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Stonington's historic beacon is best left in its natural setting


Publication: The Day

Published October 27. 2013 4:00AM
Day file photo
The Stonington lighthouse, built in 1840, was acquired by the Stonington Historical Society in 1910. With the help of private funds, donations and volunteers, the lighthouse has become a repository of historical artifacts, books, papers, newspapers and textiles. The Stonington Old Lighthouse Museum is open for tourists seasonally.

Our beloved lighthouse was erected in 1823 by the federal government and the present, or second, completed in 1840 at a cost of $2,840. The Stonington Historical Society bought the lighthouse in 1910 and opened it as a museum in 1925. It remodeled the interior but carefully made no external changes. Because it served as the beacon of Stonington Harbor for 66 years, they felt it was important to preserve its setting as a reminder of this town's past as an important seafaring part of Americana.

When a newly arrived resident proposed building a 30-foot glass tower on the property adjoining the lighthouse, the town united in an outcry of protest. The proposal pushed the town to its limits. From bishops to historians, from long-time residents to those who newly arrived, the outcry of protest became national news.

If carried out, this private dwelling would forever overshadow the serenity and uniquess of the lighthouse's simple and dramatic setting, cried the critics.

"It is absurdly easy to build, and appallingly easily to build badly," as architect Charles Moore once noted.

The fight to preserve every blade of grass and the beauty of this unique property united the entire borough against this proposal. The battle became big news and generated a bitter, costly engagement.

Now, the very organization that spent so much time and money to preserve "the point" at the end of our very special village, wants to build a glass house, change the landscape, and create entrances and walkways.

What makes this setting so beautiful is its natural state, great green lawn, and incredible views.

The mission of the Historical Society is to preserve the rich resource of our 18th- and early 19th-century buildings.

Past boards of the society fought, and with success, carried out this mission. The present board might rethink their proposal as they review their files in the battle against "the black house." Re-read attorney Mark Branse's presentation, review the letters and arguments of protest for the proposed dwelling. The winning arguments against spoiling this unique place still stand and in the end I feel the community will continue to keep the lighthouse and its setting "as is."

Let us not once again be troubled with a polarizing battle to preserve the unique character of the Borough.

Robert Baum is a denizen of Stonington Borough who opposes the Historical Society plan to construct an 827-square-foot glass enclosed addition to the museum, providing an entrance lobby, handicapped access and bathooms.

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