How a firm foundation—in history, place, and atop an old rock wall—sets the tone for the Depot House’s next chapter
The challenge that Lisa Gray and Alan Organschi set for themselves was to build something that is at once of its time and steeped in the history of its surroundings. The pair took a design cue from the dairy barns that have disappeared from the rural Connecticut landscape, victims of decay and development. The house abuts the road, a nod to a barn’s traditional location and one that forced them to apply for a special exception to the zoning regulations of the town of Washington.
“You can’t build like that anymore due to zoning setbacks,” Gray explains. “When you’re close to the road, that’s a mark of an old situation, and we have always found those kinds of buildings very romantic.”
By salvaging the old foundation, the architects spared another endangered feature of the Connecticut countryside: the stone walls that once marked farm boundaries. The foundation testifies to a vanished agricultural and industrial past, when milk and cheese from the region’s dairy farms and stone from a quarry in nearby Roxbury were carried by rail to New York City. By incorporating the old walls into the design of their house, Gray and Organschi grounded the building, quite literally, in the region’s history.
“To think of this as an industrial corridor is really funny,” Organschi says, “but there was a rifle-barrel shop down the road, and there’s what we think is an old mill foundation. There’s this stripped-down, hardscrabble quality to these landscapes because of that past.”