GROTON -- Meeting with representatives of the town's two major private schools Tuesday, 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 a building on its campus and to replicate it at a size 10 percent to 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 being used for storage.
Located off Powderhouse Road, the building is too fragile to move. 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, at about 1,200 square feet.
Barton, however, expressed regret for the need to demolish the building which was estimated to be about 75 years old.
Barton said that if the 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.
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.
Also, Groton School attorney Robert Collins also 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 capital 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 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 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, a style that the attorney described as "one of the nicest" in town.
Collins noted Tuesday that it was the rear of the building, the part that could be observed from Farmers Row, that was most out of step architecturally.
The new addition and renovations would make it consistent with the style at the front which faces the circular green space that is at the heart of campus life and that each year, plays host to commencement ceremonies.
Collins said that all roofing, brickwork, and other details to be added to the rear portion of the building will match those at the front and when the work is completed, will look as if it was done at the same time as the rest of the structure which was constructed some 100 years before.
The only non-traditional element, continued Collins, was 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 that he would reserve for June 18 when the public hearing was to be continued.
In the meantime, commissioners voted to write a letter giving support for a variance that would support maintaining the front part of the Schoolhouse Building as it was.
Also Tuesday, commissioners held a pre-application discussion with Julie Platt, owner of a 75-year-old home at 2 Old Ayer Road.
Platt planned to renovate portions of her home, which was built in 1935, including the possibility of breaking up roof lines and adding a gable to help diversify some of its architectural monotony.
"This is such a wonderful revival home," enthused Barton. "Let's keep that richness going."
Barton's concerns were chiefly concentrated on the front appearance of the house and a large expanse of featureless wall space that might be softened with new windows or screening by way of landscaping.
Barton implored Platt to make sure the unique character of the house was preserved and that whatever was added did not detract from that.
"We'll try to play with it a little more," promised Platt.
Plans were made to continue the informal discussion at the commission's meeting June 18.