GROTON -- Meeting with representatives of the town's two major private schools May 21, the Historic Districts Commission discussed plans for major changes to the architectural landscape at both institutions.
"It's really a sweet little building," said commission Chairman Daniel Barton of a proposal by Lawrence Academy to demolish an existing building on its campus and replicate it at a size 10-15 percent larger than the original.
According to Linda Deacy, the school's chief financial officer, plans call for the creation of a new video conferencing center that will not fit in the existing building, a garage currently being used for storage.
Located off Powderhouse Road, the existing building is too fragile to move and after being razed, stones from its construction would be reused for paving around the new structure.
Commissioners were assured that every effort would be used to replicate the architectural style of the current building with the exception that the new structure would be larger and come to about 1,200 square feet.
Barton, however, expressed regret for the need to demolish the existing building, which was estimated to be about 75 years old.
Barton said that if the existing building had to be destroyed, then its replacement should reflect its architectural style as closely as possible, a style that differs from other surrounding structures.
Nevertheless, some members of the commission remained unsure about which building was being discussed or its exact location (any building that can be seen from one of the town's two historic districts falls under the purview of the HDC) so a site walk was scheduled for May 29.
Meanwhile, Groton School attorney Robert Collins appeared before the commission to discuss plans by his client for updating the institution's Schoolhouse Building.
At an earlier meeting, Collins informed commissioners that school administrators planned to add a connecting section to two wings of the existing building while at the same time updating teaching laboratories to current educational standards.
Describing the current building as being in the shape of a capitol C, Collins said the planned addition would fill the open gap turning the C into an O with a possible atrium section to be located within the four interior walls of the newly refurbished building.
The commission's interest in the project is due to the Schoolhouse Building being located within one of the town's historic districts, which runs along Farmers Row.
Part of the building's current construction, which is expected to be replaced by the new wing, said Collins, was constructed in the 1960s. Architecture for the wing may have been deemed appropriate decades ago but by current standards of historical preservation and good taste, make it more of an eyesore than something aesthetically pleasing.
Consequently, said Collins, the new addition would conform to the style of the original portions of the building and present a uniform architectural style.
The only nontraditional element, continued Collins, is to be the inclusion of a skylight not visible from the ground, that would take advantage of the atrium space.
Expressing the HDC's appreciation for the school's giving members the chance to review its plans, Barton called the project, "beautiful" with nothing of concern that "immediately pops out."
Nevertheless, the chairman said he still had questions he would reserve for June 18 when the public hearing is continued.
In the meantime, commissioners voted to write a letter giving support for a variance that will maintain the front part of the Schoolhouse Building as it is.