The Connecticut Trust for Historic Preservation recently honored UConn donors George Malkemus and Anthony Yurgaitis, who, along with their Arethusa Farm, have raised more than $522,000 to support scholarships for students in UConn’s College of Agriculture, Health, and Natural Resources.
Malkemus and Yurgaitis received the special Trustees’ Award for Stewardship for their reclamation and reactivation of the Litchfield-based farm.
With help from UConn’s agriculture experts, they have built an internationally renowned herd and dairy business that includes a line of premium dairy products, as well as Arethusa al Tavolo Restaurant and Arethusa a Mano bakery in Bantam.
Malkemus and Yurgaitis are also the top leaders of the Manolo Blahnik shoe company, and have raised $522,202 for College of Agriculture, Health, and Natural Resources scholarships since 2015, with sample sales of the high-end shoes at reduced prices at special events statewide as recently as February at UConn Storrs.
The historic stewardship award recognizes their work to preserve 300 acres of agricultural land at Arethusa Farm with numerous historic houses and barns, and to rehabilitate historic commercial buildings in the village of Bantam.
At the same awards event, the Trust gave a prestigious historic preservation award honoring UConn’s work to restore the long-shuttered downtown Hartford Times building for its new downtown campus.
The Trust for Historic Preservation presented an Award of Merit this month to the University and the contractors who worked on the facade of the building, which has housed the UConn Hartford campus since summer 2017.
“The restoration demonstrates that preserving civic buildings can help revitalize Connecticut’s cities, while promoting interest in their history and culture,” the organization said in the announcement of its award, which was presented to UConn in early April.
The structure and its Beaux-Arts facade were built in 1920 to house the Hartford Times, becoming a downtown landmark whose visitors over the decades included four U.S. presidents who spoke from its terrace to crowds amassed on Prospect Street.
The newspaper closed in 1976, and the building was used for a time by the City of Hartford, but had been vacant and in increasingly poor condition before UConn signed agreements in 2014 to move operations from its West Hartford campus to the downtown site.
With its soaring granite columns, marble steps, and massive oak doors – all salvaged from a Manhattan church by the original architect, Donn Barber – the Hartford Times facade and portico were still impressive, albeit in dire need of restoration and stabilization.
UConn hired Robert A.M. Stern Architects LLP, a renowned architectural firm headed by Robert A.M. Stern, former dean of the Yale of School of Architecture, to design the complex project.
It included not only determining how to return the old Hartford Times facade to its former glory, but also designing a roughly 140,000-square-foot addition that would complement the neoclassical design while providing modern-day features and amenities needed by a world-class research university.
The work also included stabilizing the facade and intricate murals on the portico walls, and repairing and replacing brick, granite and terracotta in several places as needed. The University and the architects were so committed to authenticity that they even replaced broken or missing roof tiles with the same kind of curved Spanish tiles – still made by the same company – that were used in the original construction.
“We are grateful for all the interest and support we received from the State, the City of Hartford, and neighboring institutions and businesses that made this restoration possible,” says Laura Cruickshank, UConn’s university architect. “Everyone worked together, and the result is a restored iconic building that houses a vibrant academic program.”
In addition to the University of Connecticut and RAMSA, the Connecticut Trust for Historic Preservation Merit Award also honors the partners with whom they worked on the project: HB Nitkin Group; Whiting-Turner Contracting Co.; Wiss, Janney, Elstner Associates Inc.; Robert A.M. Stern Interiors; Robert Silman Associates; Kohler Ronan LLC; BSC Group; Haley & Aldrich Inc.; Atelier Ten; ABD Engineering & Design Inc.; Philip R. Sherman; Page/SST Planners; and Ricca Design Studios.