BERLIN - The Berlin Historical Society has made a purchase that should help with its plans to use the Worthington Meeting House on Worthington Ridge.
The organization bought 725 Worthington Ridge, known as the Esther Woodruff property, the house directly behind the Worthington Meeting House.
The house is expected to act as an administrative and record-keeping building for the Berlin Historical Society, if and when the organization relocates to the Worthington Meeting House as it is hoping to.
Exact plans are still being finalized, but the 1.4 acres the house sits on is also expected to be used for additional parking and open green space for programs and events.
The society’s current building at 305 Main Street, the old Peck Library, is in need of major repairs that cannot be addressed until the historical society moves to another space, said Lorraine Stub, secretary of the Berlin Historical Society.
“This is a major step for the historical society,” said Stub.
The purchase was made possible through a $300,000 bequest by Myrna Pauloz, a longtime Berlin resident who died in September 2012 and left funds to several charitable organizations throughout town.
It was also made possible with the wishes of Woodruff, who approached the town about a right of first refusal to buy her property, before she passed away.
The Town Council voted to enter an agreement on July 25, 2017, but Woodruff had died on July 28, 2017, before a formal agreement could be signed, Stub said.
Woodruff’s four sons, though, still wanted to honor their mother’s wishes, said Stub. But the state’s financial uncertainty then left the town unable to commit
That’s when the Berlin Historical Society stepped up to make an offer of $175,000.
“The feeling was the property is key to the greater project,” said Stub. “Too many times in the past, the town has lost opportunities to enhance historic properties in town for the greater good.”
“I think my mother would have been very, very happy to the historical society step in and purchase the property,” said Paul Woodruff, 62, of Vernon, as he and his brothers were. He said his mother always felt the two buildings should be together because of their proximity to each other.
He said he remembers the Worthington Meeting House casting a shadow over the house he grew up in.
He said his father, Willis Woodruff, who died in 1995 at the age of 80, grew up in another house next to the meeting house.
Woodruff said his father told him that he would be able to run from his house as the lunch bell started to ring and be in the classroom by the end of the ring.
“It’s a good idea, I hope they’re successful at it,” said Woodruff. “It’s a shame to see that historical building just be an empty shell for year after year, after year.”
Stub hopes that a butterfly garden can be included as a way to honor Esther Woodruff, who Paul Woodruff said was known as the “butterfly lady.”
Esther Woodruff would teach her students at Edna C. Stevens School in Cromwell about monarch butterflies, Paul Woodruff said.
With the purchase and new opportunities also come new expenses, said Stub, which have to be worked out.
“We hope people can follow through,” and help preserve the town’s history, said Stub.