The Deed Records of Lyme Town Hall: Historic, Irreplaceable – and Protected by Firelock

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In a recent renovation of its town hall, Lyme, Connecticut included a Firelock Fireproof Modular Vault for secure, protected storage of priceless town records reaching back centuries.

When Lyme, Connecticut recently refurbished its town hall, a crucial element of the renovation was a Firelock Fireproof Modular Vault, providing reliable protection for Lyme’s critical current documents and its prized historic ones.

Lyme is among America’s most historic towns. Like any municipality, it must store and maintain records that include Deed Books, listing deeds for every property in the jurisdiction. Deeds govern the conveyance of real property, essential to proving and transferring land title. Chaos would result without the knowledge and authenticity that Deed Books represent.

Lyme’s Deed Books are among the oldest and most historic in America, dating to the seventeenth century. Also in the remarkable collection housed at Lyme Town Hall are local Grant Books, part of a lineage traceable to England’s original Doomsday Books. In these records were kept tallies of population, livestock, real estate and other property for centuries past.

The old records collected in Lyme – a town situated on the banks of the Connecticut River in New London County – provide a unique window into the lives of colonial Americans. These documents are fragile and irreplaceable. And the Deed Books of Lyme, forming as they do the basis of all real estate transactions in the town, have their own absolute importance.

The vault safeguards records from fire, theft, vandalism, and other major threats. It also maintains the ideal temperature and humidity control to prevent physical deterioration of the records and artifacts. (Electronic records also are protected through storage in the vault.)

“Since Lyme has such an extensive and ancient collection, dating back to the mid-1600s, selecting the vault chamber to protect those records was an extraordinarily important decision as we embarked on our town hall renovation project,” said Linda Winzer, Lyme Town Clerk. “After comparing the options available, we selected the Firelock Modular Vault. After watching the precision of the installation crew on our Firelock Vault and the quality of the materials used for all of the vault features including the Class 125 Vault Door with an automatic closing device, I am confident our records are safe.”

Lyme’s 30’4” x 16’ x 8’ climate-controlled vault was designed to fit in a newly constructed space as part of the renovation project, arranged to protect the current volume of records but also allowing future growth. The vault door opens into Winzer’s office, enabling her to oversee all entries into the vault so that the rare documents receive extra protection during normal business hours.

In the event of a fire, louver dampers and the vault door would automatically close to exclude smoke and flame. Even if a fire burned around it, internal temperatures within the vault would not rise above 125 degrees F. Day by day, close environmental control inside the vault stabilizes interior temperature and humidity, producing optimum conditions to retard the deterioration of vellum, parchment and early American paper. In helping prevent mold, mildew and other damaging changes, the vault preserves treasured records for generations to come.

Ralph Eno, the Lyme town selectman who initiated planning for the protective records vault, said he was “very pleased with the final project. Lyme’s Firelock Vault represents a huge upgrade in our protection of historical paper documents, while providing the ultimate in protection for our electronic documents and media moving forward. The technology is amazing and the cost savings versus typical masonry construction certainly makes this a very palatable option for towns with space limitations and security deficiencies in their current vaults.”

Town halls’ use of modular storage vaults is only one example of the impact such structures have on critical protection of irreplaceable historical items. Repositories such as Sabbathday Lake Shaker Museum, New Gloucester, Maine, also rely on the vaults. There the vault safeguards precious, 250-year-old collections of Shaker artifacts and records from fire, theft, intrusion and other threats that could damage or destroy irreplaceable treasures from our proud national history.

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Hugh Smith
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