State boosts Rowayton museum project
NORWALK — The Rowayton Historical Society’s plan to reshape the Frank E. Raymond Boathouse at Pinkney Park into a yearround museum highlighting local maritime history is getting a big boost from the State Bond Commission.
The commission, chaired by Gov. Dannel P. Malloy, is expected to approve during its Dec. 11 meeting $37,000 in bond funds toward the estimated $90,000 renovation project.
The Historical Society will use the money to renovate the boathouse, making it more relevant by adding a narrative to tell the history of the Five Mile River and Long Island Sound, according to state Senate Majority Leader Bob Duff, D-Norwalk.
“Preserving and promoting our local history is integral in creating a stronger sense of community,” Duff said in a statement. “The renovated boathouse will provide an incredible education opportunity for students and families to learn about Norwalk’s past and hopefully inspire the next generation of historians.”
Wendell Livingston, Rowayton Historical Society president, said the new exhibit space will contain innovative and engaging narratives about Long Island Sound, its people and environs.
“The Raymond Boathouse will be the only museum in our area that interprets local maritime history,” Livingston said. “On behalf of the Historical Society I’d like to thank Sen. Duff and State Bond Commission for facilitating this grant.”
The renovated boathouse will host exhibits on local oystering families, Native Americans, hurricanes, ship builders, sailing heroes and maritime disasters.
The structure also will house a permanent exhibit on the ecological history of the Sound, highlighting local flora, fauna and marine life.
The exhibit will be centered around a hand-painted mural. In addition, the boathouse will offer fun and engaging programs that connect the community with its maritime history, according to the Historical Society.
The goal is to complete the renovation and open the museum for Memorial Day and have all exhibits in place by spring 2020, according to Livingston.
Formerly known as the Barclay Boathouse, the structure was built for Amelia Earhart’s husband, George Palmer Putnam, who summered on Rowayton Avenue for six years and established Rowayton’s post office, train station and the name “Rowayton” itself (while the term had been used before, the neighborhood had always been called Five Mile River).
Over the years, the building was used as a hamburger joint and a ship chandlery, specializing in boat equipment, before being donated to the Rowayton Historical Society in 1992. The society used the boathouse to show an assortment of maritime equipment — handmade models of Rowayton-made boats and Greenwich-made boat engines, eel hooks and foghorns and archival photographs of the area’s oystermen — but the collection provided no information or context about those items, according to the Historical Society.
In May, renovations were already under way with walls uncovered to reveal layers of history — beams that supported the roof before additions were made.
The Historical Society plans to showcase as much of the building’s history on display as possible, exposing the original rafters.
So far, the Historical Society has received a $20,000 commitment from Rowayton’s Sixth Taxing District for the renovation, and $3,000 commitment from the Rowayton Civic Association for the mural of the flora and fauna of the Five Mile River.
The Frank E. Raymond Boathouse at Pinkney Park in Norwalk on Thursday.