February 21, 2017 – At one time, a deep hole near the rear entrance of the Sterling House Community Center might be a cause for alarm.
On Tuesday morning, that hole marked the coming of a brighter future for one of Stratford’s most historic buildings.
With a few shovels of dirt, Sterling House staff and town officials marked a ceremonial kickoff to the long-awaited renovation project. The rebuild, often referred to as the “Elevator Project,” actually started in December as machinery on the building’s campus had already began excavating to make room for the improvements.
Sterling House Executive Director Amanda Meeson noted that the $2.4 million project is 10 years in the making.
“We are really excited for a new building come early July,” Meeson said.
The hole in the ground marks the elevator pit, where Sterling House will have a new four-story elevator built to make the center more accessible to staff and visitors. Meeson said the renovations are needed because the current building has some shortcomings.
Bismark Construction will also make other improvements, including relocating the office space, installing a new entrance and new staircase and expanding the food pantry in order to serve more residents.
“It’s crazy. It’s absolutely nuts,” said Meeson in looking in the hole behind the office area. “We watch the progress and it’s incredible to think that… we have the ability to support any community member with any sort of physical ability on any floor of this house. It’s just very exciting for a service organization to do that.”
The renovation was originally expected to cost about $1.2 million, but after reviewing the plans, it was determined that more money would be necessary. Sterling House received a $1.2 million grant from the state Department of Social Services in 2014. Sterling House had to raise another $1.2 million to pay for the remainder of the project. Much of the front of the building will remain the same as the center is in the town’s historic district.
Jamie Millward, chairman of the Sterling House Board of Directors, said Tuesday was a “momentous” day for the center as it begins to make the building and more receptive to the community. Seeing the excavated area out back makes Millward excited to see what Sterling House can do in the coming years.
This is Sterling House’s first major renovation in the building’s history. A nursery was added in the 1970s, Millward said.
“I think this crosses political lines because Sterling House is kind of the beacon of the town,” Millward said. “Everyone can love what we do here. It’s an easy place to support and we’ve had nothing but support from the community.”
Millward thinks Cordelia Sterling, who willed the building to the town and the trustees of Sterling Park when she died in 1932, would be happy to see the renovation underway.
“I would like to think that she’s looking down with a big smile on her face,” Millward said. “There’s a lot of great, innovative things going on here and the addition and renovations that we are doing are very much in keeping with what her mission was from the beginning.”
The renovation project is expected to be completed by June.
This article was written and featured by the Stratford Star.