Many know that Wilton’s Weir Farm is Connecticut’s only National Park, but now visitors will get the chance to learn first-hand just how significant the park’s entire property–including all the buildings, especially the Weir House, Weir Studio and Young Studio–is, when Weir Farm opens the newly-restored properties to the public for the first time. They are holding a Grand Opening Weekend, Saturday, May 24 and Sunday, May 25 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

photo 1[2]Linda Cook, superintendent of the Weir Farm, said that the National Parks specialist staff and historians were “looking forward to welcoming the public, getting people jazzed about what these historical buildings mean in a contemporary world.”

Julian Alden Weir was an American Impressionist who acquired the 153-acres farm in 1882. The landscapes and the light inspired Weir and his artist friends, and through the works he created at the location he helped bring American Impressionism into world prominence. The property has been occupied by artists ever since–Weir’s daughter Dorothy Weir and her husband, Mahonri Young, followed by Sperry Andrews and his wife, Doris, occupied the property after Weir–and it is a popular site today for artists to set up easels and work in the rolling hills and fields.

The location was designated as a National Park site in 1990, and the renovation and restoration on the buildings was begun in 2006, shortly after the last artist to live in the Weir House and use the historic studios–Sperry Andrews–passed away in 2005.

After almost a decade of state-of-the-art restoration work, these nationally celebrated buildings have been completely restored with original furniture and artwork.

“When you work on a project like this, the overwhelming complexity and detail of making sure you have everything right drives so many of your decisions, in addition to making sure your historic preservation is right, taking care of the structure, that everything is conserved, and that you’re able to find the objects to put back in here. About 85 percent of the objects in the house are original,” Cook explained. Some of the artwork displayed is original as well.

She also explained the painstaking attention to historical detail and accuracy in verifying and restoring the original home and the two studios.

“Every paint chip, every paint drop on the floor has been analyzed, every drop on the wall has been analyzed, you can tell where his easel was, how the light came in, there’s a lot of science that goes into historic preservations, historic research and detective work but also hard core science. What were the paints made out of? How do you know it’s not contemporary paint? If you’re going to be telling the American public that something happened here, you’ve got to get it right.”

The rangers are looking forward to the public’s ability to visit the newly opened spaces, as they said the significance of the house and studios is historically enormous.

“This is the only National Park site in the country dedicated to an American painter and American painting. The load that this park carries, there are many that are seashores, war memorials, but this is the only one that people will come to to get that insight on American painting and what this painter left the American people in terms of heritage, history and the value of Impressionist painting,” Cook explained.

The park will offer ranger-led tours and well as self-guided tours. Visitors can wander through the eccentric and charming house and studio spaces that inspired generations of famous and talented American artists. The unique décor includes many European elements from Weir’s overseas travels, including rich Flemish tapestries, a Bavarian staghorn chandelier, a Delft tile framed fireplace, and medieval stained glass.

One of the tours includes notable spots where visitors can compare existing spots on the property with the artwork. “A big piece that was missing up until now were these interior scenes–really popular pieces–especially of Weir’s family members, which are some of the most touching–now they’ll be able to see those sites, which is very exciting,” explained park ranger Andrew Lowe.

The interior design and outdoor landscapes also reflect Weir’s fascination with nature. Visitors can walk in his footsteps and explore 60-acres of national park landscape, including the Weir Pond, historic gardens, orchards, fields, and forest.
photo 1[3]Cook explained the appeal of the location to artists. “There’s some magical quality to the light here that has been described in ways that have to do with trees and the light coming through that is really beneficial to painters, historically and today. They love it.”
They’re hoping that contemporary visitors will also find the location even more appealing than they already do, now that the added layer of the fully-restored building interiors have been made available.
“It’s that whole idea of connecting to a place, so that you don’t just come in and look around and leave. You want these sites and buildings to really affect people’s lives, to kindle in them a long-lost desire to be an artist, or to remember a relative, or get them excited about things that they hadn’t thought of in a while. Coming to these places transforms people’s lives. They leave impressions and make marks, especially children,” said Cook. “If we can do that for people here in CT, there’s nothing that beats that.”
The buildings at Weir Farm will be open seasonally (April-November). Tours of the Weir House will be offered Thursdays-Sundays at 11 a.m., 1 p.m., 2 p.m. and 3 p.m.  The Weir and Young studios will be staffed by volunteers and will be self-guiding from 10 a.m.-4 p.m., Thursday-Sunday. Visitors can also enjoy free-to-use watercolor supplies and laid-back instruction from local professional artists as part of the park’s popular Take Part in Art program. Visitors are also encouraged to rediscover the other buildings on-site, with special access to the Artist-in-Residence Studio, a new exhibit of Sperry Andrews’ paintings, and a display of works by local, contemporary artists for sale in the visitor center.  While exploring, chat with those directly involved in the restoration, including the park’s superintendent, curator, collections manager, and park rangers. One of the most important facets of the renovation was making the park ADA compliant so that all visitors would be able to access the buildings and surrounding fields.
During the opening, visitors can bring web-enabled devices and share photos from the Grand Opening Weekend using the hashtag #WeirOpen. To preserve the park grounds, there will be no on-site parking during the Grand Opening Weekend. All parking will be at nearby Branchville Elementary School, 40 Florida Road Ridgefield. Free shuttle service will run continuously between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. each day.