Thursday, Aug 25, 2005
The National Park Service and the Weir Farm Trust are mourning the loss of Charles Sperry Andrews III, who died on July 14th at age 87.Andrews, a noted artist and preservationist, had lived with his family at Weir Farm for the past 48 years. After the park was established in 1990, he and his wife Doris Bass Andrews continued living at the farm a under a life tenancy agreement. Since its 1882 purchase by Julian Alden Weir, Weir Farm has been continuously occupied by three generations of artists and their families. Like Weir, Andrews was passionate about the rolling pastureland, soft Connecticut light, and 18th-century farm buildings. In hundreds of paintings, Andrews rendered the farm's features from the point of view of a myriad of angles, times, and moods. His death marks a great shift in the park - Andrews was the last artist to live at Weir Farm. In time, the red farmhouse and studios will be rehabilitated, furnished, and opened to the public. The artistic tradition will live on primarily in programs for artists and visitors organized by the park and its non-profit partner, the Weir Farm Trust. Sperry Andrews was born October 5, 1917 in New York City. From childhood, he understood that he was an artist. He developed his talent by studying at the acclaimed National Academy of Design and later at the Art Students League, both in New York City. In 1952, Sperry and Doris Andrews attended the J. Alden Weir Centennial Exhibition at the American Society of Arts and Letters. By reading exhibition catalogue text written by Mahonri Young, Weir's son-in-law and noted sculptor, the couple learned that Weir had used a farm in Branchville, Connecticut, as a country retreat. Soon after attending this exhibition, Sperry and Doris Andrews decided to visit the farm, which was near their own home in Ridgefield, Connecticut. There, they met current occupant Mahonri Young, and soon they became fast friends. The Andrews family frequently visited Young in his studio at the farm, talking, drawing, and painting. After Youngs death in 1957, Sperry and Doris Andrews bought the house, barn, studios, and their contents. Over the next four decades, Sperry and Doris were steadfast and resolute stewards of the property, doing their best not to change it in any way. Shortly after they moved in, the farming community began a gradual transformation into a suburban residential area. Soon, a large portion of Weir's land, including a fishing pond he had built with $2,500 first prize money he had won for a painting, was at risk to be developed. The Andrews' next-door neighbor, J. Alden Weir's daughter Cora Weir Burlingham, reportedly inspired Doris to become a preservation activist with a simple question: "Doris, don't you think you can save the pond?" Doris and Sperry Andrews organized and spearheaded a grass-roots preservation movement that ultimately led to saving much of Weir's original property. The grass-roots effort led to the formation of the Weir Farm Trust. In 1990, after a complex process involving the Nature Conservancy, the Alaska Boat Company, the Trust for Public Land, and the State of Connecticut, Weir Farm became a national historic site. The National Park Service and the Weir Farm Trust look forward to working with the Andrews family as we continue to preserve and interpret American art and history at Weir Farm National Historic Site.