Ocean Beach structure added to State Register of Historic Places

New London — The state Historic Preservation Council this week approved the inclusion of the Gam building at Ocean Beach Park on the State Register of Historic Places.

The Gam initially was brought to the attention of the state by New London Landmarks as an early example of a waterfront recreation facility and the primary public recreational facility in New London since its opening in 1940, said Marena Wisniewski, a National Register specialist and architectural historian with the state Historic Preservation Office.

The Gam was completed in 1940 as part of the plan to create a public park in the aftermath of the hurricane of 1938. There are similarities between Ocean Beach and Jones Beach State Park in Wantagh, N.Y., the latter having been used as a model for Ocean Beach, Wisniewski said.

“The Gam’s design incorporates elements of the futuristic Art Moderne style that was the successor to Art Deco,” New London Landmarks Director Laura Natusch wrote in a letter of endorsement to the Historic Preservation Council.

“But at the same time, the very name of the Gam references New London’s maritime history as a whaling port. Historically, a gam was a place at sea where two whaling ships would come together so that the crews could socialize. The Gam at Ocean Beach, with its restaurants, banquet hall, arcade and shop, has provided a similar social function for the people of New London for over 75 years,” Natusch wrote.

While the building has been modified since it was built, Natusch wrote that “its sleek horizontal lines and rounded corners, still retains the defining features of the original Art Moderne design,” Natusch wrote.

The Historic Preservation Council met on Nov. 7 and voted unanimously to include the Gam on the state register.

"For generations, New Londoners and visitors to Ocean Beach have treasured the Gam. I'm grateful to the Historic Preservation Council for honoring it with this listing, and to Mayor (Michael) Passero for his support,” Natusch said Friday.

Passero had written a letter of support to the state, stating “generations of citizens have marked milestones in their lives with celebrations in this historic building. I appreciated Landmarks support for this effort.”

Created in 1975, The State Register of Historic Places is Connecticut's “official listing of structures and sites that characterize the historical development of the state.”

The state register makes the owners of listed properties eligible to apply for state restoration funds and does not restrict the rights of the owner’s to use or develop the property, according to the State Historic Preservation Office.

 g.smith@theday.com

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