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Article Published January 13, 2020

Branford Land Trust Seeks Proposals to Rehome Historic Pine Orchard Farm Structures

By Pam Johnson/Zip06.com

In December, Branford Land Trust (BLT) received an early Christmas gift from descendents of the notable Alden M. Young Family: 3.74 acres of land connected to the Young's Pond Preserve. The land came with two well-maintained historic structures --  a beautiful circa 1912 barn and a spacious, turn-of-the 20th-century farm storage building. Unfortunately, the continued care and preservation of such buildings falls far outside BLT's mission. That's why the all-volunteer Trust is anxious to receive creative proposals to help get these structures rehomed; preferably intact, and preferably in Branford.

"They're beautiful, interesting structures; but part of the issue is it's not really in our mission to keep structures like this," said BLT president Peter Raymond. "We have some money from the donor to potentially knock down the buildings, and we want try to avoid that. Our top wish is that they could be relocated to somewhere in Branford; or, beyond that, relocated to somewhere in the state."

BLT has brought the issue to the Town of Branford and the Branford Historical Society (BHS) and is also widening the scope to invite interest from others, said Raymond. Ideally, BLT hopes to find new owners interested in relocating the structures while preserving the integrity of the buildings. A second, less desired choice would be to allow the buildings to be salvaged for materials. Interested parties are asked to submit proposals to BLT for consideration at info@branfordlandtrust.org

Long-time BLT member and secretary Lauren Brown and her husband, John Herzan, a retired Preservation Services Officer of the New Haven Preservation Trust, are helping Raymond and BLT to spread the word about the remarkable opportunities these buildings can present for the proper owner. Both buildings are located at 21 Anchorage Road. 

"The inventory form gives the barn a date of circa 1912, but the construction method goes back to 1870, along the lines of balloon frame construction" Herzan said, adding, "...it was well-maintained by the owner. There is a lot of new wood in the shed, and both buildings were recently painted. They're aesthetically beautiful, very well proportioned and fit their site beautifully. They were substantial buildings of their time, when they were built."

The extensive barn was converted from its original use as a hay barn to a type of recreational building for the family, said Herzan, who recently discussed the history of the buildings with Branford Town Historian Jane Bouley. Bouley is also a long-serving member, past board member and past president (2011-13) of BHS. While both buildings are "historically significant," they are not protected by historic rules, said Herzan.

"However, having said that, they were recorded by the state as significant structures in Pine Orchard; and when the [Branford] Historical Society did an inventory of all historical architecture in Pine Orchard, the barn was included," Herzan said.

"One reason we are trying to keep the barn intact is that it's a really beautiful building, and it's also in excellent condition," said Brown. "It was given by a descendent of the family of Alden M. Young, who was the person who really developed Pine Orchard into what it is today; and Youngs Pond Park -- its all the same family. Alden Young, when he lived there, had a huge mansion which they later tore down; and they had a huge gentleman's farm, and these buildings were part of that."

Young (1853-1911) was a looming figure in the history of Pine Orchard and Branford, according to information gathered by BHS and shared by Brown on behalf of BLT, noting, "...starting in 1894, he and his wife maintained a large property in Pine Orchard called the Anchorage, which included not only a 22-room mansion but a poultry and dairy farm. The land donated to the Trust was once a part of his extensive holdings. Among Young's many legacies to Branford, which included introducing electricity and starting the Branford Electric Railway (commonly known as the shoreline trolley), he dredged an area near the farm to create Young's Pond, now the centerpiece of the popular Young's Pond Park."

The newly-donated property, which includes scenic rock outcrops and healthy wetlands, abuts Youngs Pond Park, adding to the land that can be enjoyed by local citizens, said Brown.

"This land is really significant, because its contiguous to the Youngs Pond Preserve -- it expands it," added Herzan. "It's not a detached parcel; and that's why it's so exciting."

"It's near open space, so it was a great donation," Raymond agreed. "We are extremely grateful to the Alden M. Young Family for this generous donation. [It] continues the family's vision of making contributions for the benefit of our town. We are honored to be able to preserve this land for current Branford residents and for generations to come."

Founded in 1967, Branford Land Trust, is an all-volunteer organization which has protected over 1,000 acres of open space in town. More information about Branford Land Trust can be found at https://branfordlandtrust.org/