Construction at DRA’s Round Top Farmhouse kicks off mid-March

sketch of Round Top Farms after construction

A sketch by 44º North Architects projecting how the Round Top Farmhouse will look when work is complete.

The historic farmhouse at DRA’s Round Top Farms in Damariscotta will be undergoing renovations this year, with work scheduled to begin in mid-March. Damariscotta River Association (DRA) plans to relocate its administrative headquarters to the farmhouse when work is complete this fall.

Preserving a piece of local history

DRA inherited the property from Round Top Center for the Arts when that organization dissolved in 2008, according to a safe fallback arrangement made by former owner Nancy Freeman. Though maintenance of the buildings at Round Top Farms had long been deferred, DRA recognized the particular value of the farmhouse to the community in terms of its history and central location.

Round Top Farmhouse

The historic farmhouse at DRA’s Round Top Farms.

“The Round Top Farmhouse itself is a gem with a rich history,” remarked DRA Executive Director Steven Hufnagel. “We are so pleased that thanks to the support of the community, it will soon have a new life as a conservation and education center close to the heart of town, a hub for exploring and learning about the Damariscotta River and the land around it. All the while, we’re thrilled that freeing up space at our Belvedere Road location will allow us to continue to expand our education programs.”

Room to expand

The move to Round Top Farms will make room for DRA’s Great Salt Bay Farm on Belvedere Road to serve as a full-time nature education center, meeting a growing need for programs for local schools, summer camps, alternative education, workshops, and more. With 120 acres of diverse natural habitats, Great Salt Bay Farm has become a regional destination for environmental education. Over 3,500 kids and adults participated in DRA education programs in 2017, with demand continuing to increase each year.

DRA recently completed a successful capital campaign to raise money for the expansion of DRA’s education programs and water quality efforts, in addition to the work at Round Top Farms. Funds raised also made possible the purchase of property along the river to either side of Round Top Farms, as well as the creation of an accessible trail connecting those properties to Great Salt Bay Community School (see map at the end of this article).

The renovated farmhouse will be fully ADA accessible and will accommodate administrative offices for DRA staff as well as a conference room, reading room, education hall, and stewardship workshop. Home to the Damariscotta Farmers Market and the DRA’s Community Skating Rink, Round Top Farms holds a special place in Damariscotta history, and offers a central location for the land trust within the community.

interior of Round Top Farmhouse

Interior view of the Round Top Farmhouse.

Construction, designed and guided by Tor Glendinning of 44º North Architects, will preserve the circa 1890 farmhouse, with its beautiful period architectural details in the siding and in the interior and exterior woodwork. The house itself is well-built and in good condition. Work will focus on making the building accessible, painting, insulating, roofing, and reinforcing the floors.

Removal of attached barn and ell

While it was hoped the attached ell and barn could also be restored, interior demolition in preparation for work to be done has exposed damage and structural defects that would make preservation impracticable.

Interior of existing barn. Note odd angles along length of side wall, and downward slope of floor.

Among other issues, the height of the original barn was increased by four feet at one time, without the addition of the necessary bracing to provide uniform structural support. As a result, the walls lean in different directions along the length of the barn and at varying elevations.

basement interior showing collapsing foundation

Collapsing foundation under the addition at Round Top Farms.

Beams, roof and wall sheathing, and floorboards throughout the ell and barn were found to be compromised by mildew, rot, and damage from powderpost beetles. Problems extend all the way to the base of the addition, where the stone foundation is collapsing, undermined by years of damage from water and rodent activity.

Accordingly, the revised construction plans include removal of the barn and ell. A new addition will be built that is similar in appearance to the existing barn. The addition is designed to be highly energy efficient, and, like the farmhouse, will be completely ADA accessible.

“Accessible to all, central to the community, and sensitive to history, but also safe, dry, and energy efficient, I believe this historic saltwater farm can be a beloved focal point for community gathering and learning about the Damariscotta River estuary,” Hufnagel said.

DRA has hired JF Scott to serve as general contractor for the project. For more information, please contact Steven Hufnagel at 207-563-1393 or shufnagel@damariscottariver.org.

aerial map of proposed trail

An aerial map of the proposed accessible trail connecting Round Top Farms to Great Salt Bay School.