The Hygienic Artist’s Co-op and Galleries is housed in a former ship’s provision store and crew’s quarters for the once prominent whaling business in New London, CT. Built in 1844 by Captain Harris, a member of New London’s prominent whaling families, the building was later a hotel. In 1919, The Hygienic Restaurant was opened on the main floor and was a popular 24-hour eatery in the community until 1985. After years of vacancy, artists who had started a yearly art exhibition called the Hygienic Art Exhibitions rallied a grassroots effort to save the building and purchased it in 1998. Our own architect Chris Widmer creatively re-designed the building as artists’ residences and art galleries.
The architectural design called for preserving the diner section of the restaurant to be re-used as a gallery space with art work displayed around the counter, stainless steel equipment and booths. There would also be 3 additional gallery spaces for different displays, two at ground level and one in the basement. The upper studio/ living floors were designed with two “flats” on the second floor and four, bi-level units on the third and fourth floors. A second stair was incorporated internally leading to the rear yard, which was designed as a sculpture garden. The units have an abundance of light and are open in plan to allow maximum flexibility for the artists.
In a move which at first was controversial but has since become a welcome addition to the fabric of the city, an artist from the community was commissioned to paint a mural on the blank wall which was highly visible from Bank Street. Later, sculptures were added to the the outdoor space adjacent to the building, creating the Hygienic Sculpture Gardens and Outdoor Theater Art Park, now used for various performances and other events.
This was the first project of its type in Eastern Connecticut. The project received the 2000 Restoration Award from New London Landmarks and the 2000 Community Development Award.
Tags: adaptive reuse, artist housing, Chris Widmer, Community Development Award, Hygienic Artist's Co-op, Hygienic Restaurant, Karin Patriquin Architect, New Haven architects, New London Landmarks, New London restaurant, renovation, restoration