Weantinoge Land Trust's efforts to restore a 19th-century red barn at the former Smyrski farm in the Merryall section of New Milford have not gone unnoticed.

An anonymous woman who cares about protecting the town's heritage donated $15,000 for the restoration as a challenge gift.

Last week, Weantinoge celebrated the receipt of a $6,500 matching grant from the Connecticut Trust for Historic Preservation. That leaves $13,500 the trust still needs to raise through private donations and fundraising. Replacing the barn roof is expected to cost at least $30,000.

The barn's somewhat haggard appearance strewn with cobwebs and dust along the original wood beams does nothing to diminish its charm. To local preservationists, it's a rough gem, a throwback to the town's agrarian roots which, were it to disappear, they say would be a community tragedy.

"You can feel the heart and soul of New Milford right here," said Weantinoge Heritage Land Trust executive director Liba Furhman.

A year ago, the 205-acre Smyrski farm, with its breathtaking views and natural habitats around the West Aspetuck River, was bequeathed to Weantinoge.

The land trust has pledged to keep a portion of the property as a working farm. Eighty-five acres are now leased for Black Angus cows to graze and other fields are farmed for hay.

The trust recently received a $50,000 grant to build a wildlife reserve over the next decade, with a portion of the money used to restore some 20 acres for native birds.

The trust spent $21,000 to purchase the farm's barns, with the intent of restoring them to their former glory.

Weantinoge is working to restore the red barn -- its most immediate need being a new roof and the removal of peeling shingles. Trust staff have already cleared out much of the barn's old equipment and debris.

"It would be a shame to lose a heritage like this," area farmer Curtis Ek said.

Kent Land Trust executive director Connie Manes said she wholeheartedly embraces the restoration effort.

"I think this is just fabulous," she said. "The Smyrski farm is a great example of how local land trusts can preserve our historical integrity."