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Our Mission

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.

Farmers Market
duBois Beach
The James Merrill House & Writer-in-Residence Program
Mathews Park
Christmas Stroll
Flower Boxes

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"

Join Us
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 jroboston@gmail.com.

Farmers Market

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duBois Beach

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.

Beach pavilion sign
duBois Beach Pavilion

duBois side view

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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.

Merrill House photo.
The James Merrill House

Reception at the Merrill House
Reception on the Merrill House roof deck (photo: Jim Hicks)

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Mathews Park

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.

Mathews Park

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 contact@sviastonington.org.

Any application for an exception to these guidelines must be made in writing to the SVIA Board.

Fee Schedule
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.

 

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Christmas Stroll

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.

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Flower Boxes

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.

Flowerboxes
Water Street Flowerboxes (photo: Jim Hicks)

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