Historic Resource Study for Weir Farm National Historic Site

Project Title:  Historic Resource Study of Laborers at Weir Farm NHS

Project Budget:  $64,875.00

Projected Start Date:  September 2019

Timeline for Completion:  36 months from start

Deadline for Letter of Intent to OAH:  July 8, 2019

Deadline for Proposal to OAH:  August 1, 2019

Expected Date to Award Project:  September 1, 2019

Weir House, southeast exterior. Weir Farm National Historic Site. NPS Photograph.

Project Purpose

This study will document and analyze the histories of a diverse community of laborers at Weir Farm during both the Weir and Young tenures (1882 – 1957).  It will detail the lives of the laborers and servants who helped to shape the built, social, and cultural environments, and build a broader context for those laborers than currently exists in studies affiliated with the NHS.  Domestic staff (cooks, servers or waitresses, laundresses, nurses, nursemaids, nannies), stone-masons, tenant farmers, day-laborers, caretakers, gardeners, studio assistants and apprentices. This study will build upon the context established in previously published reports including the Historic Resource Study (published in 2009) and updated National Register of Historic Places documentation (listed in 2017), as well as other cultural resource reports. The completed study will expand the documentary record of the estate, link the estate to larger currents of social history, enrich our knowledge of natural and cultural resources, and contribute to resource stewardship and interpretive strategies and goals. 

Project Background

J. Alden Weir acquired the Branchville, Connecticut farm in the late 19th century, a time when increasing numbers of foreign workers were employed in American households.  The Weir household reflected that trend.  Four women are listed as servants in the Weir’s Branchville house in the 1900 US census.  They were all from Ireland, as were all the domestics employed by the Weir’s that were listed in the 1920 and 1930 censuses.  As more opportunities opened up for foreign born workers, the numbers in domestic service decreased and this was reflected in the Weir and Young households.  Wives and daughters of various farm caretakers were often called in to help the regular kitchen staff when extra hands were needed.

Weir employed at least 17 tenant farmers over the course of three decades, as well as day workers hired during the most labor-intensive seasons like planting and harvesting.  The longest serving was Paul Remy, a native of Alsace, who lived in the caretaker’s cottage at the farm with his wife and sons for 15 years.  Dorothy Weir Young became manager of the farm after her father’s death in 1919 and continued to employ tenant farmers, the longest serving, the Bass family, lived and worked at the farm for over 20 years.

In 1932, shortly after marrying Weir’s daughter Dorothy, sculptor Mahonri Young had a studio built at the Branchville farm in anticipation of receiving commissions for large scale sculpture.  The most notable of these was the massive This is the Place Monument, installed outside Salt Lake City, Utah in 1947.  All the models and plasters for this monument and other statues both large and small, were done at the Branchville, CT studio, assisted by sculptor and studio assistant Spero Anargyros and his wife, as well as others assistants and apprentices.

Beginning in 1931, Weir’s youngest daughter Cora Weir Burlingham and husband Charles Burlingham acquired the former “Webb” house at the Branchville farm and made it their weekend home.  They renovated and expanded the home, had a new sunken garden designed and installed, built a new tool house, and surrounded the property with extensive and beautifully crafted dry stone walls built by local stonemason Joseph Knoche, who later also constructed with his sons, the terraced gardens to the south of the house.

Project Scope of Work

The researcher shall be responsible for producing all submittals in Microsoft Word (2010 or later version) and submitting it to the Organization of American Historians (OAH).  The final approved Historic Resource Study will contain all sections described below and include footnotes.  All citations and formatting will be according to the most recent edition of the Chicago Manual of Style.  The researcher will be responsible for all sections of the study.  To facilitate reviewer comments, all pages will be numbered and provide left margin line numbers for all progress reports and drafts.

The following overview details the major sections that must comprise the Historic Resource Study.  

Front Matter

  • Table of Contents: The table of contents must list the titles of all major divisions and the first-level (principal) subdivisions in the study and provide page numbers for all major divisions.
  • List of Illustrations: A list of illustrations must include captions and give page numbers for photographs, figures/illustrations, maps, and other forms of graphics subject matter.  If warranted, separate lists for specific types of illustrations may be used.
  • Acknowledgments:  The acknowledgments must include any obligatory or appropriate personal or organizational acknowledgments.
  • Preface:  The preface must contain background information about the scope of the research preparation of the study. It will discuss research methods and summarize major findings. 
  • List of Abbreviations and/or Acronyms:  This list must include nonstandard abbreviations and acronyms used in the report.  The spelled-out version of a term should be given the first time the term appears within the study.

Text or Main Body of the Report

  • Introduction: The introduction must include general background information on the geographic location, history, and significance of the park and its resources and a brief summary of the farm and its inhabitants and workers pre-1872. 
  • Historical Data/Narrative and Analysis:  This section represents the main body of the product and must address the topics described in this section of the scope above.  Theses narratives must synthesize existing research and primary research, as appropriate, and situate the park’s cultural resources within historic contexts sufficient for the completion of National Register documentation. Photographs, maps, charts, and other figures will be used as necessary to enhance the text.  The overview history must contain footnotes (rather than endnotes or reference notes).
  • Epilogue (or Conclusion):  The epilogue (or conclusion) must consist of a closing statement that provides further comment, if appropriate, on the interpretation of the information found in the study. 
  • Research Recommendations:  These recommendations must include a discussion of topics for future study, including an indication of why the author thinks they are relevant to park management and reference to any known sources that might be useful for this future research.

Back Matter 

  • Appendices:  The appendices should include copies of key documents and data including but not limited to legislation, agreement documents, maps, and other valuable information.
  • Bibliography:  The annotated bibliography must list the primary and secondary source materials researched and used for the preparation of the study.  The bibliography will be broken into sections by kinds of materials (i.e., primary and secondary sources, etc.) as directed in The Chicago Manual of Style. This section will also include a discursive “bibliographic essay” which discusses the repositories consulted and outcomes, with a description of the research value of each repository. 
  • Illustrations:  Illustrations should appear within the relevant chapters and should appear centered at the top of the page.  Wherever possible, the researcher should choose illustrations that are in the public domain. The researcher is responsible for the cost of all reproductions and for securing copyright permission, where applicable.  All illustrations should be labeled with captions that fully identify the subject, where published (if published), and provide credit lines identifying where the original can be found.  Illustrations should be numbered and referred to by number in the text.  A full list of illustrations with captions will be included following the table of contents.  Copies of permission agreements, grouped together and clearly labeled, must be included in the research materials that are turned over the park at the completion of the project.

Transfer of Knowledge Component

The selected researcher will work in conjunction with OAH and NPS staff to develop a public presentation of findings to be delivered at or near Weir Farm NHS at the conclusion of the project.

A preliminary schedule for deliverables and associated payments can be found here.


  • The principal investigator must be fully qualified personnel according to the Secretary of the Interior's standards for professional historians, outlined in NPS-28:  Cultural Resource Management Guidelines, Appendix E.
  • Copies of research files and other material produced as a result of this project, except for those items for which another institution or the author has copyrights or has placed restriction on distribution, shall be delivered to Weir Farm National Historic Site and become property of NPS upon completion of the project, whether or not they were used in preparation of the final report.
  • The NPS retains all rights to publish and disseminate this report. The research materials and completed products will be in the public domain and may not be copyrighted. However, the researcher may publish the results of the research without written permission, but shall inform the NPS and OAH of any publications or presentations resulting directly from the products of this research. Revision of the manuscript for publication with an academic press, after completion of the project, is encouraged, provided that the role of the NPS and the OAH is acknowledged in print.