May 10, 2024

The Guilford Foundation Kicks Off a Seven-Day Save the Shack Challenge

In support of the community’s rally to restore the iconic Grass Island Red Shack, The Guilford Foundation (TGF) is launching the Save the Shack Challenge Grant in partnership with the Guilford Preservation Alliance (GPA). Over seven days (Monday, May 13 to Monday, May 20), TGF will match donations to relocate and repair the Red Shack dollar for dollar up to $7,500. 

The estimated cost to repair the structure, which has been sitting in the same place on the East River for the last 73 years, is $75,000. The Guilford Preservation Alliance quickly stepped up to coordinate the donations. The community can contribute through a PayPal donation link on the GPA website. To donate, click here.

The Guilford Foundation Executive Director Liza Janssen Petra commented, “We’re grateful to the GPA for its quick action to preserve our beloved Shack. Close to $19,000 has been raised to date thanks to incredibly generous neighbors and friends. We believe in the power of our community and hope to tap into the momentum with our Save the Shack Challenge Grant. It’s an opportunity for those who haven’t contributed to double their impact and show support for the iconic structure.”  

The Town of Guilford allocated $15,000 in ARPA funding in November 2023 to move the Grass Island Shack to address the erosion issue. The town secured permits, collaborated with regulatory agencies to ensure no impact on endangered species, and engaged contractors and engineers to coordinate the relocation. On April 11, a storm with extremely high winds and a lunar tide pushed the Shack off its pilings and into the water.

“It’s unfortunate that Mother Nature beat us to the punch. However, in a classic Guilford response, contractors Tom Tolla of Construction Services Unlimited and Mike Donofrio of East Guilford Construction volunteered to move the structure away from the water’s edge to safety and install temporary pilings,” explained First Selectman Matt Hoey. “It’s heartwarming to see the outpouring of community support for preserving this landmark for future generations.” 

GPA Treasurer Tim Sperry added, “The Guilford Preservation Alliance’s mission is to help conserve and protect historic buildings.  The Red Shack is undoubtedly an important part of our town’s history. We’re honored to spearhead the fundraising effort and excited to partner with TGF on their Save the Shack Matching Grant. We hope this campaign creates momentum to reach our $75,000 fundraising goal.”

The Guilford Foundation’s Save the Shack Challenge Grant closes at midnight on May 20. All funds raised during the seven days will be matched dollar for dollar up to $7,500. Contributions are tax-deductible and will go directly to the Town of Guilford to restore and preserve the Grass Island Red Shack. To donate, click here. 

History of the Grass Island Shack
The Shack is considered iconic and one of the East Coast’s most photographed buildings. The Monroe Cottage was named after the family that had built the summer house in 1914. It was destroyed by fire in 1936. The existing structure was built in 1940 when it was moved to its current location. The family moved back to the cottage in the 1950s and sold the building and seven acres of Grass Island land for $15,000 in September 1965.

Maintenance has been a community effort coordinated by the Guilford Parks and Recreation Department over the years. In 2017, a local student, John Markowski, led the renovation of the structure for his Eagle Scout project. The Guilford Foundation supported John’s efforts with a challenge grant and established the Grass Island Shack Fund to offset future maintenance costs in perpetuity.

Click here to watch a GCTV interview with local historian Joel Helander, who shares information about the history of the Grass Island Shack.


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