January 5, 2015 | By Dennis Yusko
Wilton historian Jeanne Woutersz and artist Michelle Vara recently dug up and restored a piece of town history.
Last year, Woutersz set out to rebuild a more than 150-year-old fence that stood for decades at the Brill family farm and cemetery, located off Route 9 in southwest Wilton. She wanted to restore the old fence to separate the cemetery’s two grave sites from a pavilion area neighboring Saratoga Bridges was building for its clients. She and Vara went to the burial ground last spring and rescued metal parts from the former fence that had deteriorated in the property’s dirt.
Vara and her partner, Chad Wilson, took the parts to her Ballard Road Arts Studio. Over several months, she scrubbed the metal and acquired new materials to rebuild the fence’s elegant entrance gate and posts. Vara re-created small rosettes from old metal she owned and welded the parts into a landmark she says replicates the fence’s original design.
Last week, she put the refurbished posts and gates into the ground at the old family cemetery. Vara said she donated half of the project’s $2,500 restoration cost, and the town covered the other half.
“I really wanted to…I hate to see history gone and to be honest with you, in Wilton we don’t really have a lot of historical monuments,” Vara said Monday. The restored posts are 42 inches high and its gates are more than three feet wide. The top scrolls on the gate were hand-made at Vara’s studio. Saratoga Bridges purchased and installed black, aluminum fencing to complete the enclosure.
The family of John Brill came to the Wilton area in 1813 and soon built their family farm near what today is Smith Bridge Road. Two of the family’s children died young and were buried on the property, according to the town historian. The town owns the small, abandoned cemetery.
“That would have been a family cemetery with a fence around it,” Woutersz said. The land served as a dairy farm from 1900 to 1945, when Don Pepper acquired it and used it to raise turkeys, she said.