State boosts Roway­ton mu­seum pro­ject

The Norwalk Hour - - NEWS - By Robert Koch

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.

Erik Traut­mann / Hearst Con­necti­cut Me­dia

The Frank E. Ray­mond Boathouse at Pinkney Park in Norwalk on Thurs­day.

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