Ambler farmhouse gets second facelift

Work is about to begin on the restoration of the back end of the Raymond-Ambler House at Ambler Farm. First Selectman Bill Brennan joined members of the Friends of Ambler Farm for a ceremonial groundbreaking on Friday, Nov. 16.

"The goal is to open the first floor to the public in 2014," said Neil Gluckin, president of the Friends.

Work that needs to be done includes raising the house to stabilize the sill and painting the exterior. Inside, wiring needs to be brought up to code, plumbing repaired, insulation and flooring installed. The walls need to be papered and painted. All of that should be done by the end of 2013, he said.

Work on the badly deteriorated house began in 2007, with the section that faces Hurlbutt Street completed first at a cost of $720,000.

The restoration work now under way will be covered by the first distribution of capital funding approved by voters in May in the amount of $125,000. That amount will be matched by the Friends of Ambler Farm, supplemented by additional private funds.

The work that remains after the current phase is completed is estimated to cost $750,000, Jeanne Robertson, Friends of Ambler Farm development chair, said in an email to The Bulletin.

"The Friends group has accepted responsibility for raising half that amount, or $375,000. The Town of Wilton has committed to matching $125,000 in Fiscal 2014, and has indicated a willingness to consider matching the remaining $250,000 in Fiscal Years 2015 and 2016," she wrote.

The farmhouse restoration is the final phase of a master plan for Ambler Farm drawn up in 1999, following the purchase of the property by the town. That deed obliges the town to restore the farmhouse to its original architectural condition and to make it safe for public use. The Friends of Ambler Farm, a nonprofit established in 2005, plans to raise about 50% of the total capital needed for the project, which is expected to reduce the cost to taxpayers by close to $1 million, Ms. Robertson said.

Wielding gold-toned shovels at the groundbreaking with Mr. Brennan and Mr. Gluckin were Ms. Robertson; Ann Bell, past president and building committee chair; Building Committee members Robert Russell and Marie Donahue; Friends Vice President Eve Donovan; and Phil Richards, a former board member.

Overseeing the restoration is Rich Vale, supervising architect at Faesy-Smith Architects in Wilton.

The farmhouse was built in two sections — the first by the Raymond family in the early 1800s, the second in the later part of the 19th Century. The Raymond and Ambler families were joined by marriage.

In an interview with The Bulletin earlier this year, Mr. Gluckin emphasized the restoration work won't be "an exercise in historical fidelity"; rather, their interpretation is "historic appreciation."

The Ambler family lived in the house nearly two centuries, and the Friends plans to use it for educational purposes. The plan is for each room to represent a different period in time.

"There will be no velvet ropes," Mr. Gluckin said.