptor Mahonri Young, have been closed to the public since the site was became a national park in 1990. At the time, artist Sperry Andrews lived in the house, staying until his death in 2005, which is part of why the buildings were never open to the public.
Each building has been restored to different time periods. But the restored buildings and the items in them reflect the lives of Andrews, Young and Weir, who purchased the property in 1882.
Inside the house, the National Park Service worked hard to show a progression of the three families who lived there, from Julian Alden Weir, to daughter Dorothy Weir and her husband Mahonri Young and finally to Sperry Andrews and his wife, Superintendent Linda Cook said.
“When you work on a project like this, the overwhelming detail and complexity of making sure you have everything right drives so many of your decisions,” Cook said. Nearly all of the artwork and furnishings in the house are original, but in some cases replicas or reproductions were used, she said.
The first floor of the house will be open to the public, and it has been restored to the way it was circa 1940 when Dorothy Weir and Mahorni Young were living there. The restoration crews referenced old photographs, personal recollections and art from Weir, Young and Andrews in making decisions.
The Weir Studio, used first by Julian Alden Weir, and restored to its 1915 state, was cleaned. Brushes and easels that Weir would have used were found and put out for display.
For an Impressionist artist, light was hugely important, Cook said. So it’s shocking to walk into the studio because, “It’s a very dark space. You really wonder how could a master of color and light work inside such a dark space,” she said.
Apparently, Weir painted the studio gray in order to make the colors on his paintings pop while he worked.
In contrast, the Young Studio is open and bright. That is where Young made the casts for his famous sculpture “This Is The Place,” which is in Heritage Park in Utah. The studio is restored to what it would have looked like in about 1940, when Young was using it.
The restoration work isn’t completely done, Cook said. The park is still working on the kitchen and some of the yard work, but she said they are excited to present the restored houses at Weir Farm, the only National Park site dedicated to painting.
The buildings will be open to the public starting on May 24 with a Grand Opening Weekend from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. and then through out the season from Thursdays through Sundays. Tours are free.