I visited Stonington, Connecticut in June 2018, a short peninsula with only one road in or out, all others having been severed by the railroad. I was not able to stay long and therefore pressed for time when I visited the Stonington Lighthouse Museum. I had to rush to get a look at everything, without taking time much to learn about the items or commit them to memory.
The museum is inside an old lighthouse with stairs one can climb to the top. It has been there since 1840 and has been a museum since 1927. The location of the previous lighthouse is now a parking lot for the museum and nearby beach. Interestingly, nobody alive today is sure whether the new lighthouse is the same as the old lighthouse that was moved, or if the new one was built to replace it. The records are ambiguous.
The museum covers all major aspects of the town’s varied past industries. A map shows where in town these places used to be. There is an exhibit on steamboats, another on steam locomotives, and another on whaling. Featured are all the tools of the whale trade, not just harpoons. There is also a whale rib, vertebra, and section of baleen. There are also teeth. Another section covered ice harvesting. There were many tools involved in gathering ice blocks during the winter to store in food coolers during the summer. Another section covered the process of making pottery. Many pots are on display, most of them rather plain. The history of the Wadawanuck Hotel and Wadawanuck College for Women are shown. There are, of course, lighthouse lenses, as well as many cooking gadgets and various trinkets brought home by sailors from around the world.
If I had time, I might have made use of the scavenger hunt questionnaires. Each lists a set of questions whose answers are found somewhere in the museum. There were a lot of things to see packed into a small space, most of which I was totally unfamiliar with (rare for me), such as the eel gig, a tool used to catch eels. The only negative was that not everything was labelled and I always wished I knew more.
One thing I thought very interesting that I had never heard before was the practice of placing shoes inside the walls of a new house for good luck and protection from bad spirits. How do these ideas even get started? Shoes have been found inside many of the buildings in town.
Another interesting practice was the use of courting mirrors. These were common gifts to give pretty ladies who could then look at themselves. Since they were also slightly transparent, they could be used to look at the gift-giver at the same time. I should try this.
I wish I could have stayed longer.
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My name is Dan. I am an author, artist, explorer, and contemplator of subjects large and small.