Residents Rally to Save Shakespeare Theatre, White House [VIDEO]

Mayor’s stance 'unchanged' as close to 100 rally to preserve historical buildings.

Carol Lockshier lives across the street from the White House, the historical mansion at 1850 Elm Street in Stratford. She was one of about 100 people who gathered on the lawn of the White House on Thursday afternoon to support preserving the 18th century grand mansion.

“Every day I have to look at this and it’s so sad,” she said. “Every other town saves their history, saves their heritage.”

The White House and adjoining building, the Shakespeare Theatre, were the focus of Thursday’s rally, the latest development in between Mayor John A. Harkins and residents who wish to restore and revitalize the two buildings.

In April, Mayor Harkins ordered the Shakespeare Theatre closed and locks changed due to concerns over health and safety standards. Volunteers had been cleaning the theater of debris for two years by then.

Ed Goodrich, a member of Stratford's Arts Commission, addressed the crowd and urged an end to apathy.

"I believe in Stratford and I believe we'll use this building once again," he said from the peeling steps of the White House. "This building is not taking from the town, it's giving to the town. The Shakespeare Theater, too."

Where the money to fix the dilapidated buildings will ultimately come from is unclear. A statement by Marc Dillon, the mayor’s Chief of Staff, said that the mayor is unwilling to use town tax revenue to help with the renovations.

“The Mayor's stance regarding the Shakespeare Theatre remains unchanged,” the statement read. “This administration remains committed to finding a long-term answer for usage of this property, without doing so on the backs of the taxpayers.”

After assessing health and safety regulations on the Shakespeare Theater,

Paul Joy, vice chairman of Stratford’s Historic District Commission, said that he is working to make the properties part of the town's historic district, albeit non-contiguously; he pointed out that the boundary is where Elm Street meets Stratford Avenue, and it doesn't extend down to the White House.

Kevin Weiss has lived in Stratford for 23 years and wherever he travels around the country, people seem to know the town for the Shakespeare Theatre.

“I’ve never even gotten a chance to enjoy it,” he said. “I’d love to see real seats in the theater.”

Rob Weiss, 23, takes a speical interest in the theater because he minored in theater studies in college. He said the theater could help restore the town’s name.

“It has so much potential, to let it go to waste is terrible,” he said.

[Editor's note: this article was originally published on May 25]

Jim Ravis May 25, 2012 at 02:57 PM
At least Miron put a new roof on it. Harkins left a window open (yes - a very large window) after he took the keys away. Lord knows what is going to be living in there now and more damage from the weather will be done. Harkins should put the money he gets for "Blues on the Beach" towards the repairs.
K. Hogarth May 25, 2012 at 03:53 PM
I think the townspeople should be allowed to vote for this project and settle the time-wasting, emotional, back & forth debate once and for all. It's hard to tell from the media how many really support vs. oppose the revitalization of the theater and the white house. I would like to see it all back in working order and envision the buildings being used in a variety of ways: wedding receptions, corporate events, field trips, concerts, etc. The white house could be an awesome B&B !
Walt May 25, 2012 at 04:14 PM
Enough, burn down these two dumps and let the fire department watch until they're two piles of ashes. Get over it, it's over.
Laura Dobosz May 25, 2012 at 07:12 PM
This is the last straw. Harkins needs to go. He is discriminatory toward council members, slaps volunteers (tax paying residents, mind you) in the face and disrespects members of his own town committee. I knew from his "performance" at the state level that he did not care about the average tax payer nor any sort of community development, such as the arts - but that is just one example. He disgusts me, as does my own councilman, mr Conner. They both should be ashamed. At least the volunteers were trying to do something to benefit Stratford and it's further development. What has Harkins done? Oh right. Nothing. When he starts showing an interest in actually developing Stratford both culturally and economically I might listen. Up until now the only thing he has developed is his bank account by cashing in all of his supposed vacation/sick time and somehow (I'd love an answer to this one!) collected $7,500 worth of "expenses" that he did not have to provide proof for nor justify. He just took the money and ran. (can anyone say, "padding one's salary"?
Laura Dobosz May 25, 2012 at 07:14 PM
Oh - but we wouldn't want to spend "taxpayer dollars" on the theater yet we can spend it on his unjustified "expenses". Got it.
Jezebel282 May 26, 2012 at 01:12 AM
You are wrong about the $7,500. Harkins took $21,979.
Laura Dobosz May 26, 2012 at 12:44 PM
Oh. Well gee. Even better. *thud*. We had all sorts of reporting regarding the Miron family, where is the coverage now? Why isnt this information being presented to the tax payers? I had reservations about harkins but kept an open mind. Suffice to say, I am no longer open minded. He needs to go. Sooner the better.
Know what's going on May 26, 2012 at 01:26 PM
Mayor Harkins has no imagination. And he has no vision. On TV he says there will be a "surprise" about the White House/Shakespeare Theater. Why doesn't he use the "surprise" to prevent an argument, instead of causing one??? He says he won't use tax dollars to do something called investing in Stratford -- he won't use tax dollars because he's done nothing to bring in new tax dollars into this community. We have no commercial development going on in Stratford -- Harkins is still trying to hit a "home run" with the Army Engine Plant (what happens when Sikorsky downsizes)!? He should be cleaning up Barnum Avenue to attract businesses. We should be working on bringing in new small businesses to Hard's Corner (who will come when we have an attraction like the Shakespeare Theater)! Instead what we see is small businesses closing their doors because Stratford is doing nothing, nothing to keep them here! No innovative tax policies. No marketing,. Why don't you take a look at what the Monroe Economic Development Commission did to promote their community? Instead we have a Mayor with a locked office and gatekeepers like Marc Dillon and a new unimaginative Economic Development person like Karen Kaiser. We have a Mayor with no imagination. We also have a Mayor who's yet to create a new vision for Stratford, or tell the community what he's going to achieve. The only thing he's achieved is a higher salary.
Jezebel282 May 26, 2012 at 03:26 PM
Geeze! I'm doing my best here. I don't think you'll like this one much either: http://stratfordcharter.wordpress.com/2012/05/26/transferred/
Bob E. Peel May 26, 2012 at 06:30 PM
The Gazebo in Paradise Green that was damaged by hurricane Irene last year still stands unfinished, another sign of indifference to the town's appearance.
Jim Ravis May 26, 2012 at 08:03 PM
I guess Harkins is concentrating on his golf tournament that is coming up in a few weeks. Interesting that Bishop's law firm is a sponsor. Sad to see such a low amount of donations coming out of it.... $30k from a previous year considering entry is $225 pp and there are spots for $10k sponsors.
jrock May 27, 2012 at 12:26 PM
My thoughts exactly Walt.
Laura Dobosz May 27, 2012 at 02:23 PM
So what have our options been? A mayor that some perceived as corrupt with anger management issues who at least accomplished some development and town improvement measures or a mayor who is even tempered and lacking alleged family scandals but yet who is completely absent from the public eye and clearly demonstrates with his every more (or lack thereof) that his priority is not the development and growth of Stratford, but the development and growth of his own political resume and those of the members of the RTC who serve only as as a back up to his agenda and not to the desires of their constituents. I.E - Connor, IN! Catalano, OUT! Silly Matt thought his district elected him. He must not have realized that his success depended on his catering to Harkins and not his voters. Perhaps this recent "slap on the wrist" by the RTC's Golden Boy will teach him. I hope not though. I hope he tells them all where to go come next council election. Run indie Matt, you'd still win and you would be able to do your job representing Stratford as you have been trying to do, without facing this unfounded resistance from your supposed partners.
Goodie Bassett May 29, 2012 at 01:35 AM
Matt Catalano and his band of merrymen a trying to pull the wool over taxpayer eyes. All this talk about a non-profit and how it can raise the money necessary is hog-wash. The theater has been dormant for almost as long as it was open and in the past 25 years why wasn't a non-profit set-up? The answer is simple, even the Chair of the Arts Commission, Ed Goodrich asks why won't the mayor give us alittle monetary help to kick start the theater? The answer is simple, you and your group say you can raise the money but have done NOTHING to put those means in place. This group thinks $30 million would be taxpayer money well spent, when Matt Catalano himself even knows the theater in its hay-day NEVER made a dime. This is no different than a Bernie Madoff scam to try and rape the taxpayers so Matt can dish work out to his fellow theater union friends. Let it burn, NOT ONE DIME OF TAXPAYER MONEY!
Rockannand June 01, 2012 at 12:16 PM
Hey Walt, JRock and Goodie Two-Shoes, If the Theatre somehow "mysteriously" catches fire, now we will know who to call. Comon guys? Tax payer money is NOT on the table at this time. Goodie, you obviously only read the CTPost propaganda form the Mayor's office. The ACG report says clearly (if you are able to read some factual stuff) that the $30mm is ALL FROM FUND RAISING. What is the Mayor, Jim Connor and company and the Mill River crowd afraid of? That the volunteers and a fund-raising campaign just might succeed?? You guys would rather cut the effort off before it starts and then claim victory? What a sham! The FACTS keep getting in the way of your rhetoric and politics. You hide behind blowhard statements about tax payer money and slam Ed Goodrich and Matt and say they have done nothing, but the FACTS say your wrong and the advocates are right and should be given the chance to prove once and for all whether the not-for-profit effort can succeed. Do you really think that the people who actually live in the Historic District are going to allow JOm Connor to put a Sports COmplex or some commercial enterprise on that property in the heart of the district and in a residential neighborhood? That my friend would be the fight of the century. "To be or not to be Stratford, What is your answer?"
Goodie Bassett June 04, 2012 at 08:07 PM
Fundraising? Where's the 501(c)3? Nowhere to be found! The theater has been closed and all this opportunity to fundraise is lost because who are we supposed to write the checks to? Ed and Matt? LMAO As someone who lives in the historic district i'd rather have a sports complex and outdoor amphitheater than two run down, dilapidated, condemned buildings that no matter how much work these "volunteers" do will never see the so called glory days when the place still made $000,000,000,000!! Give it a rest with the so called fundraising, it's pathetic that you bought into Ed, Matts and their gang of merry-mens BS.
Jim Ravis June 04, 2012 at 10:37 PM
There is at least one non-profit listing that may cover the Theater (STRATFORD FESTIVAL THEATER INC). I did notice that the listing for “Stratford Mayor’s Charity Events” has its Exempt status revoked.


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