City's grand lady faces end of era

When summer officially arrives on Sunday, one of the region's iconic attractions will not be welcoming warm-weather visitors.

The Lighthouse Inn, a once popular summertime getaway in New London, has been shuttered since late last year because of financial problems. As much a gathering place for locals as it was accommodations for visitors, loss of the inn is unfortunate for southeastern Connecticut. It was not just an attraction, but a landmark.

Originally built in 1906 as the waterside estate of steel baron Charles Strong Guthrie, it was converted to an inn in the late 1920s. And while it has had its ups and downs over the decades - sometimes clashing with its residential neighbors in the city's south end - it was for decades an endearing location for wedding receptions, retirement and anniversary parties, birthday celebrations and other sentimental gatherings.

This is not the first time that the inn has been closed. But given the nation's economic downturn, and the difficult time recent operators have had making a financial go of it, it may be that the Lighthouse Inn is no longer suitable as a hotel and restaurant business. Past prospective investors say its dining room is too small for banquets, parking limited and its guest rooms, although updated over the years, are far from modern by today's standards.

The Lighthouse Inn may never be reincarnated, and that is too bad, because in her day she was one of New London's grand old ladies.

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