The Noroton Bay shoreline is once again home to the octagonal gazebo that graced the skyline for more than a century until Tropical Storm Irene ripped it from its foundation last September.
While the original Nash Island gazebo could not be salvaged, pieces of it washed up on shore and the gazebo owners, Jim and Marion Friend, used those pieces as a template for the new gazebo, which was completed at the end of July.
“Our family is happy to have the gazebo ‘summer house’ back,” Marion told The Times. Architect Rich Wood designed the replica, which was originally built by Marion’s great-grandfather in the last 1800s, and includes an eight-point star-shaped roof, with valleys in between each point, making its design distinctly recognizable.
Sterling Associates built the gazebo, which had its foundation framed off shore and then taken to the concrete slab that runs beyond the rock outcropping and juts into the bay where hundreds of anchored boats rock in the breeze.
They used lumber from Darien-based company Ring’s End, and the Friends had a “Tom Sawyer party,” and invited their family to come paint the gazebo after it received its certificate of occupancy from the town. The Friends went through a number of local and state hurdles to get the proper permits to rebuild the gazebo, but the end result was worth it, they said.
To welcome the structure back to the shoreline, the Friends held a Labor Day party where four generations of family members gathered to celebrate the return of the landmark.
The original gazebo had just been fixed from the 2010 nor’easter when Irene came through and completely destroyed it.
“We were shocked and heartbroken,” Friend said last year. “It’s such a mainstay for our family and the whole neighborhood.”
The cherished structure had hosted thousands of people for celebrations and holidays during the past century. The Friends’ three daughters were married on that property, along with dozens of other marriage ceremonies.
The Nash Island gazebo adorned the cover of Darien’s phone book for years, Friend said, and it also appeared as an art supplement in newspapers and in many town pamphlets.
Lewis and Ana Nash bought the property in 1896 and a few years later, Lewis built the gazebo “to his own unique design,” wrote Harold Nash, Friend’s uncle and Lewis Nash’s son. The octagon roof was 16-feet across and had no center support. While it was under construction, a passing fisherman was rumored to have said, “It won’t go through the winter,” but the gazebo was strong enough to make it through decades of winters. It also withstood the hurricane of 1938, which caused more than $300 million in damage and killed nearly 800 people. Adjusting for inflation, the damage would equal $41 billion today.
Despite its long-standing strength, the gazebo was almost destroyed in 1972 after a 50-foot sailboat broke from its mooring during a storm and crashed into the gazebo.
“Thinking of the interest of our neighbors as well as our own, the family had it rebuilt,” Nash wrote.
The new gazebo was built with extra support so it could withstand strong winds or impact, the Friends said, while still maintaining the same aesthetic standard set by Lewis Nash over a hundred years ago.