Weir Farm National Historical Park Redesignation Act
STATEMENT OF SHAWN BENGE, ACTING DEPUTY DIRECTOR, OPERATIONS, NATIONAL PARK SERVICE, U.S. DEPARTMENT OF THE INTERIOR, BEFORE THE SENATE ENERGY AND NATURAL RESOURCES SUBCOMMITTEE ON NATIONAL PARKS, REGARDING S. 3265, TO REDESIGNATE WEIR FARM NATIONAL HISTORIC SITE IN THE STATE OF CONNECTICUT AS THE “WEIR FARM NATIONAL HISTORICAL PARK”, AND FOR OTHER PURPOSES.
MARCH 4, 2020
Chairman Daines, Ranking Member King, and members of the committee, thank you for the opportunity to present the Department of the Interior’s views on S. 3265, a bill to redesignate the Weir Farm National Historic Site in the State of Connecticut as the “Weir Farm National Historical Park.”
The Department supports S. 3265, as we believe that the name “Weir Farm National Historical Park” is an appropriate designation for this unit of the National Park System.
Established in 1990, Weir Farm National Historic Site preserves the house, studio, farm buildings, and rural Connecticut landscape that inspired Julian Alden Weir’s transition into American impressionism and the artistic expression of generations of artists that continues to inspire and educate visitors. Weir Farm was home to three generations of American artists. Julian Alden Weir (1852-1919), a leading figure in American art and the development of American impressionism, acquired the farm in 1882. After Weir, the artistic legacy was continued by his daughter, painter Dorothy Weir Young and her husband, the major American sculptor Mahonri M. Young, followed by New England landscape painters Sperry and Doris Andrews.
The park currently encompasses a 60-acre cultural landscape consisting of 15 historic structures as well as historic gardens, orchards, terraces, fields, stone walls, the Weir Pond, and hundreds of historic painting sites. There are 3 miles of trail on park property and more than 7 miles of trail in two bordering open spaces—the 110-acre Weir Preserve to the southwest (including 37 acres donated by Cora Weir Burlingham), and the 29-acre Nod Hill Refuge to the northeast. The Weir Preserve is owned by the Weir Farm Art Alliance, a private partner of the park, and managed by the Weir Preserve Stewardship Committee. Additionally, the park maintains a museum collection of more than 200,000 archives and objects including original paintings, prints, sculptures, decorative arts, and furnishings associated with the site, the history of the Weir, Young, and Andrews families and American impressionism.
Generally, National Park System units designated as “national historical parks” have a greater diversity of historical resources and interpretive themes than those designated as “historic sites” and may be spread out over non-contiguous lands. In 2014, the National Park Service completed a comprehensive rehabilitation and restoration of over 80 percent of the historic resources and landscapes at the historic site, greatly expanding the scope of the visitor experience and of public access. Additionally, the National Park Service works in collaboration with the adjacent partners described above who offer complementary natural and cultural resource opportunities for visitors. The deeper and broader experience for visitors supports the basis for redesignation of this park as a national historical park.
Before the Committee moves forward with this bill, the Department would welcome the opportunity to work with the sponsor and the committee on some technical corrections to update the legislative map and more accurately describe existing park resources.
Mr. Chairman, this concludes my statement. I would be pleased to answer questions that you or other members of the Committee might have.