About This Location
Nestled along the picturesque shores of Grass Island in Guilford, Connecticut, the Grass Island Shack stands as a testament to resilience and community dedication. Its story began in 1914 when J. Harrison Monroe, a local druggist, decided to construct a summer cottage on the tranquil west shore of Grass Island. For years, the Monroe family cherished their retreat, enjoying the serene waters and scenic beauty of the area.
However, in 1936, tragedy struck as a devastating fire reduced the beloved cottage to ashes. Undeterred by this setback, Monroe made a resolute decision to rebuild the structure. The rebirth of the cottage didn't occur until 1940, and it was then that the resilient structure began its journey through time.
Over the years, the Grass Island Shack faced numerous trials, battling the fury of rough hurricanes that swept through the area. In a bid to protect the cherished cottage from the encroaching waters, a decision was made to relocate it inland. Thus, in 1950, a mere decade after its complete reconstruction, the entire building was carefully lifted and transported to its present location.
For a while, the Monroe family continued to savor the joys of their summer retreat. However, in September of 1965, they decided to pass on their beloved cottage. The Town of Guilford, recognizing the historical and community significance of the structure, acquired the property and the surrounding seven acres for a modest sum of $15,000. The town's vision was to designate the land as a park, and it entrusted the Parks and Recreation Department with its care.
As time flowed by, the Grass Island Shack witnessed small repairs made by diligent town employees to ensure its survival. Slowly, the vacant summer cottage began to take on a weathered appearance, earning it the affectionate moniker "Grass Island Shack." Despite its gradual decay, the shack held a special place in the hearts of the locals and visitors alike. During the summer months, it served as an idyllic spot for family picnics by the water and a welcoming stop for passing boaters.
Yet, as time wore on, the shack's structure began to crumble, and signs of deterioration became evident. In 1994, Richard Werle, recognizing the importance of this iconic landmark, embarked on a mission to save it. He initiated the "Save Our Shack" project, investing considerable time in planning and organizing the restoration efforts. Werle also held fundraisers to gather essential funds for materials. With immense support from the community, he managed to rescue the building from impending decay.
Tragically, during his second attempt to make further repairs, Richard Werle peacefully passed away. Nevertheless, his legacy lived on, and the shack endured as a symbol of his dedication and the community's unwavering commitment.
However, as years passed, no substantial maintenance was performed on the Grass Island Shack. It weathered storms, but rot and decay gradually consumed the structure. In late summer of 2015, the shack's safety came into question when a couple of teenagers were spotted walking on its roof. Town officials subsequently inspected the building and determined it to be unsafe. A red snow fence encircled the shack, and it was closed to public access.
Around this time, John Markowski, seeking the perfect Eagle Scout Project, recognized the importance of preserving this iconic landmark. He met with the First Selectmen, and "Save the Shack" was born. The project was an ambitious undertaking, involving a new roof, a revamped porch, and various cosmetic repairs. In 2016, after over a year of diligent effort, the Grass Island Shack stood rejuvenated.
The project officially concluded on November 23, 2016, marking a new chapter in the shack's history. Today, it stands tall, a testament to the resilience of community spirit and the determination to preserve a cherished piece of Guilford's heritage. The shack, with its vibrant red center section, remains the only original part of the structure. It has been reopened to the public, allowing visitors to once again admire its enduring beauty.
The Grass Island Shack, which has weathered the tides of time and a series of hurricanes, now stands as a symbol of community pride and determination. Its story is one of rebirth, resilience, and restoration, reminding us all of the importance of preserving our unique historical landmarks for future generations to enjoy.