Norwalk carpenter: Don’t rush Fodor Farm fix-up

Steve Green
Norwalk Department of Recreation and Parks carpenter Steve Green shows off the work that has been done at Fodor Farm.

Update, 7:54 p.m., ETA of porch per Mike Mocciae.

NORWALK, Conn. – Progress on the house at Fodor Farm might seem slow to passing motorists, but Norwalk Department of Recreation and Parks carpenter has a message he’d like to share.

“We’re going to be done with it when it’s time,” Steve Green said. “We’re not selling any wine before it’s time.”

The historic complex, built in the early 19th century and described as Norwalk’s first farm, was slated to become a new elementary school before being saved by the Norwalk Preservation Trust, according to the Connecticut Trust for Historic Preservation. Renovation, which began five years ago, was thought to be not doable, as the main house was a tear-down, Recreation and Parks Department Director Mike Mocciae said last spring.

This sentiment was echoed by visitors to the recent Fodor Farm open house. “It was such a wreck. It was just, I would say, ‘The only thing that could fix this was a match,’” said a woman who would only identify herself as Marion, a neighbor of the property.

“It was broken pieces. There was nothing to nail anything,” another woman said.

“It should have been done 50 years ago. There was nothing left to save,” Green said. The roof beams – which were 10- to 12-inch by 12-inch oak beams – had rotted and fallen onto the second floor, and the second floor fell through to the first floor, he said. “That’s 75 years of rot – and you want me to snap my fingers and make it good in two days? Or one year? Or two years? It’s not going to happen, realistically.”

After five years of work, Green and co-worker Matt Dijoseph are expected to begin fixing the most visible part of the old house, putting a porch roof on the part that faces Scribner Road, on July 1, Mocciae said. While Planning Commissioner Bill Dunne described the boarded-up front as an eyesore recently, Green said it’s been delayed for a reason – the front wall was rotten.

Norwalk Fodor Farm 051-2014-06-14
The Fodor Farm chimney was admired by many people at the recent open house.

“You have to build the house and then attach the porch,” Green said. “That’s the way it goes in the carpentry world… it’s been around since the Egyptians. It’s called plumb, level, square, and then the fourth option, you make it look straight. Blend it, that’s a good carpenter. If the house settles, you bring it back, you blend it, that’s the fourth option, make it look straight. There’s a lot of ‘make it look straight’ here.”

Planning commissioners put $100,000 into the 2014-15 capital budget for Fodor Farm, an allocation that was eventually approved by the Common Council.

Green said work on the dilapidated remnants of the home began in the basement, as a structure to support the timbers above was necessary. A jackhammer was used to remove a boulder, he said. The stone foundation was reinforced and beams were replaced.

The thing is, the old house was built by a farmer, he said. The roof line isn’t exactly what a carpenter would build and pieces of recycled wood were used.

“This was built before water and before electricity,” Green said. “When they did the electricity they plastered again so there’s actually two layers of plaster in this house. There were five layers of roof, two layers of plaster, three layers of flooring, rotten timbers and rotten foundation, a dungeon that was filled in with dirt.”

When it’s done, the upstairs part of the main house will be used as office space for non-profit organizations. There will be a mini-museum and a conference room downstairs.

“Everybody wants to see the finished product, but it takes a while to get to the finished product. They want to see the tip of the iceberg, but they don’t see the iceberg. They don’t have time for that,” Green said.

Barbara Montgomery was among the recent visitors who appreciates the progress made, the fact that it was saved.

George and John Fodor were special, she said. “I moved here in ’83 to Townhouse of the Pines. My first experience when I moved in, my back was to the farm and the movers were coming in and there was this great big ‘moo.’ I turned around and there was this big brown cow looking at me. They had two cows, they had 16 sheep. John, he looked like Einstein… he would ride around on his tractor,” she said. “… This is really exciting. It was so sad to watch it fade.”

(Click on thumbnails below to see whole image)


15 responses to “Norwalk carpenter: Don’t rush Fodor Farm fix-up”

  1. anon

    Fodor farm is a good thing but it sounds like Park & Rec carpenter Steve Green might be milking the taxpayers. Salaried or hourly, the longer he takes, the more he makes.

  2. One and Done.

    What are we like 5 or 6 million into this place now? Where are the anti golf course lunatics?

  3. Oldtimer

    Most experienced builders would tear the entire building down and start over because the labor involved in restoration is so expensive and dangerous, in the early stages, for the building to collapse. Having said that, the right carpenter, given time, can do a marvelous job. It looks like they may have the right carpenter working on it, but he is correct, he should not be rushed.

  4. anon

    @Oldtimer, being rushed and taking longer than it should to do a job are not one and the same.

    Green is on the taxpayer dime, Salaried or hourly, the longer he takes, the more he makes.

  5. Frank The Tank

    It must be an old farm because he is milking our tax payer money. Give me a break we cant hire teachers but we can spend 5 years fixing up a useless shack?

  6. EastNorwalkChick

    When you own an old house as I do, restoration is not as easy as you think it should be. Nothing is plum, nothing is level, matching materials is a problem and fixing the over the years quick fixes that the previous owners had done to get by, somehow turns into a major money draining project.
    But you do it, you live through it and yes you wish is was quicker, you wish it was cheaper, but in the end you are glad that you did it the right way and preserved a piece of history….
    Kudos to Mr. Green and the Preservation Trust for doing it the right way and saving a piece of Norwalk’s history.

  7. Taxpayer Fatigue

    Mr. Green is doing an amazing job and is saving the taxpayers a ton of money and in the end, Norwalk will have another unique amazing park at very low cost to the taxpayer. It is my understanding that most of the restoration was paid for by selling off the two adjacent houses and parks and rec aggressively pursued a large grant they received from the Connecticut State Historic Restoration Fund, along with some capital funding from the city. Kudos to everyone involved, parks and rec, the preservation trust, and the wonderful team at Fat Cat and Fountainhead who so generously support the farm-to-table events there.
    Norwalkers should be incredibly proud and supportive of our amazing parks system that has few rivals, and is supported on a shoe-string budget by the City of Norwalk.

  8. Recreation and Parks Department Director Mike Mocciae said in February that about $390,000 to $400,000 had been spent on fixing up Fodor Farm. With the $100,000 in this year’s capital budget the money spent is half what had been predicted, he said.
    Steve Green said he does a lot more work in his role as a Recreation and Parks carpenter than just fix up Fodor Farm. He said the new beach tables with rounded corners are his design. He said that he had Dejoseph build pitchers mounds at city baseball fields. They do a lot of work at city parks and fit Fodor Farm in between, he said.
    They built the Fodor Farm barn from scratch. He complained about the city using it for fundraisers – he said every time there’s an event it costs him and Dejoseph four days. They have to take out their equipment and clean the joint up, then put their equipment back, he said.

  9. Taxpayer Fatigue

    For all you arm chair blogger critics, the city does actually have a lot of dedicated, hard-working employees who serve the city well – Mr. Green is one of them. I know because I am actually involved and volunteer with the city and other organizations in town.

  10. Paul

    4 days wasted for 1 evening fundraiser??????. Math is not working out. If tools can’t be picked up and put back in half day on each end this guy is playing us all as fools.

  11. One and Done.

    The city paid 4.5 million for Fodor farm and is used by a small fraction of residents compared to golfers at Oaks. Inconvenient truths for sure. Imagine the screaming that would be going on if the taxpayers had to pick up the cost of improvements at Oaks.

  12. Suzanne

    One and Done: We already do.

  13. Beau

    Yes green is taking along time to restore the old home and yes he is being paid by tax payers money as the rest of the city employees do. But before you jump on his back take a second to think that he is being paid less then a contractor (look into city records) with less help and expected to do more then just the house. Take a look around Norwalk and you will see new benches, signs, tables,showers,sheds and much Much more that he has been expected to do with just him plus one while working on the house. Before you decide to put someone down make sure you know the facts about what it takes to do their job and what is expected of them on a day to day bases. Blows my mind how ignorant people get when they talk about tax money. Like green controls where it is going to and when the funds are even available.

    Keep in mind green has build many things in past 5years—more then you can say for last carpenter in 15+years how come last carpenter didn’t take on the projects you all are complaining about? City of Norwalk didn’t just stumble into the property 5 years ago did they? […]

    This comment was edited to remove inappropriate language.

  14. Beau

    @One and Done

    My previous comment you should read as well as the following:

    Yes it is easy to put a few garden tools away such as a hoe or rake that you maybe used to useing, but have you ever been to a construction site? Have you seen them put every tool and materials away + hauled off site and put away in a half hour? Sounds like you need to stick to the garden or office you are sitting I while reading this and let the men do the real work.

    Funniest part is when all said and done the haters will be sitting in the park enjoying greens work and will be complain about something new. Sad but true.

  15. Margaret

    To the ppl that say it’s “milking the tax payers” I say Steve is going to be on the books for quite a while. He is the head Carpenter of Norwalk. if you want a […] poor job done, then hire someone else. He is still going to be on the payroll. And he does wonderful work! It is unfounded that ppl would really say he’s milking the taxpayer. he’s on the books no matter what! And with all that is said and done, Steve is going to make the Fodor Farm a Destination for visitors in CT.
    There is only one way to make history, with quality and craftsmanship that will last a lifetime!

    This comment was edited to remove crass and vulgar language.

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