Historic water tower to get 21st-century use

MILFORD >> A one-of-a-kind, historic water tower that used to pump water at Lauralton Hall has been named for a graduate who will fund its transformation into an outdoor classroom to create a model for a state-of-the-art STEAM curriculum.

Alyce Merwin, 90, graduated from the girls’ Catholic high school in 1943, and went on to get a bachelor’s degree in chemistry when it was unusual for women to focus on the sciences.

“While it’s all well and good to leave your estate” to a place like Lauralton, it’s even better “to be alive and see the money at work,” she said.

Merwin was a lab technician at Milford Hospital, where she eventually specialized in histology and then supervised the laboratory.

The education she received at Lauralton, as well as a special teacher, “inspired” her interest in the sciences, she said.

The school plans to create a model curriculum — science, technology, engineering, mathematics and art — using the water tower.

The structure was built in 1864 to pump water to the private mansion and carriage house on High Street.

It was ruled by the Connecticut Trust for Historic Preservation to be the only one of its kind, in architecture and engineering, in North America, according to school officials.

The STEAM projects will look at architecture, and the physics of providing energy resources, water collection, irrigation, environmental benefits and sustainability, the officials said.

The school also has plans to convert the nearby carriage barn into a Center for the Visual and Performing Arts.

School President Antoinette Iadarola called Merwin a “science pioneer” and “lifelong learner,” who also has many other interests, including American Indian artifacts and competitive golf, and is a widely acclaimed needlepoint expert.

After the bronze letters bearing Merwin’s name were unveiled, the Rev. Gerry Blaszczak, a priest from Fairfield University, blessed the water tower’s brick structure, then gave Merwin what he called “a little shot” of the special water, as well.