Survey of historic properties to be conducted in Old Lyme

Old Lyme — The town has received a state grant to conduct a survey of historic properties here, an initiative prompted by concerns over a potential rail line through the center of town that the federal government later dropped.

First Selectwoman Bonnie Reemsnyder said the survey would identify about 200 important properties in town and give the town "another layer of protection," should it ever be faced with another situation such as when the Federal Railroad Administration considered, in a long-term proposal for the Northeast Corridor, placing a rail bypass through Old Lyme.

The State Historic Preservation Office awarded the town a $30,000 grant, and the town is now in the process of hiring Heritage Consultants, a Newington-based company, to conduct the survey, said Reemsnyder.

A committee of three people and the first selectwoman wrote a request for proposal and received one submission for about $28,400 in July, and then interviewed the company and got approval from SHPO to hire the firm, according to Reemsnyder.

Mary Dunne, deputy state historic preservation officer, said SHPO "offers non-matching funds to assist municipalities and non-profits with identifying the historic resources of a given town through our Historic Resources Inventory grant program. These surveys are information gathering tools that provide a basis for decision making regarding potentially significant cultural resources."

The survey will update the town's last historic surveys, conducted in the 1970s, according to the proposal that Heritage Consultants submitted to the town.

"These documents have become outdated and given recent developmental pressures and threats to the Town's important historic resources, it is more crucial than ever to create an updated survey to serve as a preservation planning tool," the proposal states. "This project will seek to merge and rectify those earlier surveys while creating a more inclusive focus on the town's lesser known resources, such as outlying architectural resources related to the town's history as an artists' and summer resort colonies, as well as its rich maritime and agrarian past."

According to the proposal, preliminary areas for surveying include areas near the historic district "that might facilitate a boundary extension to that district;" summer colonies along the shoreline; assets concerning the Lyme Art Colony, shipping industry along the Lieutenant River, and those "related to potential development and transportation projects, particularly along Interstate 95, Route 1, Route 156, and the Shoreline East rail corridor."

A kick-off meeting is scheduled for 2 p.m. on Sept. 6 at Town Hall to review the scope of work, discuss the timeline, approach, and any additional information. A representative from SHPO is slated to attend to guide the committee and consultant, Reemsnyder said. 

k.drelich@theday.com

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