Testifying for Waterford’s Seaside State Park
The bills would have directed the Department of Energy and Environmental Protection (DEEP) to investigate alternatives to its plan to operate the site as a state park with a privately-operated park lodge in the historic sanatorium buildings. The Trust joined DEEP officials and park advocates to testify that extensive, already-completed studies of alternatives and the feasibility uses for the park should not be set aside. Fortunately, both bills failed in committee. The State has recently solicited new proposals from developers, and we’re watching that process closely.
Unlike many state-owned properties, state parks hold a special place in the hearts of the citizenry. We may never have call to enter a state office building; we may associate courthouses or DMV offices with, frankly, unpleasant experiences. But parks are where we exercise, socialize, play, enjoy natural scenery, or soak up historic atmosphere. It’s not an exaggeration to say that they belong to the people, and are merely held in trust by the State.
Seaside State Park is a site of outstanding historical importance, listed on the National Register of Historic Places. As the first purpose-built facility in the United States for the heliotropic treatment of tuberculosis in children, it represented a significant step forward in combating a devastating disease. In addition to its place in medical history, Seaside is important in social and political history as an example of government efforts in the 1930s to promote the welfare of its citizens. And, it is architecturally significant as the work of a nationally-recognized master, Cass Gilbert. Although Gilbert was a prominent traditionalist, at Seaside he was given the task of inventing a new building type. His balancing of functional innovation with familiar forms and motifs created a facility that was technically up-to-date yet offered a comforting and comfortable environment for patients and staff. There is nothing like Seaside, anywhere.
Nearly 90 years ago, the people of Connecticut built Seaside to care for their own children. The people deserve the opportunity to enjoy its beautiful scenery and its history. On behalf of the Trustees and members of the Connecticut Trust for Historic Preservation, I urge you to defeat SB 252.