Holly Cuzzone knows Norwalks historic Gallaher Mansion "like the back of my hand." She can find the elevator and the log loader in the basement effortlessly, and she knows which nondescript door to open upstairs to get to an elaborately mosaicked bathroom.
She also knows where the puddles form and where the 1931 mural is buckling, which is why Cuzzone, Friends' archeologist, and Celia Maddox, president of the Friends of Cranbury Park , did all the research and paperwork necessary to get the park's mansion on the state registry of historic places and apply for grant money. That paid off Wednesday as the friends received $20,000 from the Connecticut Trust for Historic Preservation so they can take the first steps in keeping the mansion from "falling down."
The money will be combined with $20,000 in city funds and $5,000 from the Friends to create a master plan for the mansion, which was owned by inventor and industrialist Edward Beach Gallaher. "Last year the master plan for Cranbury Park was passed and ratified by the city, but it excluded the mansion," Cuzzone said. "This is a different plan that will enable us to assess the physical condition of the mansion, and provide guidelines for its restoration and preservation that are in line with historic standards, that is not just a wild mix of fixes and repairs."
The mansion is used for weddings every weekend in the summer, the women said, and while the public rooms look nice, the building needs a lot of work. "Sooner or later the building would fall down," Cuzzone said.
While the expansive open spaces at the park have always been looked after, there has been no plan for the mansion since Gallaher's widow died in 1965.
The master plan will include an assessment of the work that needs to be done on the mansion, and a feasibility study. It will also look for ways the mansion might generate money for the city.
Cuzzone said fixing the mansion will help Norwalkers have pride in their community. "They come here, use the park and probably look at this building and wonder about it," Cuzzone said. "It does have a history. It's used by the community."
"We are an example of what a small band of very dedicated people can do when they put their minds to it," Maddox said.
Have you toured the Gallaher Mansion? What did you think?
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