Steel House wins preservation award

Before and after shots of the Steel House, which was known as
Before and after shots of the Steel House, which was known as "Rusty" in the days before renovation.

The Connecticut Trust for Historic Preservation has taken notice of Connecticut College’s tremendous effort to transform its historic Steel House from a rusty eyesore into a useful building and model of sustainability.

The trust presented the Steel House and the College with an Award of Merit during an April 9 ceremony at the State Capitol building. Conservators of the preservation, as well as College officials, attended the ceremony in the Hall of Flags.

“It's an honor to be recognized by the Trust, which has high standards for preservation,” said Douglas Royalty, a preservation specialist who worked closely with College officials to lead the restoration effort. “Everyone at the College can be proud of the effort to preserve this unusual building for future generations.”

The Steel House renovation was an intricate process that transformed the dilapidated structure into a viable facility. Manufactured as a prefabricated house in 1933, the roughly 800-square-foot house was erected for Winslow Ames, founding director of New London’s Lyman Allyn Art Museum, which is adjacent to the College.

Connecticut College acquired the small home in 1949 and it served as faculty housing for more than 50 years. Before its renovation, the Steel House was last occupied in 2004, and after it became vacant, it fell into disrepair.

Restoration efforts began in 2011, when the Connecticut Department of Economic and Community Development (DECD) awarded the college a $101,500 grant for the project. This matched previous grants awarded, including $50,000 from the Dr. Scholl Foundation and a $50,000 grant from a family foundation. Additional funding included a grant from the Connecticut Trust for Historic Preservation and a gift to the College.

Philadelphia-based firm Millner & Carr, now called Materials Conservation Co., LLC, partnered with the College as the conservation company for the project. The firm spent weeks painstakingly dismantling the Steel House, then sent the parts to Philadelphia for thorough cleaning and restoration. In 2013, the house was reassembled on its former foundation at 130 Mohegan Avenue. It opened in 2013 as the College’s new Office of Sustainability.

"The tenacious advocacy, careful research and meticulous restoration of this unusual and significant building, culminating with its appropriate new use, all make an important contribution to the history and sense of place of Connecticut," said Christopher Wigren, deputy director of the Connecticut Trust for Historic Preservation.

The Steel House renovation project has been recognized previously. Earlier this year, New London Landmarks presented the College with one of the organization’s signature whale plaques for the Steel House’s restoration.

April 22, 2014