Lighthouse museum renovation plan unveiled

Stonington - Architects for the Stonington Historical Society unveiled plans Thursday night to construct an 800-square-foot, mostly glass enclosure attached to the area of the Old Lighthouse Museum that would contain a shop, ticketing area, two bathrooms and an introductory exhibit.

The proposal by the Boston firm of Oudens Ello Architecture would also make needed structural repairs to the 173-year-old building while improving handicapped access and climate control for the artifacts on display or in storage. No cost estimate is yet available for the work.

Visitors would no longer enter the front door of the museum but instead take a crushed stone path along the side of the building that leads to a terrace overlooking Little Narragansett Bay. They would then enter the flat-roofed addition with floor-to-ceiling glass windows that the architects say would evoke a garden trellis.

"We want it to feel more like a pavilion than a building," historical society President David Purvis told about 50 people gathered at the La Grua Center Thursday night to see the plans.

The existing, 250-square-foot, L-shaped wood addition behind the lighthouse would be removed to make way for the new addition. The new structure would extend about 30 feet out from the lighthouse compared to the 12 feet for the current addition.

The new structure, which would have a glass entryway through the stone wall into the lighthouse, would not be seen from Water Street. A small part of the wall would have to be removed to connect the new addition.

Architect Matthew Oudens said that half of the existing floor and some beams will have to be replaced. Temporary supports hold up some of the first floor.

It would be the first renovation of the museum, which attracts about 10,000 visitors a year, since the society acquired it in 1925.

Oudens' partner Conrad Ello said that one of the messages that came out of a January public forum in which residents talked about what they would like to see happen with the museum was that they wanted to "maintain the existing character of a charming New England village museum."

The audience applauded at the end of Thursday night's presentation.

"I think you've done a fabulous job creating a separation between the old and the new buildings," said resident and former Congressman Rob Simmons. "It's very thoughtful."


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