August 2011 | Deb Burst

Revisit centuries old Stonington in Woolworth Library

After a well rehearsed tour of the historic Palmer House in Stonington, Connecticut, I felt compelled to take pictures of a rambling stone fence. Taking advantage of the early morning light and a fresh coat of morning dew, my lens spied an odd shaped building with slanted roof. Shaped like an ark with a long wall of windows, the Richard W. Woolworth Library pays tribute to the brave souls who sacrificed everything to help build their new America.

Stonington stone fence trees 72 dpi.jpg

Thumbnail image for Stonington RW Woolworth library courtesy of website.jpgA major archive and research center for the Stonington Historic Society, the library pulls you deep inside the lives of Stonington settlers. Vintage photographs scale the walls as slender display cases hold 17th and 18th century literary journals along with business ledgers clearly marked with daily postings. Every faded book cover, dog-eared page, love letter, death certificate and even a random collection of coat buttons create a special bond with these New Englanders, our nation's ancestors.

Amazing collections dutifully organized and filled to the rafters chronicle a timeline of the town's history dating back to its 1649 founding. The Woolworth offers researchers a large reading room with tables, computers, copiers and microfilm reader printer. There are war records, land and probate records and what seems to be miles of photographs, newspapers and microfilms of the local newspaper. All are invaluable for families conducting genealogy research.

County histories, narrow ledgers, account books and minutes of local organizations follow the daily lives in the early years of Stonington. Vintage greeting cards and an extensive postcard collection including Dottie Gould's collection of 500 cards offer an inside look of the town's social network. 

Witness the early years of Stonington in the Winifred and Maurice LaGrua photo collection from railroads to steamboats. Nineteenth century cityscapes capture life on the streets, inside mansions, shanties and firehouses. All are available to the public as well as digital samples online. 

The library director, Anne Thacher, a Stonington native, is a wealth of information with a long line of Stonington family roots. She is most helpful in guiding researchers to the necessary documents and collections.

Stonington lighthouse side view.jpgBe sure to visit the many Stonington historical sites such as the Old Lighthouse Museum filled with six rooms of  Stonington's archives. Built in 1823, the structure was rebuilt in 1840 with a beacon visible twelve miles at sea and stayed active until 1889. 

The Palmer house, a sixteen room Victorian mansion was built in 1852 by brothers, Captains Nathaniel Brown Palmer and Alexander Smith Palmer. Overlooking Stonington harbor, the octagonal cupola holds stunning views. Guided tours of the home are available and include Stonington family portraits, furnishings and memorabilia of Nathaniel's discovery of Antarctica and the Palmer brother's adventures. 

After delving into the past stroll the streets of Stonington. Soak in the storied architecture, sample its quaint shops and restaurants, and meet a proud, spirited people.


stonington homescape 100dpi.jpg The following websites provide detailed photo galleries of the historic Palmer House, the Old Lighthouse Museum and digitized photos housed in the Richard W. Woolworth Library.