Society ready for museum debut 

Naugatuck Historical Society President Ken Hanks stands in front of some of the permanent displays at the society’s temporary museum at 171 Church St. while holding a ‘Nauga,’ the mascot Uniroyal used to promote Naugahyde, which was first made in the borough. The historical society is hosting a museum debut on May 6. –LUKE MARSHALL

Naugatuck Historical Society President Ken Hanks stands in front of some of the permanent displays at the society’s temporary museum at 171 Church St. while holding a ‘Nauga,’ the mascot Uniroyal used to promote Naugahyde, which was first made in the borough. The historical society is hosting a museum debut on May 6. –LUKE MARSHALL

NAUGATUCK — The Naugatuck Historical Society’s new temporary museum is ready for its debut.

The society is hosting a museum debut May 6 from 2 to 4 p.m. at its temporary location at 171 Church St.

“We want to let people know we are open,” Naugatuck Historical Society President Ken Hanks said. “There is not as much to see as at the train station, but we want people to know we are still open and active in the community. We’re still involved here.”

The historical society museum moved from the former train station on Water Street to the storefront on Church Street last year due to the borough selling the train station building.

“Even though we opened the space back in August we didn’t really call ourselves a museum. We were in transit with moving. We did not get out of the train station until December,” Hanks said.

The historical society plans to eventually move into the Tuttle Building, 380 Church St., along the offices of the Naugatuck Economic Development Corporation. However, the building is in need of significant work before the organizations can call it their new home.

“The initial project that is being designed now is the replacement of the roof and the installation of a sprinkler system,” Hanks said. “We can’t do anything inside until the roof is fixed. It has been leaking for years. And, in order to operate as a museum, we need to have a sprinkler system. That’s required.”

The Tuttle Building used to house the Naugatuck Board of Education offices. The Board of Education moved into new offices at Naugatuck High School earlier this year.

Aside from roof work, the Tuttle Building also needs outdoor masonry work, outdoor woodwork, and minor indoor reconstruction, Hanks said.

Hanks said the borough has been able to, with state approval, repurpose a grant it had to repair Building 25, the former administrative offices for the U.S. Rubber Co. which was demolished in 2014. The grant is now able to be used towards the work that needs to be completed at the Tuttle Building, he said.

“That project is progressing. Like everything else, it is slow. The design work and approvals take a lot of time,” Hanks said. “I would hope to be in there by the end of 2017. That might be a little optimistic. But some of the work that needs to be done can be done while we are there.”

Once the work is finished, Hanks said, the building will be more than just a home to the museum. It will serve as a part of the museum’s collection.

Hanks said two hot-button issues that get people in the borough really fired up are the demolition of the former town hall in 1965 and the loss of Building 25.

“Well, we have another treasure up the street here and we don’t want to make the same mistake. Here’s our chance to preserve that building and make it the jewel of Naugatuck,” Hanks said.

In the meantime, the historical society will continue to offer a scaled-down version of the museum and its services to the community, he said.

“We are doing static displays here, but we are also doing rotating displays. Our front window display rotates every couple of weeks,” Hanks said.

The static displays includes clocks that were made in Naugatuck in the mid-1800s, items from the borough’s rubber industry, and busts of Charles Goodyear and Howard Whittemore.

Hanks said being on Church Street has led to the museum receiving a lot more foot traffic than it used to when it was at the train station.

“We get a lot of walk-ins, which we never had at the train station because that was kind of out of the way. The only walk-ins we had down there were people looking for the train,” Hanks said. “We’ve had people walk by and we say come on in and show them around. It’s what we like.”

Hanks said whether people stop by for the debut next week or happen to be passing by on a Saturday, he wants them to know the historical society is still here to answer their questions.

“We are still a part of the community. We are still active and running programs. We still do walking tours,” Hanks said.