Wilton Historical Society seeks sign fix

As landlord to a number of businesses at Lambert Commons and Cannon Crossing, the Wilton Historical Society says it tries to treat each rented property with care and interest.

When its members and executives began noticing as many as 18 sandwich board signs popping up at its Lambert Commons location, the society knew it was high time to correct the non-functional signage that currently identifies the properties.

As such, the society submitted three applications to the Planning & Zoning Commission — which held a public hearing on Monday, July 28 — in hopes of installing new roadside signs at its three Danbury Road locations: Lambert Commons, the historical society museum complex and Cannon Crossing.

“The problem really came to a head when the number of sandwich boards proliferated on the properties. There were 18 sandwich boards on the south property alone. It was out of hand for some time, ” historical society member Bob Faesy told the commission.

“The question is, how do we identify graphically and appropriately a readable sign for each property? There has been a large amount of discussion to try and resolve this,” he said.

Design challenges

While there was unanimous approval within the historical society that the signs had to be changed, the group was often split on the design principles of the final work, Yale design professor and historical society representative Pamela Hovland told the commission Monday.

“The critical challenge [is that the historical society] embraces the history of the town, while at the same time is a vital part of the contemporary part of the community,” she said.

For inspiration for her designs for the society, Ms. Hovland said she looked to the group’s own museum collections.

The historical society’s own brand image — silhouettes of the three buildings at its museum — would be included at the top of each sign, while the overall design would need to “address the need to speak to historical aspects of the town while also signaling to the community something contemporary and vibrant is going on,” she said.

The major standardized components of the signs, she said, would be the typographic identification, the color palette, and the framing devices. The signs would also be contained on stone bases that are “informed by the foundations of the houses at the property,” Ms. Hovland said.

While searching for the correct typography, she stumbled upon a photograph of a Wilton-specific sign that “Walt Smith bartered to get,” she said.

“The sign is 100 years old, if not a little older,” she said. “It became a kind of inspiration using the language of silhouettes, which is also in the historical society’s graphical identification.”

In addition, Ms. Hovland said, the sandwich board method of identifying upcoming exhibitions at the society would be replaced by facade-mounted banners on either side of the Blackmar house.

Commission’s opinion

While the commission agreed the historical society’s properties need improved signage, it was most concerned about the size of the proposed signs.

The museum property and Lambert Commons have a footprint larger than 10,000 square feet, and therefore fall under historic adaptive use sign regulations. These regulations give the commission permission to allow a sign of any size on the property by special permit.

However, Cannon Crossing contains too little square footage to fall under those regulations, and is restricted to no more than 16 square feet of signage.

The society wishes to place 25 square feet of signage at the site.

In order to allow time for the historical society to reconfigure the signage plan at Cannon Crossing, the public hearing was continued to Sept. 8.