Information provided by the Stonington Historical Society
Stonington Borough’s most-treasured site, the Old Lighthouse Museum on Stonington Point, finally has a history to entertain and inform. The Stonington Historical Society, owner of the Lighthouse since 1925, commissioned the book, “Stonington’s Old Lighthouse and Its Keepers,” from two long-time editors, James Boylan and Betsy Wade. The publication date, August 24, will be celebrated with a party at 11 am at the Lighthouse itself, with refreshments served. The public is invited. The Lighthouse is located at 7 Water Street and is open daily except Wednesdays from 10 am to 5 pm.
The authors’ investigation in the National Archives in Washington and Waltham, Mass., disclosed the impact of corruption and graft in the Lighthouse establishment of the pre-Civil War era. Use of the efficient and reliable Fresnel lens, for example, was barred for years because of cronyism. After fifty years and eight keepers, the light was doused and replaced by a beacon on a harbor breakwater. The building thus fell derelict until 1925 when the Stonington Historical Society bought it and turned into a local-history museum, the first such museum in the nation. On the National Register of Historic Places, the building has now served as a museum longer than it was a lighthouse.
The new book, which includes more than eighty illustrations, was written as an adjunct to current plans to restore the Old Lighthouse and improve access for the public. The book provides a remarkable glimpse of Stonington’s role in an almost forgotten aspect of American history.
The Boylan-Wade team has overseen and edited many publications for the Historical Society in recent years. Wade was an editor and columnist for The New York Times; Boylan was a professor of history and journalism at the University of Massachusetts-Amherst and was founding editor of the critical magazine, Columbia Journalism Review. The designer, Marie A. Carija of Mystic, previously designed five books for the Society.