Disaster update from Shelton Historical Society

The roof of the Brownson House on the grounds of Shelton History Center was under repair when a wind-driven storm forced rain through the protective tarp, soaking the ceilings of four rooms and flooding each floor from the attic to the basement artifact storeroom back in October.

The Historical Society received immediate help from responding fire departments, volunteers, staff, and community members in rushing damp boxes of documents and artifacts to safety in dry areas of the historic 1822 house.

A disaster recovery service responded immediately, setting up equipment that dried floors and walls overnight. The plaster ceilings, however, took weeks to thoroughly dry and required constant monitoring.

Insurance investigators refused coverage for this disaster, citing several factors.

“The damage to the house has been stabilized and while the estimates for repairs are still being tallied, we are confident that we can keep costs to a minimum, nowhere near the initial expectations,” said Marty Coughlin, president of Shelton Historical Society.  “We are used to making the most of every dollar and resource we receive.”

Curators and archivists from as far away as Lebanon, Essex, Simsbury,Groton, and Waterbury arrived the following day of the storm to help assess the collection of documents with Shelton Historical Society curator Deborah Rossi and librarian Ellen Kolesk.

Fortunately, the mild day helped papers dry quickly as they were spread on tables in the Wilson Barn of the History Center complex. Considering that thousands of papers were affected, very few were found to need advanced conservation care.

Regina Misercola, a member of the Society’s youth group, Teen Time Travelers, entered an essay contest sponsored by VolunteerSquare.com that invited students in area high schools to explain what community volunteering meant to them.  Entries were due just days after the incident so Regina decided the timing was significant. A student who loves language, Regina was a contest winner and generously turned over the $450 prize to the Shelton Historical Society.

While she kept her idea a secret from the staff, she shared her plan with other members of the teen group, then surprised executive director Tracey Tate with her gift.  To Regina, community service is “about making a difference in the lives of others and being a part of something that really matters.”

To read her essay, connect to http://blog.ctnews.com/volunteersquare/2015/11/23/and-the-winners-are/#photo-713094

So impressed with the work that the museum professionals from around Connecticut did in the immediate aftermath of the disaster, the Teen Time Travelers spent a few of their Friday evening meetings making gifts for the volunteers.  Many regular Historical Society volunteers arrived to help, too, some still coming weekly to rehouse all of the artifacts and documents that were removed from the storeroom.

Second graders in Mrs. Peruzzi’s class at Mohegan School decided to accomplish chores at home in exchange for earning money to donate. Their class had been scheduled to attend an educational program called “Children’s Chores and More” at the Society just days after the disaster. Their donation of over $300, earned by raking leaves and washing dishes, will be used toward repairing an 1887 map of the Borough of Shelton that sustained water damage. Upon initial investigation, the map seems to be the only one in existence, so it will be important to restore it.

Shelton Intermediate School teachers, administrators, and staff paid to “dress down” and gave those funds to the Historical Society, while staff from the Jones Family Farms Winery also made a contribution from a holiday collection. Other historical societies around Connecticut sent their spare archival boxes to replace many that were ruined.  Shelton Historical Society members and others from the community continue to give what they can, either through the

gofundme.org online donation page or by mailing contributions to Shelton Historical Society.

The Valley Community Foundation and the Bassett Foundation has granted emergency funding to pay for the initial stabilization of the building. Mr. Bernard Brownson, the grandson of the last owners of the house, also made a contribution.

“There has been a whirlwind of activity as we recover from this event, even while were main closed to the public,” said Tracey Tate. “It’s been heartwarming to get such positive and surprising responses from all kinds of people. We hope to come back stronger than ever. All this help is inspiring us to work hard to do so.”

The Shelton Historical Society’s Annual Meeting, will take place on Sunday, Jan. 31,  at 2 p.m. in the Huntington Congregational Church Fellowship Hall, 19 Church St.  Carolyn

Ivanoff will present the program, The Last Great Road Trip, an adventure lecture and virtual tour of the North American continent from Connecticut to Alaska. The program is open to the public.

Further information about the Historical Society’s plans to repair the Brownson House will be featured as well.