The Mather Center will hold a new education center information session Wednesday, May 22, 7 to 8:15 p.m. in the garden. The center will be The Elizabeth W. Chilton Education Center – a.k.a “the Barn.”
The Mather Homestead will embark upon a plan to rebuild the “barn” as an education center. The new barn will house lectures, school groups, art exhibits and more, enabling the Mather Homestead to reach its vision of becoming a preeminent center for historical education in Fairfield County.
The Mather Homestead has already become a center for historical enjoyment and education in its first two years as a public space. Inside the house, individuals have come to tour the 1778 home, discuss books, eat dinner and socialize. Outside, Boy Scouts and other community volunteers have worked to beautify and restore the gardens; children have enjoyed tea in the garden; and families have bobbed for apples and ridden ponies at the 2017 and 2018 Fall Harvest Festivals. The Homestead has also welcomed renowned historical authors Gordon Wood and Harold Holzer as speakers. However, with inadequate space at the Homestead, these lectures have taken place in a barn on an adjacent property once owned by Joseph Mather and now owned by an exceptionally generous neighboring family.
The Barn will enable The Mather Homestead to reach its vision of becoming a preeminent center for historical education in Fairfield County.
Inspired by his mother Richard L. Chilton, Jr. helped to establish the Mather Homestead Foundation in 2017 to support the Stephen T. Mather Home as a museum and community place for education and enjoyment. He and his wife Maureen have donated to make the Elizabeth W. Chilton Education Center a space for all to enjoy and learn.
Elizabeth W. Chilton, known to her friends and family as Liz, was most recently a resident of New Canaan before her passing in 2013. Throughout her life, she was active in historical preservation, the arts and horticulture. In 1970, while living in Ho-Ho-Kus, New Jersey, she and a group of four other women formed the Friends of the Hermitage to save “The Hermitage” from the wrecking ball. The Hermitage, which is one of the most important mid 1700’s houses in New Jersey, was formerly owned by Theodosia Barton Prevost, who later married Aaron Burr. It served as a strategic headquarters for General George Washington during the Revolutionary War and later, as a half way house for the abolitionist movement to protect and relocate slaves during the Civil War. Designated a National Historic Landmark for the excellence of its Gothic Revival Architecture, today it is one of New Jersey’s most important historical houses and New Jersey’s first National Historic Landmark.
About the Barn
The new 1800 square foot structure will resemble an 18th century dairy barn on the exterior but have an open interior floor plan in order to maximize the opportunity for gatherings of up to 150 people. It will include significant wall space for exhibits, a small efficiency kitchen, ADA compliant bathrooms and large doors to open to the outside.
The Mather Homestead Foundation board, led by chairman Richard L. Chilton, has generously donated the majority of construction expenses. A generous gift from The Darien Foundation has also been applied to construction costs. An additional ~$50,000 is needed to complete the barn. All donors who give $250 and above will be recognized on the donors wall featured in the new space. Participation is gratefully appreciated