STONINGTON, Conn. — The auction at the Stonington Historical Society's annual gala Saturday features items such as an African safari and a stay at a restored mansion and wine estate in Buenos Aires.
But possibly the most popular item up for bid is part of Stonington history — a 30-pound cannonball fired by one of the British navy ships that attacked the borough 200 years ago this August. The society is planning a variety of events to celebrate the bicentennial.
The society said that after much discussion, its Collections Committee decided to auction off one of the cannonballs in its collection.
Initially, it considered a loan or "lifetime interest" in the cannonball for the winning bidder, "but the logistics of ensuring its return became problematic."
"With no less than a dozen similar cannonballs on display and in storage and without any record of accession and/or provenance — this cannon ball is a duplicate of many others in the collections that have a clear record of ownership and origin," said the society.
Although the society believes the cannonball came from the Battle of Stonington, there is a chance it could date back to the Revolutionary War battle on Aug. 30, 1775, when the British also directed a cannonade at the town.
Over three days in August 1814, several British ships fired countless cannonballs and shells into the village, setting homes on fire. Using the two cannon now on display in Cannon Square, a small contingent of residents repelled the attacks and refused to surrender, and the British left.
The society said that as much as 50 tons of material was shot into the village during the battle, and much of it was eventually salvaged by townspeople and sold in New York as scrap.
But many residents kept some of the cannonballs as souvenirs, and over the years, new residents have found them in their gardens and even in the walls of their homes during renovations.
In addition to the cannonballs on display at the Old Lighthouse Museum, some are displayed on pillars in Wadawanuck and Cannon squares and in front of some homes.
This year's gala, called "The Cannon Ball," will be held from 6 to 11 p.m. at Stone Acres Farm, 261 N. Main St. Many borough residents sought safety at the farm during the British attack.
About 250 people are expected to attend the society's largest annual fundraising event.
The live auction will be led by Geraldine Nager, senior vice president of Sotheby's. Amid the other items are cases of wine from Argentina and Oregon, and paintings featuring scenes of Stonington Harbor and Barn Island.
An online auction hosted by the Stonington Historical Society also features many donations from local merchants and community members. It is accessible by visiting www.stoningtonhistory.org.