Lighthouse Inn repairs slow but owner says work continues

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New London — Renovation work has slowed at the long-vacant Lighthouse Inn but owner Alwyn Christy said he still has his sights set on reopening the treasured local landmark.

“I haven’t given up,” Christy said in a brief phone interview last week.

He was reluctant to give up too many details of the ongoing work at the inn but did say the latest project focused on the exterior of the building. He had hoped to open the first-floor banquet hall and bar to restaurant guests last fall. He now says his goal is to open it up this year. He hopes to start exterior painting by spring.

Observers — and there are many people paying attention — have noticed the Lighthouse Inn sign is missing from the front of the storied inn. Some of the windows remain boarded up with plywood and plastic. The Carriage House, another structure on the property, appears untouched. 

The former inn is located at 48 Guthrie Place, in the middle of a residential area, and at least one person has complained to the city about the apparent lack of progress and deteriorating condition.

Felix Reyes, the director of the Office of Development and Planning, recently ushered in some new additions to the city’s blight ordinance that include a 180-day limit on the amount of time plywood can remain on a vacant structure.

Reyes said he shared frustration about the progress of the work and acknowledged that a dormant project can have a detrimental impact on neighboring properties. In a recent interview, Reyes said the Lighthouse Inn project may look blighted but remains under construction and some progress is being made, just at a slow pace.

“It looks as though there are an unlimited number of problems and unforeseen conditions that have made the project go even slower,” Reyes said.

He said he planned to talk to Christy about the schedule of construction to show it’s a viable project. He said the city stands ready to help the owner find economic incentives, such as a revolving loan fund, or solutions to make the project less costly.

“He’s got to know if the construction slows to a point where it stops, he’s got a vacant structure on his hands,” Reyes said. “The hope is he will keep it active. We will provide him with whatever is available to help him maintain the project.”

There are some neighbors who are skeptical the inn will reopen.

Henderson Road resident Kathy Cole said she has fond memories of the inn but the recent work does not impress her.

“Currently as neighbors, we can't help but notice the meager work force...” Cole said in an email.

“With the long-boarded up rotted windows, it already looks like an abandoned project,” she said. “I think that without a huge investment of time, money and skilled professionals, it doesn't seem possible that it could ever pass a health code or safety inspection. Certainly in its blighted state it is not a neighborhood asset and the cleanup alone must be out of reach by the owner or it would have been done by now.”

Christy said when he started work on the exterior stucco, workers found unforeseen damage cause by water infiltration that needed repairs. Previous owners, it seems, had added layers of paint over cracks in the stucco, rather than sealing them. Some of that was discovered when a power washer was used on the surface of the stucco. That problem since has been rectified, he said.

The Lighthouse Inn sign, he said, had been in place since the 1960s and it was removed to access any damage underneath.

Water has led to a lot of the deterioration of the inn, built in 1902 and vacant since 2008. Christy bought the property from the city for $260,000 at an October 2016 auction. He set to work repairing roof leaks and tearing out and replacing moldy floors, walls and ceiling boards from the 26 guest rooms. He also completed work on the HVAC system.

Window sills were rotted, he said, which is why he said some of the windows were removed and remain boarded.

He’s also had to deal with vandals on occasion and cleanup of the property, since the grounds of the inn remain an apparent dumping ground for some.

Christy said the boarded windows are temporary and new windows, consistent with the historic nature of the building, await installation. The Lighthouse Inn is on the National Register of Historic Places.

City records show Lighthouse Ventures, of which Christy is a partner, has paid its $22,900 tax bill for 2017. The property is assessed at $525,000.

g.smith@theday.com

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