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]