The Mather Homestead, a treasured National Historic Landmark, built in 1778, celebrated the opening of its recently completed barn, The Elizabeth W. Chilton Education Center, on Saturday, September 19 with an innovative, outdoor picnic-style fundraising event. While the event was capped at 100 guests, pursuant to state guidelines, it raised nearly $15,000, which will aid in the project’s completion. The Homestead intends to host scholar’s lectures, school groups, concerts, art exhibits, book discussions and even yoga classes in the new space.
Designed to look like an eighteenth-century dairy barn, the Elizabeth W. Chilton Education Center was named after board chairman, Richard L. Chilton Jr’s late mother, who was an impassioned historical preservationist. The construction was made possible by the generosity of the Chilton family, a generous $75,000 grant from The Darien Foundation, as well as donations from 80 community members and counting.
Chilton did the honors at the ribbon-cutting ceremony, and in attendance were members of the McPherson family, Ward Glassmeyer, Chairman of the board of The Darien Foundation, Sarah Woodberry, Executive Director of The Darien Foundation, as well as First Selectman, Jayme Stevenson, and State Representative Terrie Wood. Immediately following the ceremony, event guests enjoyed a video, now online, which presented the story of the Homestead.
Said Woodberry: “The Darien Foundation was proud to support this new educational center that will allow more educational programming and opportunities for the community to engage with the history of the Mather Homestead, without increasing the usage or foot traffic in this exquisitely preserved National Historic Landmark.”
Lauren Swenson, Executive Director of The Mather Homestead thanked the many people who brought both the building and event to life. Swenson said: “We really could not have asked for a better night. The weather held, people came out and picnicked and celebrated this incredible new destination. With the help of Richard (Chilton), The Darien Foundation, generous community members and with the proceeds from the Barnraiser, we are that much closer to reaching our goal of becoming a preeminent center for historical education.”
Finally, Richard Chilton, President of the Mather Homestead Foundation Board gave his vision for the future of the Homestead with the addition of this new barn. “I like to dream and this barn is the most pivotal beginning part of that dream,” Chilton said. "The Elizabeth Chilton Education Center will be the hub, the working organ, of the Mather Homestead Foundation, to be able to supply educational outreach,” he said.
He also shared a wonderful anecdote about being instructed by his mother as a small boy in Ho-Ho-Kus, New Jersey to sit on the roof of a historic home so that it would not be destroyed by wrecking balls. That home, the Hermitage, then became the first National Historic Landmark in New Jersey.
Donations to the Homestead Barn may be made on their website. All donors making contributions before the end of the month over $250 will be recognized on their donor wall.
About Mather Homestead
The Mather Homestead of Darien, Connecticut was built in 1778 and owned by the Mather family through seven generations, until 2017 when it was donated to The Mather Homestead Foundation, thanks to the generosity of the McPherson family. The home is rich in history and open for public enjoyment and education around 18th century history and the legacy of Stephen Mather. In 2020, the Foundation completed a new “barn," the Elizabeth W. Chilton Education Center, which will allow the Homestead to expand its programming to include scholars’ lectures, art exhibits concerts, films and even yoga classes.
The Mather Homestead Foundation’s mission is to the preserve of the Mather Homestead as a place for public enjoyment and education around 18th century history and the legacy of Stephen Mather.
For more information about The Mather Homestead, visit matherhomestead.org