The historic farmhouse at DRA’s Round Top Farm in Damariscotta will be undergoing renovations this year, with work scheduled to begin in mid-March. Damariscotta River Association, the land trust and conservation organization that owns the property, plans to relocate its administrative headquarters to the farmhouse when work is complete this fall.
DRA inherited the property from Round Top Center for the Arts when that organization dissolved in 2008, according to a safe fallback arrangement made by former owner Nancy Freeman. Though maintenance of the buildings at Round Top Farms had long been deferred, DRA recognized the particular value of the farmhouse to the community in terms of its history and central location.
“The Round Top Farmhouse itself is a gem with a rich history,” said DRA Executive Director Steven Hufnagel. “We are so pleased that thanks to the support of the community, it will soon have a new life as a conservation and education center close to the heart of town, a hub for exploring and learning about the Damariscotta River and the land around it. All the while, we’re thrilled that freeing up space at our Belvedere Road location will allow us to continue to expand our education programs.”
The move to Round Top Farm will make room for DRA’s Great Salt Bay Farm on Belvedere Road to serve as a full-time nature education center, meeting a growing need for programs for local schools, summer camps, alternative education, workshops, and more. With 120 acres of diverse natural habitats, Great Salt Bay Farm has become a regional destination for environmental education. More than 3,500 kids and adults participated in DRA education programs in 2017, with demand continuing to increase each year.
DRA recently completed a successful capital campaign to raise money for the expansion of DRA’s education programs and water quality efforts, in addition to the work at Round Top Farm. Funds raised also made possible the purchase of property along the river to either side of Round Top Farm, as well as the creation of an accessible trail connecting those properties to Great Salt Bay Community School.
The renovated farmhouse will be fully ADA-accessible and will accommodate administrative offices for DRA staff, as well as a conference room, reading room, education hall, and stewardship workshop. Home to the Damariscotta Farmers Market and the DRA’s community skating rink, Round Top Farm holds a special place in Damariscotta history, and offers a central location for the land trust within the community.
Construction, designed and guided by Tor Glendinning of 44º North Architects, will preserve the circa-1890 farmhouse, with its beautiful period architectural details in the siding and in the interior and exterior woodwork. The house itself is well-built and in good condition. Work will focus on making the building accessible, painting, insulating, roofing, and reinforcing the floors.
While it was hoped the attached ell and barn could also be restored, interior demolition in preparation for work to be done has exposed damage and structural defects that would make preservation impracticable.
Among other issues, the height of the original barn was increased by four feet at one time, without the addition of the necessary bracing to provide uniform structural support. As a result, the walls lean in different directions along the length of the barn and at varying elevations.
Beams, roof and wall sheathing, and floorboards throughout the ell and barn were found to be compromised by mildew, rot, and damage from powderpost beetles. Problems extend all the way to the base of the addition, where the stone foundation is collapsing, undermined by years of damage from water and rodent activity.
Accordingly, the revised construction plans include removal of the barn and ell. A new addition will be built that is similar in appearance to the existing barn. The addition is designed to be highly energy efficient, and, like the farmhouse, will be completely ADA-accessible.
“Accessible to all, central to the community, and sensitive to history, but also safe, dry, and energy-efficient, I believe this historic saltwater farm can be a beloved focal point for community gathering and learning about the Damariscotta River estuary,” Hufnagel said.
DRA has hired JF Scott Construction to serve as general contractor for the project. For more information, contact Hufnagel at 563-1393 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
A nonprofit, membership-supported, and nationally accredited land trust and conservation organization, Damariscotta River Association is dedicated to preserving and promoting the natural, cultural, and historical heritage of the Damariscotta region, centered on the Damariscotta River.
DRA has active programs in the areas of land conservation, stewardship, community education, water quality monitoring, marine conservation, and cultural preservation.
Visitors are welcome at the Great Salt Bay Heritage Center in Damariscotta as well as the many other DRA properties throughout the region. Learn more online at damariscottariver.org.