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Gunn Historical Museum
5 Wykeham Road
P.O. Box 1273
Washington, CT 06793
Thursday - Saturday 10:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m.
Open Sundays 12:00 - 4:00 p.m. until Jan. 12
Stephen Bartkus, Curator firstname.lastname@example.org
Paul Fuller, Curatorial Assistant
All of our programs are free and open to the public unless otherwise stated.
There is no admission charge, but donations are greatly appreciated.
Gunn Museum Wins Three Prestigious Awards for Civil War Sesquicentennial Commemoration
Unidentified Swedish ancestors
of Janice Sjonost Burnham
Exhibits & Programs
Coming to America: Washington's Swedish ImmigrantsThis exhibition shares the little-known story of Swedish immigration to our small New England town. Known for their superior agricultural skills, 1.3 million Swedes emigrated to America during the 19th and 20th centuries, escaping conscription, famine, and poverty. Washington, Connecticut became one of their new homes, where many found employment as laborers and servants on local farms and estates owned by wealthy New Yorkers. Beginning in 1870, over one hundred Swedish families settled in town and built two churches across the street from each other. One, the Salem Covenant Church, is celebrating its 125th anniversary this year. Swedes made up 22% of Washington's population in 1910, and many of their descendants still reside in town today.
Artistic director Chris Zaima, designer Sandy Booth, and artist Keith Templeton, along with a team of other volunteers, have created a visual masterpiece. Local history will come alive as visitors step back in time and explore the lives of Washington's Swedish immigrants and their role in the community. Fascinating artifacts and photographs are on display from the Museum's collection, on loan from descendants, as well as local dealers Dawn Hill Antiques and Eleish Van Breems Antiques. The exhibit and associated programs (see below) are funded in part by a grant from the Connecticut Community Foundation, and will be up until January 12, 2014.
Thursday, May 16 at 12:00 p.m.
Agnes Bengston and other Swedish Gunnery Servants
A History of Washington's Swedish Immigrants
Gunn Museum Curator Stephen Bartkus will give a powerpoint presentation in the Wykeham Room of the Gunn Library as part of the "History Bites" Lecture Series. This program will share the fascinating, little-known story of Washington's Swedish immigrants. The exhibit "Coming to America: Washington's Swedish Immigrants" will be open for viewing in the Gunn Museum before and after this presentation. Bring a lunch; refreshments will be provided.
Saturday, June 8 at 11:00 a.m.
Walking Tour of Swede Street in Washington Depot
Gunn Museum Curator Stephen Bartkus will lead a walking tour of "Swede Street", also known as School Street, as part of the 9th Annual Connecticut Open House Day. The majority of Washington's Swedish immigrants settled on or near Swede Street in Washington Depot. This walking tour will share the history of the Swedish families and the buildings along Swede Street, beginning with the two Swedish Churches and ending at the former Swedish Hall. The exhibit "Coming to America: Washington's Swedish Immigrants" will be open for viewing in the Gunn Museum before and after the walking tour. Meet at the Washington Primary School parking lot at 11 School Street. Registration is required, as space is limited. Please call 860-868-7756 to register.
History of Sweden Lecture Series with Carol Skog:
Tuesday, June 11 at 6:30 p.m.
The Viking Era
Tuesday, June 18 at 6:30 p.m.
The Swedish Empire
Tuesday, June 25 at 6:30 p.m.
Swedish Immigrants and their Culture
Scandanavian scholar, Carol Skog, will present a three-part lecture series on the history of Sweden on Tuesdays June 11, 18 and 25 at 6:30pm in the Wykeham Room of the Gunn Library. The June 11 lecture will focus on the Glacial Age to the Vikings; June 18 will cover the development of the Swedish Empire and the royal family; and June 25 will focus on the Swedish immigrant period and Swedish culture, customs, and traditions. Traditional Swedish refreshments will be served after each lecture. The exhibit "Coming to America: Washington's Swedish Immigrants" will be open for viewing in the Gunn Museum before these lectures.
Carol Skog is of Swedish heritage and was raised in Fairfield. She studied with The Scandinavian Seminar program at Västkustens Ungdomsskolan, Ljungskile, Sweden focusing on Swedish language, culture, history, religion, social issues. Carol received her degree in Scandinavian Studies from Pacific Lutheran University in Tacoma, Washington and worked as Director's Assistant of the Nordic Heritage Museum, Seattle, WA. She is also a former Board member, at P.L.U.'s, Scandinavian Cultural Center in Tacoma, WA, a former active member of SWEA, (Swedish Women's Educational Association) in Seattle, the former President and Program Chairman of The Rhode Island Swedish Heritage Association, and the former Board Chairman of The Scandinavian Club in Fairfield, CT.
Sunday, June 23 at 1:00 p.m.
Two Centuries of Swedish Music
To celebrate Midsummer, Kendall and Ellen Svengalis will give a performance of traditional Swedish dance and folk music in the Wykeham Room of the Gunn Library. This multi-media presentation includes Bellman, Taube, Björling, Alice Babs, choral singing, ABBA, folk music, along with Swedish-American humor. The exhibit "Coming to America: Washington's Swedish Immigrants" will be open for viewing in the Gunn Museum before and after this performance.
Ken and Ellen (Haffling) Svengalis perform traditional Swedish folk songs and ballads, with voice, guitar, and violin. Together, they have performed for a number of Swedish and Scandinavian organizations and festivals in CT, NJ, NY, and RI, including the SAHS Midsummer Celebration, ScandJam, the Scandinavian Folk Festival in Jamestown, NY, Scandinavian Fest in NJ, and the Swedish Welfare Association annual dinner in CT, and numerous R.I. Swedish Heritage Association (RISHA), American Union of Swedish Singers (AUSS), and Scandinavian Club events.
Ellen, who is of Swedish descent, has been performing as a soloist at Scandinavian events for two decades. She is a soloist with the Northern Lights Singers of Fairfield, CT and of the American Union of Swedish Singers (AUSS). She is a past national secretary of the American Union of Swedish Singers.
Ken, who is of Swedish and Lithuanian descent, sang with the Verdandi Male Chorus of Providence, RI (AUSS) from 1996 to 2010, and now sings with the North Star Singers of Fairfield, CT. Ken is Vice-President of the Jussi Björling Society - USA, which was organized in 1998 to honor the career of the 20th century's greatest operatic tenor. He also serves as President of the Rhode Island Swedish Heritage Association.
Book Talk/Signing with Ann Y. Smith, Author of Ehrick K. Rossiter; Designs for Modern Living 1880-1930
Join us on Saturday, May 11 at 11:00 a.m. in the Wykeham Room as Ann Y. Smith, author, lecturer and former museum curator gives a book talk and powerpoint presentation on her recently published work, Ehrick K. Rossiter Designs for Modern Living 1880-1930.
Ehrick Rossiter practiced architecture in New York City from 1877 until 1921, working first with partner Frank A. Wright and later with John Muller. He designed residential, institutional and public buildings in New England, New York, New Jersey and Maryland, many of which are now designated as historic properties. Among Rossiter's architectural designs are 25 estate homes, referred to as "summer cottages", and artist's studios in Washington, Connecticut, most in the Queen Anne ("shingle style") and colonial revival styles. Rossiter was a member of the American Institute of Architects and the Architectural League of New York. He retired in 1921 and subsequently made his home in Washington, Connecticut.
"This book is a window into the building of our nation during its most expansive era. The styles, the client networks, the construction costs and the social mandates that influenced the layout of the interiors, form the back story of this account of the architect, his buildings and his clients.Ann Y. Smith was a museum curator in Connecticut for 30 years and an adjunct lecturer on American Architectural History at the University of Connecticut. A popular public speaker, she has published widely on the cultural history of northwest Connecticut. Copies will be available for purchase at the signing. For more information, contact Stephen Bartkus, Curator, Gunn Museum at 860-868-7756 or email@example.com
Nearly 200 illustrations document this comprehensive story, including dozens of glass plate images of the buildings when they were new and floorplans published in contemporary periodicals. The 50 color images, including many taken from a rare original copy of Rossiter's 1883 book, capture Rossiter's paint schemes, offering an authentic guide to today's owners of period homes."
Ann Y. Smith
We participated in the statewide commemoration of the 150th Anniversary of the Civil War. Our exhibit, Letters from the Battlefield: Stories of Washington's Civil War Soldiers, closed on October 30, 2011 but our research from the exhibit can now be found through the link above. We are continuing our research, and new information will be added to the site. If you have material on soldiers from Washington and New Preston to share, please contact us.
In 2011 the Gunn Museum's Annual History Project with the Shepaug Valley Middle School 8th Grade was supported by a grant from the S. E. & L. C. Backhus Foundation and resulted in the student produced book New Preston Soldiers in the Civil War: Through Their Letters.
For more information about Connecticut and the Civil War, please explore:
the Central Connecticut State University Civil War site our YouTube channel and these blogs: The Civil War Letters of Gunnery Student Charley Goodyear The Soldiers of Washington Connecticut
In the News... The museum was featured in an article in ONE New England online magazine.
And the museum was commended for its collaboration with Shepaug Valley Middle School by the Connecticut Humanities Council.
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