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Landmark spruced up with safety concerns in mind

New London - The three concrete planters in front of the downtown Trolley Visitors' Center are not very attractive, but they do serve a purpose.

Volunteers who hand out brochures and give directions worry that traffic barreling down Eugene O'Neill Drive could easily veer off the road and smash into the historic wooden building.

So when New London architect Rick Gipstein, who helped save the trolley station from demolition more than 20 years ago, decided the visitors' center needed some external improvements, he kept the volunteers' concerns in mind.

"Those barricaded planters bothered me every time I drove down here,'' Gipstein said Tuesday.

He proposed to the New London Rotary that his group take up an improvement project for the welcome center that would make it more, well, welcoming.

With more than $31,000 in donations from the Rotary, the Frank Loomis Palmer Fund, the Bodenwein Public Benevolent Foundation and other benefactors, the little trolley station that was almost torn down for scrap is getting new steps, granite retaining walls, a stone walkway and plantings. A bicycle rack will also be placed alongside the building, which sits in a corner of the municipal parking lot near Golden Street.

Workers from Malek Landscaping of Stonington have been installing granite barriers, a brick walkway and precast concrete pavers that look like cobblestones. Slabs of concrete that look like granite are being installed.

In 1985, New London Landmarks stepped in to save the city's last remaining trolley station, built around 1893 by the New London Street Railway Co. It was used until 1932, when the trolley system shut down.

New London Landmarks had the building restored and moved from the Cedar Grove Cemetery to the front of the Greyhound bus station, where it remained until it was moved again to its current location.

The center is open daily during the summer and on weekends in the spring and fall and is run entirely by volunteers.

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