NORTH STONINGTON — A few pieces of history will come to life Monday when the community, led by George and Martha Washington, prepares to step back in time to celebrate the nation's history.
The event, which will be hosted by owners of the Marcia Thompson Schoolhouse, will feature a live appearance and speech by the first U.S. president, free copies of the Declaration of Independence, and inside look at the single-room schoolhouse and several vendors including sales of "no lie" cherry and apples pies. There will also be a rededication of the schoolhouse to Marcia Thompson, complete with a new sign that was restored with the help of her descendants.
"When we first started last year, we had only opened the doors because the local elementary school wanted to walk through, but since that time we've heard so much feedback from the town and people wanting to get in to see it," Smith said. "I just kept thinking, how could we turn them down?"
Prior to this past November, the school had last been used for the annual visit nearly six years earlier before being closed and shuttered until the Smith's bought the property.
Smith and McLaughlin said they first discussed trying to open the building once per month, but such an undertaking was simply not yet possible. That's when Smith and her sister, Marlisa McLaughlin, said they met with close friend Pam Mandelburg and decided to do a historical opening for Presidents Day.
"Alicia turned at that point and said, almost jokingly, 'if we're doing that, then why not get George Washington involved?" McLaughlin said. "We always wanted the schoolhouse to become a piece of living history and the event will aim to bring that to fruition."
Mandelburg will play the role of Martha Washington, with McLaughlin's co-host at SEC-TV, Dr. Patrick Moore, serving in the role of President George Washington. McLaughlin said they'd already custom fit the period costumes and Moore has gone to great lengths to learn how to act, speak and behave just as Washington would have.
Before long, the three had partnered with the North Stonington Historical Society and North Stonington Congregational Church of North Stonington, which has taken on the pie sales. As word of the event began to spread, Smith and McLaughlin said Thompson's descendants also reached out and expressed an interest in joining the effort as well.
Alton Gray, Thompson's grandson in-law, said it has meant a lot to his family to see the Smiths bringing the schoolhouse back to life.
"We are cleaning up the original sign and getting ready," he said Wednesday. "It's so refreshing to see someone recognize the history and take an interest in preserving such a treasure."
Built in 1814 along Taugwonk Road in Stonington, the building would serve as a schoolhouse until the 1920s, when it was shuttered during a school consolidation effort. The building remained at its former site until Frank Limpert Sr. and his wife, Alma, decided to relocate the school to a foundation by the grist mill property.
The schoolhouse was then renamed the Marcia Thompson Schoolhouse in honor of the 50-year Stonington teacher in 1983.
The event will run from noon to 3 p.m., with George Washington providing a speech to kick things off and the rededication of the schoolhouse at 2 p.m. The program is free to those who want to join in the fun, Smith said.
"We are hoping this will be an event where people can share their own stories and look back at the fond memories they have or the tales they've heard from their grandparents. We want to take a step back and recognize the old days and where we all came from," McLaughlin said.