The Sterling House Community Center was established in 1931 through the bequest of Cordelia Sterling who gave her family homestead, including an 1886 Romanesque mansion and landscaped grounds, in trust to the Town to be used as a community center.
The house was designed by New York architect Bruce Price and is listed on the National Register of Historic Homes, while the original landscape was designed by Frederick Law Olmsted, widely regarded as the founder of American landscape architecture. A classroom/multi-purpose room addition attached to the back of the house accommodates the nursery school and a wide variety of children’s programs of all kinds. The range of classes, activities, social services, and special events offered span all age groups, all interests, throughout the year, and has made the Sterling House, not just popular, but beloved among local residents.
In order to address pressing spatial needs and plan for the long-term life of the organization and its historic facility, the Town of Stratford commissioned O’Riordan Migani Architects to develop a master plan. The critical issues included: preservation of the Victorian mansion; expanded facilities for the summer day camp and other children’s programs, especially during inclement weather; life safety and handicapped access improvements; safe and efficient vehicular circulation, particularly drop-off and pick-up for children’s activities, and parking. The architects, along with their consulting engineers and landscape architect, conducted a thorough analysis of the physical plant, the current roster of programs, and staff projections for the future. The recommendations were summarized in an illustrated report, with the facility improvements organized into manageable phases with construction cost projections.
The master plan was put into immediate action, with the first step to simply move offices and activities to their recommended future locations. This gave staff member quieter work spaces where they could be more effective and got some children’s activities into spaces easier to evacuate in case of emergency. O’Riordan Migani Architects next worked with Sterling House to address two of the most urgent needs: workable quarters for the food bank, and remediation of site drainage problems and basement flooding. A system of new downspouts, including replication of historic sheet metal work, and subgrade drainage was created to successfully address the stormwater issues. A portion of the mansion’s basement was renovated to provide an attractive and functional food bank, with a waiting area, a private office for interviews and processing assistance requests, holding shelves for groceries bagged and ready for distribution, and a spacious room for storage shelves and sorting tables. The use of natural wood and a Victorian color palette helped make the new suite sympathetic to the historic interior upstairs. A capital campaign is underway in order to implement the full master plan.