Built in 1840, Stonington’s Old Lighthouse is link to both the borough’s and the country’s past, but it is also a building in need of some tender loving care.
The lighthouse museum has never undergone a major renovation, but that may soon change. Currently a historic preservation assessment of the lighthouse is taking place and museum consultant Guy Hermann provided an overview of the museum’s needs at a community meeting on Thursday.
Hermann recommended the Stonington Historical Society, which owns the property, take steps to preserve and protect the building, protect the artifacts, provide universal access to the site, make the entry experience easier and more welcoming, increase exhibit area and improve visit circulation, develop and integrated interpretive plan, separate the store from the exhibits, create a gathering area for groups and provide more functional staff areas.
“It’s largely as it was when it was built-in 1840,” Hermann said.
And because it is largely as it was when it was built there is no almost no climate control to protect the museum’s artifacts, there is no handicapped access to the site and some parts of the building leak.
Stonington Historical Society President David Purvis said architects from Boston have already been hired to collect information on the building, commission a survey and are currently becoming familiar with the building codes in Stonington exploring issues of the entrance.
The Old Lighthouse means different things to different people. For some it’s a place to walk their dogs or sit and relax on the green lawn on a nice day. For school groups it’s an excursion from the normal school day, for history buffs it allows the transportation to the past for a brief time and for others it’s a place of celebrations.
Keeping the accessibility to the Old Lighthouse and preserving all the things it is to different people will be a key task for the historical society. Some of the community members present at the meeting said they wanted preservation to focus on the lighthouse as the artifact instead of a museum, although others mentioned it has actually been a museum for much longer than it is a lighthouse.
Purvis gave a rough estimate of a $1 million budget for meeting the recommendations of Hermann if that is what the community decides to do and then the historical society will have to raise that money.
“It’s a fabulous place,” Hermann said.