Mystic River Boathouse Back to Square Zero

No, this house on 123 Greenmanville Avenue may not be demolished to leave room for a boathouse says Historic Preservation Office. Photo: Göran R Buckhorn.

4 June 2019

By Göran R Buckhorn

Anmahian Winton Architects jumps ship from the Mystic River Boathouse Park project.

Things continue to be a struggle for the Mystic River Boathouse Park project in Mystic, Connecticut.

The state Historic Preservation Office has decided that a building on the site, where the Hart Perry Community Rowing Center and the Mystic River Boathouse Park are going to be built, must be saved. Hearing this, the Cambridge-based Anmahian Winton Architects, known to have designed the beautiful Harry Parker Boathouse for Community Rowing, Inc. in Boston, no longer wants to be part of the project on Greenmanville Avenue. In the company’s initial design plans, the structure would be torn down to leave room for a contemporary boathouse where the Stonington High School crew would be able to store their boats and other equipment.

When the plan was presented in October 2018, the proposed plan was heavily criticized on social media and at a town meeting for being too modern and not in a ‘New England style’. It was also pointed out that the two structures on the site were in the Rossie Velvet Mill Historic District and the two buildings were thereby classified as “contributing resources” to the historic district. One of the buildings, an old blacksmith where the Stonington crew are currently keeping their ergs, is in poor condition and will not be able to be saved.

The historic house, which has to be saved, is placed where the Mystic River Boathouse Park Implementation Committee had plans for a parking lot. However, the Historic Preservation Office has allowed the committee to move the house within the site, based on what Mike O’Neill, vice chairman of the committee, told the local newspaper The Sun in Westerly a couple of days ago.

Anmahian Winton Architects’ plans to create ‘a gateway’ to Mystic will now be scrapped as the house has to be preserved, O’Neill also said.

According to the article in The Sun, the committee has hired an architectural historian to help define the new plan and will start looking for a new architectural firm that will be able to come up with a new design for the boathouse.

O’Neill also noted the new direction for the boathouse would satisfy those who feel the project would need a more historical approach in line with the houses on Greenmanville Avenue.

This is a set-back for the Mystic River Boathouse Park Implementation Committee, not to mention that the boathouse project is now back on square zero. The social medialists who loudly complained about the Anmahian Winton Architects’ plans will of course see this as a victory for their cause.

Chad Frost of Kent + Frost Landscape Architecture in Mystic, who is designing the plans for the Mystic River Boathouse Park, where the boathouse will be located, will remain on the project as Frost’s plan for the park is separate from the design of the boathouse.

The last word about this project is far from written.

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