Weston Historical Society receives $1.5M to restore Coley Homestead, add exhibits

Coley Homestead that the Weston Historical Society will restore using grants from the Daniel E. Offutt, III Charitable Trust.

Coley Homestead that the Weston Historical Society will restore using grants from the Daniel E. Offutt, III Charitable Trust.

Contributed photo / Weston Historical Society

WESTON — The Coley Homestead and the Weston Historical Society’s exhibits will get an update thanks to two major gifts from the Daniel E. Offutt, III Charitable Trust totaling $1.5 million.

The gifts from the trust include a $500,000 grant and a $1 million grant to the endowment fund, both of which will be used for restorations and planning the society’s future.

“The grant of $500,000 will specifically and exclusively be used to repair and renovate the Coley barn, carriage house, archives/museum building, and bunkhouse,” said Leigh Meccay, president of the Weston Historical Society. “It also allows us to update our exhibits in the Coley Barn, as well as expand our public programming as well as our educational programming for students.”

The historical society received a grant several years ago to hire Architectural Preservation Studio to do a study on the historic buildings on the Coley Homestead. CT Humanities and the 1772 Foundation also provided funding in the early stages of the project.

“With those studies, we were granted money from the Daniel E. Offutt, III Charitable Trust to restore the exterior and interior of the Coley House, which dates to 1841, and do some significant repairs to the Coley Barn,” Meccay said.

The farmhouse, known as the David Dimon Coley house, “is an architecturally historic structure that plays a key role in telling the story of Weston’s history.” It’s a unique Greek revival house due to its five-bay gable front, making it the only example of this architecture and facade in the region, according to a news release.

The Coley House was the home of five generations of the Coley family for more than 130 years and now houses the historical society.

Meccay said the condition assessment studies of the Coley House and Coley Barn were completed in 2018 and the one for the Carriage House wrapped up in 2019. The restoration of the Coley House will finish by winter using a previous grant from the Daniel E. Offutt, III Charitable Trust. The society plans to re-open the Coley House later this year.

While costs for restorations are still unknown, the historical society plans to also update the barn’s exhibit space and exhibits, the carriage barn, develop a plan for new exhibits and programming space in the carriage barn, and the bunkhouse will also be restored.

“Our next step with the barn is to use the APS study and research to help us with the interpretation of the barn, update the barn’s current exhibits and expand use within the barn,” Meccay said.

Having survived 2020, Meccay says fundraising remains an important aspect to the historical society functioning, as this supports their exhibits, educational programs, events, and maintenance of the property and building.

“We are indebted to Daniel E. Offutt, who loved Weston and its history,” she said.

Offutt made his home on Kettle Creek Road in Weston for more than 30 years in a house he built himself. Offutt has been a metal sculptor, wood worker, and farmer and served in the U.S. Army. He graduated from the University of Maryland and then Columbia University where he received his MBA.

In a normal year, the historical society has between 1,500 to 2,000 visitors per year. Weston Intermediate School third graders also visit during the school year for a field trip. The society normally hosts various historical and cultural programs including lectures, concerts, guided tours, and seasonal family-orientated events. They also mount one to two rotating exhibits per year that are open to the public.

“One of our missions is to make our site more accessible to the public,” Meccay said. “We recently installed historic interpretive signage with grant money from CT Humanities, the Weston Education Foundation as well as the Daniel E. Offutt, III Charitable Trust.”

gmarku@darientimes.com