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Waveny Lodge Renovation Complete
by Ann Lodbell
New Canaan, CT
October 20, 2008
Waveny Lodge is located within a 250 acre park in the center of New Canaan, CT. The 250 acre grounds and buildings were gifted to the Town of New Canaan by the Lapham family in the 1950’s. Waveny Lodge was originally built in the 1920’s for the superintendent of the property. After the town took possession, the cottage became a rental property. The other buildings on the estate, including Waveny House, also know as “the castle,” the Lapham daughter’s home, carriage barn and powerhouse, were eventually renovated into a wedding/meeting space, senior center, community theater and art exhibition space.
In 2004, a group of platform tennis enthusiasts petitioned the Town of New Canaan to renovate the four 1970’s built public platform tennis courts located next to the senior center within the park. Platform tennis in New Canaan was experiencing resurgence. The senior center was planning to undergo an extensive renovation. Due to the expansion of the facility and the parking issues that this would create, it was suggested that the paddle courts be moved. At the same time, the town was considering tearing down the superintendent’s cottage which had not been occupied for several years. It was in serious need of repair and was not up to code for public use or rental. The Park & Recreation Commissioner suggested that the new courts be built next to the cottage and that the town might be able to put some money into the cottage so that it could be used as a paddle hut.
In 2004, it was determined that the minimum cost to have the cottage brought “up to code” was going to be at least $150,000. The cottage was in bad condition. There was extensive rotting and it was destined, even if brought up to code, to be an ongoing maintenance issue for the town. In addition, the layout of the cottage was not ideally conducive as a paddle hut because it consisted of several small rooms and small windows to the exterior. A public/private partnership was proposed. If the town would contribute $150,000 to the renovation of the cottage, the amount determined to bring it “up to code,” we would raise private funds to properly renovate the building for the community and give it a new and useful purpose.
A local architect, who is also a senior men’s platform tennis player, donated his services and designed a building preserving the exterior character of the stone cottage, and opening up the interior space to one large room with cathedral ceiling, resembling a ski lodge. Two bathrooms, an open kitchen and fireplace were part of the design.
Presentations were made to the Park & Recreation Commission, Town Council, Board of Finance and the Town Buildings Committee before approval was granted. Fundraising, grants, printed collateral, public relations, and building committees were formed. There are an amazing number of talented people who play paddle in New Canaan who volunteered their expertise and time to make up these committees. A newspaper campaign was launched. Articles highlighting the various platform tennis leagues, cross country runners and cross country skiers, all of whom would especially benefit from the renovated cottage, were submitted. Weekly letters to the local newspaper were coordinated and written to support the renovation. It was important to us all to preserve the exterior of the cottage so as to maintain the character of the park, but to open up the interior to give it a new and useful space for athletes, especially those who use the park in the colder months, thereby increasing the use of the park facilities during the “off season”.
The fundraising campaign kicked off in 2005. Our plan was to directly solicit contributions. Brochures asking for donations were mailed to all town residents. Members of the local women’s, men’s and senior men’s platform tennis groups received follow-up telephone calls from our fundraising committee members. We applied for and received grants from several local community groups, and over 500 families contributed towards the renovation. At one point in the campaign when the contributions were slowing down, we were contacted by a philanthropic New Canaan family, completely unsolicited, who set up a matching challenge. Their challenge brought our fundraising campaign a needed breath of fresh air. Residents of New Canaan rose to the challenge.
While the fundraising was going on, the building committee, headed by an extremely capable women’s league paddle player with a career in construction management, was preparing the documents to go out to bid. With a municipal property, there is a set bidding process that must be strictly adhered to. The winning contractor was also a building reclamations contractor. He offered us old wide plank wood floors, old wood beams from a barn in upstate New York and beautiful barn stone for our fireplace, in addition, he had old wood planks to line our cathedral ceiling. He was offering us an old look for less than the cost of new materials.
Construction began in the summer of 2007. There were some necessary building design changes as the project got underway. When you take an old building and start opening up the walls and floors, you can expect to find “issues”. Our findings, of course, increased the cost of the renovation. We had raised enough money for the redesign, but we did not have enough money now for furniture and landscaping.
In the fall of 2007, another committee was formed to put together a festive fundraiser to specifically raise money for the furnishings and landscaping. It was a successful event and our goal was achieved.
There were stumbles along the way, design changes, volunteer burn-out, contractor bankruptcy, code issues…….. but, we completed the project within budget and received our certificate of occupancy two weeks ago. We are up and running and the building is FABULOUS!!!!
Waveny Lodge is truly a community effort. It was a collaboration of individuals, families, local merchants, the platform tennis community at large, community organizations and extraordinary volunteers that made it happen.