Above, (from Georgia) Rachel Perry Martinak & baby Kate Loraine; John Casey, and Bill LaRoue.
Happy Holidays

from the

CUSTOM HOUSE
It's that time of year when friends check in from far & near, and we also pause to remember those no longer here with us.
ON THE HUNDREDTH ANNIVERSARY OF THE FOUNDER’S BIRTH

Lucille M. Showalter was an unlikely candidate to be the savior of the US Custom House in New London, Connecticut. She was born November 2, 1920 in Norfolk, Virginia to a Kentuckian mother and Tennessean father, because that’s where his service in the Navy had put them. In 1923, the Navy would put them in New London. While her father would write the newspaper to decry northern Yankee politics, Lucille grew to love the land where she lived.

Raising three sons, she became active in civic life here, especially for school and church. She was elected to serve one term on the New London Board of Education in 1961. Having been a cashier at Ocean Beach Park in 1940, the first summer it opened, she was proud to be selected to serve on the Park Board from 1964-1972. But, it was not until 1970 that she really came to her own as the historian of New London.
Building on the secretarial training she had put to use in Washington, DC during World War II, Lucille taught business education for adults in the city’s public night school program. She’d been doing this since 1952. She really enjoyed working with adult students. By the mid-60’s she was hankering to break out into new topics – specifically, local history. She pestered that poor program administrator until he agreed to hire her to teach a local history class. It launched in 1970.

The class was an amazing success. She was an entertaining instructor. There were costumed guest presenters. And there were a flurry of field trips. With this, she built her reputation. She got frequent inquiries about some historical tidbit or another, to which she was generally able to provide quick and unwavering answers. By the time the American Bicentennial rolled around in 1976, she was a source for newspaper stories, and a sought-after speaker. As the adult education local history class was winding down, eventually ending in 1978, she was already replicating the experience in college settings, principally at Mohegan Community College, but also some short stints at Huntington Institute, and Connecticut College.

It was no surprise then, when news surfaced that the Custom House was going to be unloaded by the federal government, that folks would turn to Lucille with the question about how it might be preserved for history. There was word that others had an interest in converting the building for a business opportunity. One notable thing about New London’s history was that it did not have a stellar track record of preserving its historical buildings, and especially when it competed with the prospect of financial enterprise. All this drove her into working hard to see it saved. The rest you know. The New London Maritime Society and the Custom House Maritime Museum were both established in 1983.

We lost Lucille on May 10, 2000. Cancer had shadowed her since the mid-70’s, but she was too busy to pay it much mind. Even as it had its final hold of her, she was still actively orchestrating programs at the Custom House until just a couple of days before the end. Though, there have been indications that maybe she hasn’t fully left the place.

On this hundredth anniversary of her birth, there is no doubt of her pride in the success of this venture. It was a most cherished project, that she poured her whole self into. She wanted to see it be a grand location for preserving and telling the wonderful tales of New London’s history. It is magnificent to see how much it has prospered and grown, and how it is still doing just that.

- by Craig Showalter, her youngest son
December 2020
Above top, Lucile Showalter leads a field trip to the Eugene O'Neil Homestead in 1977 (there's Craig Showalter to the back, and Vinnie Belbruno front left); above from left, 2008 Amistad celebration; Rachael, a volunteer in 2012.


The best link for donating online to the New London Maritime Society can be found on the HOME page of our website: nlmaritimesociety.org.
 Many thanks!


The Custom House Maritime Museum will close for the season on December 23.

Here are some of our trustees at a zoom meeting last week.

What's Up at the Custom House - December 20, 2020
New London Maritime Society - local friendly authentic
Telling the stories of New London's waterfront
& preserving four historic maritime sites
New London Maritime Society thanks our Friends & Sponsors 
Anonymous, John Steffian, Jr., The Maco Family Fund, DOCKO, the State of Connecticut, CtHumanties, USLHS, Community Foundation of Eastern Connecticut, Chelsea Groton Bank, the City of New London , IMLS, United Rentals, & CDBG

Visit inside New London Harbor Lighthouse.
We give tours year-round.

Meet at the lighthouse, then climb 116 steps to the lantern room -- all the while learning about the 260-year history of Harbor Light, one of the oldest lighthouses in the country, and the tallest on Long Island Sound. The views at the top are spectacular!

The visit takes around 45 minutes. Everyone uses hand sanitizer and we all wear masks. Tours for one small Covid pod of up-to four people may be arranged by emailing nlmaritimedirector@gmail.com.

Suggested donations are $35 for adults, $30 for NLMS members, & $25 for youth 7-to-18 years old.

Below, Who's in the MUSEUM SHOP?
Above, who's in the SHOP? There's someone for everybody on your list.
top row from left: a plush gull, surrealist notepad, Activist: Portraits of Courage, vintage hand-carved fish, vintage fishing lure, jellyfish puzzle; butterfly puzzle, pirate-in-a-box, Little Shark finger puppet book, Jane Jacobs biography, vintage NL paperweight, sailor dogs; knit alpaca octopus, duck-head umbrella, Ellery Thompson autobiography, Boats are Busy, fish flask, Prudence Crandall's Legacy; R ray stacking block, March volume II, Smeagull the Seagull, 19th-c 'D. B. Hempsted' silver spoon, oystercatcher tea towel, Little Fish finger puppet book; gull eyeglass case, Morton Plant biography, bone octopus brooch, felt pirate mobile, seahorse letterpress note card, mermaid pouch; knit bunny soft toy, D for Diver tea towel, Nathaniel Bowditch biography, crustacean tea towel, pirate rattle, O is for Oystercatcher alphabet book.

The MUSEUM SHOP will be open from 10 AM 'til at least 1 PM Monday, Tuesday, & Wednesday this week. After that, we'll close for our holiday break. To check if we're in, call 203-444-2884.

We thank our Saturday shoppers! -- especially those who commented on our terrific BOOK selection on local and maritime history.
Below, vintage oyster, clam & mussel shell charm bracelet.

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New London Maritime Society
membership makes the perfect gift!

~ New Individual ($35) or Family memberships ($50) receive a 12" x 18" poster by Patrick Lynch. (You may pick it up at the Custom House.)

~ New Contributor level memberships ($100) & above also receive a copy of Patrick Lynch's A Field Guide to Long Island Sound: Coastal Habitats, Plant Life, Fish, Seabirds, Marine Mammals, and Other Wildlife (a $24 value). (You may pick it up at the Custom House.)


Keep an eye on the harbor 24/7 with the New London HarborCam. 1.2 million viewers already have!

Whewwwww ... Wednesday night's snow.

Watch a time-lapse video of New London Harbor from the HarborCam, from July 8, 2019 to November 30, 2020 -- 17 months -- here.




  • Facebook the Custom House MUSEUM SHOP for gifts with an extra feel good factor -- when you shop with us your purchases support our exhibitions, & educational programs.
Below, a submarine & tugboat escort Santa up the Thames on Friday.

Stay Safe.
Happy Holidays & a Merry Christmas to you!

150 Bank Street, New London, CT 06320 | 860-447-2501
The Custom House Maritime Museum is closed until further notice | 860-447-2501