When the Scott House was relocated from Catoonah Street to its present location on Sunset Lane just over 20 years ago, it was dismantled beam by beam and then reconstructed beam by beam at its new address, giving birth to the Ridgefield Historical Society.
But before the house was rebuilt, a below ground basement level was constructed — to house a state of the art, climate-controlled vault that would serve as the principal repository for the Town of Ridgefield’s historic documents, images, artifacts, newspapers, maps, and ephemera. The RHS Archive is now composed of well over 10,000 items spanning hundreds of years and including materials from all eras of the town’s history. Its value to the town cannot be over-stated.
Since it was originally built, the vault itself has evolved, and it is now outfitted with sliding-shelf storage units and independent workstations for the Collections team. “The Ridgefield Historical Society Vault is a true asset to the organization,” says Stephen Bartkus, an independent historical consultant who works with the Ridgefield Historical Society, as well as other historical organizations across the state. “While many historical societies were founded over a hundred years ago, and find themselves retro-fitting vaults, archives, and collections to more present-day technologies, Ridgefield had the good fortune and foresight to start with an exceptional vault in place. Now it’s important to maintain the vault at a high level in order to preserve its current contents, and allow for the preservation of future decades of history.”
In recent years, however, the RHS vault has become victim to water leakage through several locations on the exterior. This issue intensified with significant rain and during times of local flooding. Due to the value of the collections and the items stored, this wasn’t a situation that could be dismissed.
Thanks to the generous support of the Ridgefield Thrift Shop and the Anne S. Richardson Foundation, and the workmanship of Carroll Construction, the Ridgefield Historical Society was able to embark on an excavation and construction project this past January to successfully upgrade the sub-surface drainage system and address the land grading patterns to protect the vault from future seepage.
RHS Board member, Geoff Harrington, who serves as the Building & Grounds Committee Chair, managed the project and was pleased with the work and results. “We lucked out with the weather, and Carroll came in, took care of business, resolved issues that had been in place for a while, and gave us a ‘clean bill of health,’ so to speak. Now we can all sleep easy at night when there is torrential rain!”