The white barn at Coogan Farm, which has stood for more than 100 years along Greenmanville Avenue as an icon of the property, will soon become a Nature and Creative Arts center in honor of the late Jules Xavier Schneider of Stonington.
Ana and Jeffrey Schneider of Stonington, owners of ASA Environmental Products in Stonington, made a donation to the Coogan Farm restoration project in memory of their son Jules, who died at age 13 in 1984 of cardiomyopathy. Jules is buried in Elm Grove Cemetery, across Greenmanville Avenue from Coogan Farm.
“We are so pleased to have Ana and Jeff support the restoration of Coogan Farm,” said Maggie Jones, executive director of the Denison Pequotsepos Nature Center, which owns Coogan Farm. “They have long been great friends of mine and of the Nature Center, and to be able to help them honor their son is a privilege for us.”
Ana Schneider said she and her husband first met Jones when the couple hired her to landscape the area around their son’s memorial in the cemetery, 31 years ago. “We wanted a monument bigger than life,” Ana said, “and we wanted to landscape it. We hired Maggie. That was our first connection to Maggie Jones. That’s how we came together. Then when the Nature Center bought Coogan Farm, we toured it, and we saw it had such nice views of the cemetery. There were naming opportunities, and this just spoke to us. That there will be young kids in (the Nature and Creative Arts center), we thought, how appropriate. Our son loved the Mystic River. He always said he wanted to live on the Mystic River. This is an honor and a privilege to be part of this. It ties into every single thing we love about this area.”
The Jules Xavier Schneider Nature and Creative Arts Barn will serve as both classroom and exhibit space at the Coogan Farm Nature & Heritage Center. The circa 1900 structure is being renovated, and an adjacent garage/storeroom was removed to make way for an addition that will include handicap-accessible restrooms, art preparation areas and a kitchenette. The building will be an integral part of the educational programming the Nature Center provides year round, as well as summer camp and special DPNC programs such as Discoveries, which is funded by the National Recreation Foundation to help address the health crisis and outdoor recreation deficit in youth by fostering appreciation of the natural world, healthful eating and lifestyles, and outdoor physical recreation.
It will also serve the Nature Center’s mission and purpose in saving Coogan Farm, which is to continue to work to connect people to nature. “Fostering nature literacy in everyone from the very young to the old is a cornerstone of the Nature Center’s strategic planning,” said Harry White, chairman of the DPNC Advancement Committee. “For 70 years, the Nature Center has been providing an education that nurtures active stewards of the natural world, and the Jules Xavier Schneider Nature and Creative Arts Center is our next step in that education.”
An official grand opening and ribbon cutting for the Jules Xavier Schneider Nature and Creative Arts Barn and the John E. Avery House and Welcome Center (the farmhouse) at Coogan Farm, will be held in the spring.