Landmarks abandoned commitment to historic home
I read David Collins' recent column about the Forge Farm home with renewed consternation for the situation that unfolded at this property, which neighbors ours on Al Harvey Road. I wholeheartedly challenge Connecticut Landmarks Executive Director Sheryl Hack’s characterization of the previous tenants, Terra Firma Farm, and her claim that they are somehow responsible for the home's "deplorable condition" and that they abandoned the property without notice.
Brianne Casadei conceived, spearheaded and built the educational nonprofit Terra Firma Farm on the site of the old Forge Farm to the great benefit of Al Harvey Road and the community at large. Using environmentally sustainable practices, the farm produced 100 percent grass-fed poultry and pork, eggs, vegetables and year-round educational programming to "involve, educate and inspire children so that they will care where food comes from and thus make the right choices with respect to their health and our environment."
During their tenancy, they maintained the property and building structures and financed many improvements through the nonprofit and with volunteer labor. I would further assert that the mission of Terra Firma Farm aligned with the donor’s intent to "maintain the property as an example of early American architecture and grounds" and that Charles and Virginia Berry would have been pleased with this symmetry when Terra Firma Farm operated on their homestead for almost 14 years.
As neighbors over this entire time period, we were firsthand witnesses to Landmarks' total avoidance of any responsibility to maintain and preserve the house and grounds. Repeated requests for repairs to the old furnace, leaking roof, mold and broken pipes went unheeded until the property was effectively unlivable. The cheap vinyl windows were the only "improvement" and now serve as the most visible evidence of the Connecticut Landmarks' nonexistent stewardship of the donors' intent to preserve this historical landmark.
The deplorable stewardship of this gift is even more offensive when viewing other properties showcased on Connecticut Landmarks' website. These many properties have been elegantly restored and maintained and are now serving as money makers for the organization, while Forge Farm falls into continued sad disrepair.
I have communicated these points via email to Ms. Hack and hope that Connecticut Landmarks will provide the attention to Forge Farm that was committed to when they accepted this gift in 1982. Thank you, Mr. Collins and The Day, for bringing attention to this matter with your reporting.
Laura Evans lives on Al Harvey Road in Stonington.