THE FARMHOUSE AT LACHAT
In 1997, the Lachat Farm with 40-plus acres was deeded to the town of Weston and the Nature Conservancy with the mission "to preserve a piece of the town's agricultural history for the purpose of educational enrichment, as well as spiritual and physical refreshment for our community."
Despite the fact that the property languished in benign neglect for many years, the farmhouse is finally being restored and that mission is being realized.
A few years ago, the Board of Selectmen was on the verge of approving the demolition of the sorely neglected Lachat farmhouse. Now the historic 1770 house is no longer in danger of being torn down. Under the able guidance of Historic Preservation Architect Robert Hatch, the restoration costs were demonstrably affordable.
In June 2014, the fieldstone foundation in the basement was remediated, the dirt floor was cemented over and a new sill was installed. Continuing in the triage effort, the rear of the house was removed and reconstructed over a secure new foundation, a new bulkhead was built, work on the chimney was completed and the roof was completely re-shingled with yellow cedar (thanks to the Connecticut Trust for Historic Preservation's matching grant of $15,000).
Inside the house, stairs were added for access to the attic, fireplaces were repaired, floors leveled, beams and floor joists were shored up and unsalvageable plaster/sheetrock removed from walls and ceilings. The bathroom on the ground floor was enlarged for wheelchair accessibility.
Architect Hatch's reconstruction plans take into account all of the history of the house, not just its original appearance in 1770. In that way, the house will show how it adapted to innovations over its 200-plus years of history and functions more readily for public use today. Moreover, construction costs and annual maintenance will be more manageable than they would have been if executing a strict 18th-Century historic preservation.
Architect Bob Hatch
All of the progress at the Lachat Farmhouse would have been unlikely without the dedicated support of Bob Hatch, the noted historic restoration architect. His preliminary design plans showed that restoration of the house was indeed desirable and affordable.
His assessment was especially valued because of his vast experience in historic restorations, including such prominent landmarks as The Shadows in New Iberia, La., Lyndhurst in Tarrytown, N.Y., Chesterwood in Stockbridge, Mass., Cliveden in Philadelphia, Pa., and Drayton Hall in Charleston, S.C.
In Connecticut, Mr. Hatch was chairman of the Fairfield Historic District Commission, worked on the windmill at the Fairfield Country Day School, and designed the octagonal addition for the Westport Historical Society.
On a personal side, Mr. Hatch's quiet demeanor, practicality, commitment to saving historical buildings, and cost-conscious approach to architecture attest to his old and deep Yankee roots that trace back to the Mayflower.
"We are really lucky to have Bob's expertise on the Lachat project," said Carol Baldwin, founder of Friends of Lachat. Ellen McCormick, chairman of Lachat Oversight Committee, said, "Throughout Lachat's planning and restoration process, Bob has been invaluable through his generous contribution of time, as well as his knowledge and patience in dealing with the complex socio-political procedures associated with public properties."
Bob, age 88, passed away peacefully at The Carolton Center on January 27, 2016 after an extended battle with MDS, a blood disorder. He will be greatly missed.