The town of Stonington is lining up funding so it can buy the local Odd Fellows hall, a prominent building on the island’s storied downtown waterfront.
At the town’s annual town meeting in May, residents authorized the borrowing of money to buy the historic Independent Order of Odd Fellows hall on Main Street for $525,000. Town officials have not settled on what the building would be exactly used for, but the purchase would preserve the downtown area and public access to the waterfront in Stonington — the state’s largest lobster port.
The hall is located in the middle of the town’s commercial center, next to the municipal fish pier. With the property going up for sale, there were fears that if it became a private residence and new owners added a private dock, it would limit access to the water and change the island’s downtown, said Kathleen Billings, the Stonington town manager.
If the town buys the lodge, it could add much needed skiff space and create more room for docks and floats. The hall itself could become a community building and possibly be used by the local sanitary district.
“There’s a whole lot of uses we can get out of it,” Billings said.
The town currently has a purchase option agreement with the Odd Fellows until funding comes in and is hoping to get a majority of the funding through federal appropriations.
In October, Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, announced that she had secured $394,000 for the purchase in the housing appropriations bill. That bill still needs to be approved by the House and Senate.
The town buying the building would provide lasting benefits to the entire community and the fishing industry, according to Collins.
“The purchase of the Odd Fellows Hall would provide Stonington with a unique opportunity to invest in the community’s wastewater infrastructure, preserve a historically significant building, expand the town’s vibrant working waterfront, and retain public access to the shoreline,” she said in a statement.
If the federal bill is passed, an action Billings hoped would happen in the next few months, Stonington would have to come up with the remaining $131,000 price tag. The town meeting has authorized the town to borrow the money needed to make the purchase.
The members of the Odd Fellows plan to use proceeds from the sale to build a new lodge, according to the Island Ad-Vantages. The hall has been in use since 1903, but has become a financial burden and increasingly difficult for the group to maintain, the paper reported.
An engineer has gone through the building and it seems to be in good shape, Billings said.
“They’ve been doing a pretty good job of keeping it up,” she said. “It’ll be nice once it finally does come through.”