The (New) Old Lighthouse Museum Project Begins
One of Stonington Borough's most celebrated treasures is the Old Lighthouse Museum. Built in 1840 and purchased in 1925 by the Stonington Historical Society, it was the very first lighthouse in America converted to a museum. Listed on the National Register of Historic Places, it's filled with fascinating exhibits and local artifacts that reflect the maritime heritage of Stonington ship captains and the Borough's long history of commerce and steamship transportation.
All artifacts and collections currently within the Lighthouse Museum will be moved offsite during the project.
The Historical Society has begun a two-phased, multi-million dollar effort to restore and preserve the building. In phase one, structural damage caused by insects and water will be addressed, new electrical wiring, and an HVAC system will be installed to create a climate-controlled environment. Floors will be refinished, and masonry work on the exterior of the building repointed. Stonington Historical Society Board President Michael Schefers said the renewal of the lighthouse would help guarantee this important piece of local history will have a future.
“It’s time to undertake the rebuilding of the lighthouse to ensure it enjoys a long life.”
— Michael Schefers
The restored lighthouse is scheduled to open to the public in the spring of 2020 with several new exhibits.
According to Joshua Adams, Director of Development and Communications for the SHS, construction costs have increased 18% since the project gained momentum in 2015. “We are declaring success without declaring victory,” says Adams. Although the effort so far has been a great success, we are currently fundraising for phase two.
Phase II sounds pretty exciting. The architectural renderings depict a 480 square foot addition clad in cedar shake siding — a welcoming visitor center with a ticketing desk, staff workspace, and a restroom. Site grading and landscaping will be complete with space allocated for two parking spots. Most importantly, says Adams, it will be handicap-accessible. “In 179 years, there has never been a wheelchair in the lighthouse.” For anyone with a mobility issue, it’s a game-changer.
On Saturday, October 26th, several state and local officials, donors, members of the Stonington Historical Society Board of Directors and the community gathered to celebrate the project’s groundbreaking.
Annually, the lighthouse draws some 6,000 visitors during the spring, summer and early fall when it is open for tours. Visitors can climb the tower for a stunning vista of three states that stretches to the Atlantic Ocean. The lawn of the Old Lighthouse Museum provides open space at the tip of Stonington Point, a venue for concerts and private events, a setting for reenactments of the Battle of Stonington, and a meeting place for the many walking tours conducted by the Stonington Historical Society.
Contact the Stonington Historical Society for more information or to donate to this worthy project.
40 Palmer Street, Stonington