Enriching the quality of life in the village by encouraging and supporting
activities that enhance our many cultural and recreational gifts for the benefit of all
The Stonington Village Improvement Association supports a wide range of community improvement projects in the Borough of Stonington; on its own, and in cooperation with other local organizations such as the Stonington Como,the Stonington Free Library, the Borough of Stonington, the Stonington Historical Society and the Stonington Garden Club. What began in 1899 as basically a tree-planting society has grown into a body of local citizens who are deeply involved in maintaining and improving the quality of life in Stonington in a great variety of ways. The links below provide details about seven of our ongoing activities.
The Farmers Market
The Stonington Farmers Market began in 1997 under the initiative of Geoffrey Little. The enormously popular market attracts residents from the Borough and surrounding communities who come to buy fresh, healthy, local food. In 2008 the Stonington Farmers Market became a year-round event, moving inside during the winter months. Items sold at the market include locally grown vegetables and fruits, jams, a variety of breads, pies and baked goods, cheese, eggs, poultry, meat, pork, fish, shrimp, scallops, Italian ices, maple syrup, honey, flowers and decorative plants. Thanks to greenhouses, our farmers offer fresh produce (including tomatoes!) throughout the winter. Our market offers whatever our farmers are harvesting each week as well as prepared foods such as pesto, salsa, pot pies, soups and stews.
In addition to great food, a different craft vendor is featured each week at the market. Among the hand-made items you’ll find are beautiful molded beeswax candles, pottery, jewelry, wooden bowls, soaps, painted signs, printed fabrics and scarves.
For a list of participating vendors, please click here: vendor list
For more information on the market, please visit our Facebook page at: "SVIA Facebook"
Summer Market - Town Docks
Held on a field adjacent to the Town Docks, the summer market is held each Saturday from 9am-12pm, May through October, when it moves inside to escape the chilly weather. The summer market is a great place to connect with friends and neighbors, bring your dogs for some socialization and let your kids have fun at the playground while you shop for locally grown, fresh food and hand-made crafts. The Stonington Village Improvement Association sets up a tent in the center of the market each week. Volunteers are always welcome to work at this table where we sell fresh brewed coffee and merchandise such as t-shirts and hats, the proceeds of which offset the cost of advertising and promoting the market.
Winter Market - The Velvet Mill
In the winter, the market moves inside to the Velvet Mill, 22 Bayview Ave. in Stonington. The winter market provides a great meeting place for the community. On cold winter days it’s fun to stop in for a hot cup of homemade soup, a chat with friends and to see what the farmers and craft vendors are offering. Get there early before the green house spinach or baby bok choy sells out! A variety of musicians cheer up a gray day and craft vendors offer unique gifts for the holiday season. The winter market is held Saturdays from 10am-1pm. For dates, please see our Facebook page: "SVIA Facebook"
Over the years, the market has become an integral part of village life. Please take the time to visit our market…it's a great way to meet people in the community while supporting our local farmers and artisans.
If you’d like to participate as a vendor at the market or volunteer to work at the SVIA table during the summer, please contact Julia Roberts at firstname.lastname@example.org.
duBois Beach is owned by the SVIA who then sub-contracts the management
of the beach to the Stonington Community Center (COMO). The beach is
located at the southern most end of Water Street in Stonington Borough.
Its use is reserved for residents of the Borough and COMO members who
purchase annual beach memberships. The general public can to use duBois
Beach for a daily fee. For beach membership information, please contact
the Stonington Community Center through their website at www.thecomo.org
or by telephone at 860-535-2476.
Maintaining duBois Beach is not inexpensive. Apart from the current
renovations taking place winter weather often plays havoc with the sand
which inevitably needs replacing. There are costs incurred by renting
the portable bathroom, maintaining the wooden pavilion and water fountain.
Lifeguard, gatekeeper and maintenance personnel salaries must also be
taken into account. Dodson's Boatyard has generously donated their services
to repair, install and remove the swimming raft each season.
In 2012 and 2013 a major restoration was done to the beach and the pavilion. The beach suffered serious erosion after several major storms. Beautiful new benches were installed in 2012.
History of duBois Beach
Creating a beach for the residents of the Borough of Stonington was
a major objective of the SVIA in the late 1940's. When property at the
end of Water Street owned by Richard Baum became available in 1950 (which
included what is now known as the Point House, the small parcel south
of the Point House, and the two joined parcels across Water Street),
Coert duBois, then President of the SVIA and Dana Burnet, Secretary,
made their decisive move. They agreed to purchase everything for the
cost of $20,000. In the words of former Borough resident and local Westerly
Sun reporter Elizabeth Trumbull in 1960, "Mr. duBois was able
to raise $5,000 almost immediately to secure the estate. For the balance,
he and Mr. Burnet put their faith in Stonington on the line and signed
personal notes." Their plan was to sell the Point House and its
lot for $15,000 to pay off the notes and keep the other parcels, which
by a year later they had done.
Now owning the future beach property, the SVIA, under the Presidency
of Mr. duBois, began the process of raising money to pay for fashioning
a beach out of the two western lots. Mr. duBois was largely responsible
for raising the total of $50,000 and he, a career diplomat who had retired
to the Borough, is credited with making the beach project a truly cooperative
community wide effort. As an example, after meeting with Mr. duBois,
the Portuguese community set up a committee and after a house-to-house
campaign, raised $2,500 towards the beach fund.
The beach itself required 500 truckloads of sand, and when another
10 to 20 were needed, the contractor Samuel Romanella donated them as
his own personal contribution to the beach.
Dana Burnet, at ceremonies dedicating the beach to Mr. duBois in 1960,
said "He (did not) want the beach to be simply the gift of a few
of our wealthier citizens though we owe a great deal to the generosity
of those same citizens. But Coert wanted it to be the people's beach
and the people responded. Our local industries responded; the automobile
agencies and others all helped with goods or services or money, or all
three. The churches helped us. So did the local unions, the fishermen,
and various local fraternal, social, religious, and patriotic societies."
The SVIA beach was dedicated to the memory of Coert duBois on Thursday,
August 4, 1960.
duBois Beach Pavilion
The James Merrill House & Writer-in-Residence Program
James Merrill, who won many awards including a Pulitzer Prize in 1976, was one of America’s great poets. Merrill and his partner David Jackson came to Stonington in 1954, and spent summers at 107 Water Street until Merrill’s death. Village life and the apartment itself inspired some of Merrill’s most important work, including The Changing Light at Sandover, his book-length epic poem.
After James Merrill’s death in 1995, the Stonington Village Improvement Association (SVIA) found itself the unexpected beneficiary of the entire building. The SVIA’s decision was to change nothing, to leave the apartment and its furnishings intact, and to provide a place for writers to live and work. A group of Stonington residents and friends of Merrill’s began a program that would make the apartment available to writers and scholars for academic-year residencies. The residency program has grown over the years, is more often a five-month term rather than a year, and since 2008 has offered a stipend. Thus Merrill’s gift to the community became a gift to writers as well.
Today, the apartment looks much the way Merrill left it. Local resident and literary executor to Merrill, J.D. McClatchy, generously donated the contents of Merrill’s apartment to the SVIA and has provided long-term loan of much of Merrill’s library and record collection. The spirit of the place, the singular décor, the famous wallpaper, the views, the light, the privacy, and perhaps Merrill’s spirit remain.
In the years since Merrill’s death, twenty-three writers have used this space as a residence and retreat. They differ in age, experience, and approach, but all have been enriched by the opportunity to live and work in these inspiring rooms.
The Merrill Fellows are encouraged, in return for the gift of the residency to contribute in some way to the community. In addition to a reading of their work at the Stonington Free Library, the fellows provide workshops, and invite authors from outside our area to read in Stonington. The Merrill House Committee sponsors an annual James Merrill Lecture that features speakers of note from outside our area to give a talk or reading.
The Merrill House website, www.jamesmerrillhouse.org, provides detailed information on the application and selection process and current Merrill House activities.
The James Merrill House
Reception on the Merrill House roof deck (photo: Jim Hicks)
Mathews Park is located in the Borough at the northernmost point of
Water Street, directly across from Dodson's Boatyard behind their main
parking lot. The New York, New Haven, & Hartford Railroad Company
sold the space for the park to the SVIA for $1.00 in 1947. It is a hidden
jewel, surrounded by 4 foot high hedges.
The SVIA maintains the grass, hedges, gardens and picnic tables in the
park. Dodson's Boatyard generously maintains the trash receptacles. Residents
of the Borough are encouraged to use the park and enjoy its solitude. An ice-cream social is held each July4th after the towns parade. Free ice cream is offered courtesy of the Dogwatch Cafe.
Guidelines for us of Mathews Park
Two factors guide our consideration for the use of Mathews Park.
- Mathews Park was given to the SVIA with a proviso that it be used as a public park.
- Any use should be consistent with our mission of: "Enriching the quality of life in the village by encouraging and supporting activities that enhance our many cultural and recreational gifts for the benefits of all.
This suggests that Mathews Park should normally be open and available throughout the year to all Stonington residents, and that the park should not be used primarily for earning revenue.
Clubs, associations, non-profits, or individuals wishing to use the park on an exclusive basis for an event for one or two days would be welcome. Normally, one institution can schedule only two events per year. A reservation should be made and a fee paid.
Private commercial entities that want to use the park can be considered provided this would not exceed one event per year for any entity.
Reservations should be made by calling or emailing the head of SVIA Parks and Beaches Committee. Currently James Wightman: 860.535.8586 or e-mail email@example.com.
Any application for an exception to these guidelines must be made in writing to the SVIA Board.
One day exclusive: $200
Two day exclusive: $500
All trash must be removed by users. Any park furniture moved by the used must be returned to original locations in the park.
Every year, the SVIA decorates a tree in Wadawanuck Square and lights
it (with generous help from the nearby Stonington Free Library) at a
community-wide ceremony that includes singing carols, sipping mulled
cider, and the countdown to the lighting of the tree. Following immediately
afterwards is the annual Christmas Stroll through the Borough, when local
merchants keep their shops open late and welcome visitors with hors d'oeuvres
and eggnog and other goodies.
The Stonington Village Christmas Carol Sing, Tree Lighting & Merchant Stroll is held in front of the library in Wadawanuck Square the first Friday in December at 5:30 PM.
The SVIA also places lights and seasonal decoration around Cannon Square.
The Stonington Village Improvement Association, as the Village Improvement
Society, was established specifically to beautify the Borough by planting
trees and plants. This original purpose continues in the SVIA's summer
Flower Box project, in which flower boxes are provided at cost to Borough
shopkeepers in order to enhance the sidewalks outside their shops.
Trees and their welfare were among the original objectives of the SVIA
in 1899. The SVIA was instrumental in replacing the trees destroyed by
the devastating hurricane of 1938. Later, the care of old trees and planting
of new ones in the Borough and in such public places such as Wadawanuck
Square became one of the SVIA's chief responsibilities. This was changed
somewhat when the Borough government began to appoint one of the Burgesses
as "Tree Warden" but the SVIA is still involved in trees, as
witnessed by their recent effort towards replacing diseased trees in
LaGrua Park, along Denison Avenue. The SVIA's focus with regard to trees
may have shifted over time, but healthy and attractive trees remain an
important part of the SVIA mission.
Water Street Flowerboxes (photo: Jim Hicks)