The Denison Pequotsepos Nature Center’s Coogan Farm received two pieces of great news at the end of August, learning that The Conservation Fund will provide a $700,000 bridge loan for building renovations, and also that the property’s farmhouse will be named the John E. Avery House and Welcome Center.
This is The Conservation Fund’s second bridge loan to the Nature Center for Coogan Farm; the first was provided for the purchase of the land in 2013. The latest loan, $700,000 for renovations to the farmhouse and barn, will allow work to progress as the Nature Center continues to receive pledges.
“This is important, not just for the Nature Center but also for conservancy projects in general,” said Maggie Jones, executive director of the Nature Center. “This is a new direction for The Conservation Fund, which until now has supported land acquisitions. They gave us their support for the land acquisition, and now they are taking it to the next level, helping us complete the renovations to the buildings that will be home to classrooms. This helps us to connect people to nature and to the land.”
Said Reggie Hall, TCF’s director of land conservation loans, “We were excited to provide financing to acquire the Coogan Farm, and we are thrilled to provide a second loan to help with improvements being made to the property for the greater Mystic community to enjoy. Like DPNC, we understand that conservation goes beyond acquiring and ‘saving’ a special place. Conservation can also include enhancing the role that a piece of land plays in its community, and the Coogan Farm is poised to become a wonderful natural and recreational gateway to Mystic. From the educational programming to the meals provided from the Giving Garden, DPNC is doing some tremendous work and we are honored to be supporting it.”
In separate but equally important news, the farmhouse at Coogan Farm will officially be named the John E. Avery House and Welcome Center when it opens later this fall. The building will honor two generations of John E. Averys, the late John E. Avery Jr., and his father, the late John E. Avery Sr. It was John Jr. who made a generous donation to the Campaign to Save Coogan Farm through his family foundation, with the request that the renovated farmhouse be named for his late father, John Sr. In March 2015, John Jr. passed away, and his family decided to make an additional pledge via the John E. and Caron G. Avery Foundation to ensure the farmhouse would remember both John Sr. and John Jr.
The Avery House at Coogan will house the property’s welcome center, a farm/nature store, classrooms, a teaching kitchen, and some administration. It is being renovated by Sound Home Builders of Old Mystic, with an expected grand opening in late fall. Also under renovation is the barn next to the farmhouse, which will provide classroom and exhibit space for nature-related creative arts workshops, lectures and exhibits.