Past Exhibits & EventsThe Gunn Historical Museum presents an ever-changing view of local history. Here is just a partial listing of recent and past exhibitions and events:
St. Knut's Day Exhibit Closing Reception | New Year's Tea Party | St. Lucia's Day Swedish Fairytale | Swedish Dala Horse Craft for Kids | Swedish Music and Culture | 6th Annual Washington Green Cemetery Tour | Holiday House History Hike | Beginning Your Swedish Genealogy | Elements of Swedish Design | Book Discussion: Hanna's Daughters | Swedish Film Series | History of the Vasa Order | Stoneware Exhibit & Programs | Shepaug School Civil War Exhibit | History of the Shepaug Railroad | From the Archives | Putnam's Revolutionary War Encampment | Rochambeau in Connecticut | Sound Rising | Magical Christmas Horse Holiday Show | Civil War Anniversary Exhibit | Mallory Murders | Washington Winter Wonderland | Lake Waramaug | Jerome Titus' Civil War Diary | Cemetery Tour | Christmas Through the Ages | Victorian Tea Party | Paranormal Lecture | Washington Club | Scrapbook Exhibit & Programs | Washington's Emergency Services | GML Centennial | Wedding Dresses | Cogswell Papers | Abner Mitchell | Washington Art Association |
Women at Work: Harriet Beecher Stowe's Connection to The Gunnery May 15, 2014
Olivia Judd, the 2013-14 Gunn Scholar at The Gunnery, gave a powerpoint presentation in the Wykeham Room as part of the "History Bites" Lecture Series.
The oldest school in town is The Gunnery, which was not only founded as an excellent independent school, but also a platform for antislavery activism. Harriet Beecher Stowe and Henry Ward Beecher, both nationally known abolitionists, sent their children to The Gunnery in the 1850s and 1860s. Ms. Judd will look into the relationship of the Stowe, Beecher and Gunn families, and the impact they made on The Gunnery, Washington and the nation as a whole.
"History Bites" is an annual ten-week lunchtime lecture series about topics of local history at different heritage sites throughout Northwestern Connecticut. All lectures, which are free to the public, will be held at noon on Thursdays. Attendees are invited to bring their own lunch, and beverages and dessert will be provided by the hosting organization. Reservations are requested but not required. The theme for this year's series is "The Way We Worked" and will explore the past, present and future of work in the lives of Connecticut residents. The History Bites lecture series is part of Connecticut at Work, a year-long conversation on the past, present and future of work life in Connecticut created by Connecticut Humanities. Various types of work will be discussed in the programs and will include topics pertaining to industry, agriculture, tourism, and the antiques trade. The 2014 History Bites series is sponsored by the Connecticut Humanities Council and the Connecticut Community Foundation.
Click here to view the full listing of 2014 History Bites lectures.
Unidentified Swedish ancestors
of Janice Sjonost Burnham
Coming to America: Washington's Swedish Immigrants, May 2013 January 12, 2014This exhibition shared 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, created a visual masterpiece. Local history came alive as visitors stepped back in time and explored the lives of Washington's Swedish immigrants and their role in the community. Fascinating artifacts and photographs were 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) were funded in part by a grant from the Connecticut Community Foundation.
St. Knut's Day Exhibit Closing Reception January 12, 2014A closing reception was held for the exhibit "Coming to America: Washington's Swedish Immigrants" in the Gunn Museum. Traditional Swedish holiday refreshments were served in this fitting end to our exhibit.
The Swedes, Finns, and Norwegians ritualize the end of Christmas with the honoring of St. Knut or Tjugondag Knut which translates into the 20th Day of Knut or the 20th day after Christmas Eve. On St. Knut's day, the Christmas tree is ransacked of all the edibles and after the lights and non-edible decorations are taken down and stored, the tree is literally kicked to the curb. Many set the tree ablaze for a great outdoor bonfire, and have one last round of singing and dancing.
The origin of St. Knut's begins in Denmark, where St. Knut, more commonly known as King Canute IV, ruled Denmark from 1080 to 1086 and claimed the throne of England. He issued laws to protect the weak, orphans, widows, and foreigners, tried to enforce the collection of tithes, and is honored as a saint for his virtue and generosity. Martyred in St. Albans Church in Jutland during a peasant uprising, his death is seen as the end of the Viking Age. King Knut proclaimed that Christmas should last for 20 days. In Sweden his feast day is the traditional day to discard the Christmas tree and end the season's festivities.
New Year's Tea Party January 4, 2014We rang in the New Year with an old-fashioned Victorian Tea Party at the Gunn Museum. The Museum was decorated for the holidays and visitors had the opportunity to view the spectacular exhibit, "Coming to America: Washington's Swedish Immigrants," and socialize with friends in a festive setting. Guests were asked to bring their favorite tea cup, and we provided the rest. The event was free and open to the public.
St. Lucia's Day Swedish Fairytale December 29, 2013
This event kicked off with Christmas music, followed by a fairytale discussion and mini Lucia pageant.
Carol Skog, local author of Swedish descent, gave a presentation on and signed copies of her new book, Enchantment Ädventyr, H.C.A. and I Understand, in the Wykeham Room of the Library. Carol focused on Swedish Christmas customs and concluded with a mini Lucia pageant.
Lorraine Bergstrom, of Covenant Village in Cromwell and cousin to Leroy Anderson, the renowned composer of "Sleigh Ride," performed Swedish Christmas music on both piano and violin, before and during the event.
After Carol's book presentation, the fantasy journey continued with a miniature procession of Sankta Lucia. Carol's granddaughter Lily Wiedemann of Woodbury portrayed Lucia, joined by her friends Ella Viau and Fiona Pedro as attendants, Wylden Abraham and Isaac Brenneman as Starboys and Connor Viau as a young Tomte. Lucia invited all to enjoy the Swedish refreshments including Lucia buns and Pepparkakor.
"Enchantment Ädventyr", is a creative blending of Swedish folklore elements, into and around reality including a "genealogical" historical lifestyle within holiday customs. The appendix includes three holiday menus with select recipes enjoyed by the book's characters and Carol's tips on researching your heritage with Resource References. The Hickory Stick Bookshop sold the books, and Carol was available to sign them.
The exhibit, Coming to America: Washington's Swedish Immigrants, was open for viewing.
Swedish Dala Horse Craft for Kids November 23, 2013Participants took a tour of the Museum's Swedish immigrant exhibit. After seeing all the beautifully decorated Dala Horses on display and learning about their significance, children decorated a dala horse ornament to take home.
A Dala Horse is a traditional carved, painted wooden horse statuette originating in the Swedish province Dalarna. In the old days the Dala horse was mostly used as a toy for children; in modern times it has become a symbol of Dalarna, as well as Sweden in general. Several different types of Dala horses are made, with distinguishing features common to the locality of the site where they are produced. The stoutly carved red horses with a harness in white, green, yellow and blue have become much more common and widespread than others.
Swedish Music and Culture: A Musician's Journey Through Scandinavia November 17, 2013Katie Trautz, a native Vermont fiddler who has toured nationally and internationally sharing traditional music and original folk songs, gave a performance of Swedish music in the library's Wykeham Room.
Traditional Swedish music is known for the rich harmonies expressed by twin fiddles, lilting polska rhythms, and the thematic play on light and dark. These are the motifs that drew the Vermont-based fiddle player, Katie Trautz, to Scandinavia. Her travels landed her at an intensive musical immersion on a farm north of Stockholm, where traditional music and culture are still thriving. After a visit with one of the country's most renowned folk artists, a journey through the Fjordlands of Norway, and a stop at a small venue along the way to give a performance, Katie brought her travels to life with a demonstration of Swedish fiddling, storytelling and imagery.
Katie Trautz (www.katietrautz.com) has released numerous albums, two of which have won "best traditional album of the year" in the state of Vermont. Katie plays fiddle, guitar and banjo, crossing genres with her varying ensembles. Her bands include: Mayfly, Wooden Dinosaur, and Kick 'em Jenny Stringband. She has studied with some of the greatest fiddle players in the US, including Dirk Powell, Pete Sutherland, James Bryan, Jimmy Tripplett, and Bruce Molsky. Katie has played alongside and shared the stage with many well-known bands including: Aoife O'Donovan Band, Brittany Haas & Lauren Rioux, Dirk Powell and Riley Baugus, Deadly Gentlemen, Sheesham and Lotus, David Wax Museum, Matt and Shannon Heaton, Rusty Belle, Michael Chorney and Dollar General, Brown Bird, Devil Makes Three, 4tet, Pete Sutherland, Brown Bird, and many others. Katie is also the co-founder of the non-profit folk music school "The Summit School of Traditional Music and Culture" based in Montpelier, VT.
6th Annual Washington Green Cemetery Tour October 25, 2013
Costumed guides led groups of visitors every ten minutes from the Gunn Museum to the Washington Green Cemetery where the town's departed citizens were stationed at their gravestones to tell their tales of tragedy and triumph. Tour groups followed a magical path of 1,000 luminaries spanning a quarter mile through the shadowy cemetery and heard the lively and dramatic stories of Washington's Swedish immigrants. The costumed character actors stationed at each gravestone shared the perilous tales of their travels to America, their work as domestics on estates in Washington owned by wealthy New Yorkers, and so much more.
Tours departed from the Museum in groups of fifteen people every 10 minutes between 6:30 and 8:30 p.m. and last approximately 45 minutes. Numbers for the tours were handed out at the Museum starting at 6:15pm. A Halloween themed movie was shown, and treats were served, in the library's Wykeham Room as tour groups waited to depart. The Museum was open for viewing of the exhibit, "Coming to America: Washington's Swedish Immigrants."
Holiday House History Hike October 20, 2013
Gunn Museum Curator Stephen Bartkus led a hike to the ruins of the Holiday House in the Steep Rock Preserve. Meet at the Steep Rock parking lot near the riding ring on River Road.
The Holiday House was a magnificent hotel overlooking the Shepaug River that once stood on the hillside above the riding ring at Steep Rock Preserve. Owned by Edward Van Ingen, and staffed by several Swedish immigrants, Holiday House was conceived as a vacation retreat for working class women from New York City. During this historical trip back in time, we explored the grandeur of this philanthropic retreat and examined how it impacted the lives of so many visitors. The hike was approximately 0.75-mile round-trip.
Beginning Your Swedish Genealogy October 12, 2013
Dr. William B. Fagerstrom, of the University of Delaware, presented this program in the library's Wykeham Room. This program was geared toward both beginners, thinking about starting to investigate their family tree, and experts who have hit a roadblock in their research. Participants learned how to start a search and the best genealogy resources available to research ancestors in Sweden from a professional genealogist. For the past seventeen years Dr. Fagerstrom has been the President or Secretary of the Swedish Genealogy Club of the American Swedish Historical Society in Philadelphia. He is also the author of A Beginners Guide to Swedish Genealogy. He has presented the program Beginning Scandinavian Genealogy at the Scanfest in Budd Lake, NJ for the last 16 years.
The Elements of Swedish Design October 6, 2013
Rhonda Eleish and Edie van Breems, noted Scandinavian style experts, gave a lecture and signed copies of their new book, Reflections on Swedish Interiors, in the library's Wykeham Room. Rhonda and Edie discussed the fundamentals of Swedish design, touching upon functionality, light, preservation, art, eclecticism, color, sense of place and a deep reverence for nature. They also explored how Swedish interior design expresses a community of ideas that is no longer bound by simple nationalistic borders and is being embraced in today's homes.
Rhonda Eleish and Edie van Breems are the founders of Eleish van Breems Ltd., suppliers of fine Scandinavian furniture, antiques and custom interior design services. They started their company in 1998 with a mission to, wherever possible, introduce a clean, elegant, and fresh approach to interiors, all with a Scandinavian essence. Eleish and van Breems are the authors of two bestselling Scandinavian interior design books, Swedish Interiors (2006, Gibbs Smith Publishing) and Swedish Country Interiors (2009, Gibbs Smith Publishing), with their third book, Reflections on Swedish Interiors (2013, Gibbs Smith) just released this Fall. The work of Eleish van Breems, Ltd has been featured in House Beautiful, Elle Decor, Veranda, Glamour, Country Living, Gods & Goddar, The New York Times, among others. They have appeared on This Old House, Martha Stewart Living and HGTV-Canada.
Hanna's Daughters Book Discussion September 26, 2013A discussion of the book, Hanna's Daughters by Marianne Fredriksson, led by local Swedish descendant Jennifer (Johnson) Whittlesey, took place in the library's Wykeham Room. Books were available to pick up and read from the Gunn Library.
Set against the backdrop of the 1870s Swedish-Norwegian Union this luminous story follows three generations of Swedish women a grandmother, a mother, and a daughter whose lives are linked through a century of great love and great loss. Resonating with truth and revelation, this moving novel deftly explores the often difficult but enduring ties between mothers and daughters; the sacrifices, compromises, and rewards in the relationships between men and women; and the patterns of emotion that repeat themselves through generations. If you have ever wanted to connect with the past, or rediscover family, Hanna's Daughters will strike a chord with you.
Swedish Film Series:The epic film, The Emigrants, and its sequel The New Land, are Swedish films based on Vilhelm Moberg's novels and were shown in the library's Wykeham Room. Both are English language version films, without subtitles. The Emigrants tells the story of a Swedish group that emigrates from Smaland, a small rural farming community in southern Sweden, to Minnesota, United States in the 19th century. The film follows the hardships the group faces in Sweden and on their difficult ten-week journey to America. The Emigrants, starring Max von Sydow and Liv Ullmann, was nominated for 5 Academy Awards and won for best Foreign Language Film and Best Actress at the Golden Globes.
The Emigrants September 23, 2013 & The New Land September 30, 2013
The New Land chronicles the Swedish immigrants struggle to start a new life in America, marked by courage, faith, and determination, as they are confronted with many threats and challenges, including the start of the Civil War and the uprising of the Indians.
A History of the Vasa Order of America September 15, 2013Paul W. Ljunggren gave a talk on the history of the Vasa Order of America in the library's Wykeham Room. The Vasa Order of America, originally a fraternal organization for Swedish immigrants, was founded in Connecticut in 1896 and now has lodges across North America. The Vasa now has six local lodges in Connecticut, located in New Haven, Hartford, New Britain, Manchester, Stamford and Danbury, and a park in Meriden which serves as the focal point for their cultural events. The former Vasa Order Local Lodge Ankaret (Anchor) #380, of New Milford, CT, at one point totaled 133 members, some of whom were Swedes from Washington, CT. Today the Vasa Order welcomes men and women of Scandinavian roots and their spouses, who would like to rediscover the traditions of their forefathers and promote Swedish heritage and culture.
Paul also discussed the contributions of Swedish Americans from the northeastern USA, the patronymic family naming system in Sweden, and the Swedish Army naming system which has resulted in names such as Ljunggren.
Paul W. Ljunggren is Past District Master of the Vasa Order of America District Lodge Connecticut #1 having served as District Master from 2005 to 2011. Paul grew up in a Swedish American household in the New Haven area. His father's parents were from the provinces of Smaland and Skane. His father was born in Vaxsjo Smaland. His mother's parents were from the city of Varberg in the province of Halland. The Swedish language and traditions, as well as the Vasa Order of America and Vasa Park in Meriden, CT were present in his life at a young age. It was upon returning to Connecticut after military assignments and work that took him around the USA for over 20 years that he returned to his Swedish American Heritage and Vasa. After return to Connecticut he joined Local Lodge Diana Birger Jarl #3 eventually becoming the lodge chairman. He presently serves as Chairman of Local Lodge Diana Birger Jarl #3.
Two Centuries of Swedish Music June 23, 2013
To celebrate Midsummer, Kendall and Ellen Svengalis gave a performance of traditional Swedish dance and folk music in the Wykeham Room of the Gunn Library. This multi-media presentation included Bellman, Taube, Björling, Alice Babs, choral singing, ABBA, folk music, along with Swedish-American humor. The exhibit "Coming to America: Washington's Swedish Immigrants" was 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.
History of Sweden Lecture Series with Carol Skog:
The Viking Era June 11, 2013
The Swedish Empire June 18, 2013
Swedish Immigrants and their Culture June 25, 2013
Scandinavian scholar, Carol Skog, presented a three-part lecture series on the history of Sweden on Tuesdays June 11, 18 and 25 in the Wykeham Room of the Gunn Library. The June 11 lecture focused on the Glacial Age to the Vikings; June 18 covered the development of the Swedish Empire and the royal family; and June 25 focused on the Swedish immigrant period and Swedish culture, customs, and traditions. Traditional Swedish refreshments were served after each lecture. The exhibit "Coming to America: Washington's Swedish Immigrants" was 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.
Walking Tour of Swede Street in Washington Depot June 8, 2013
Agnes Bengston and other Swedish Gunnery Servants
Gunn Museum Curator Stephen Bartkus led 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 shared 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" was open for viewing in the Gunn Museum before and after the walking tour. Attendees met at the Washington Primary School parking lot at 11 School Street.
A History of Washington's Swedish Immigrants May 16, 2013
Gunn Museum Curator Stephen Bartkus gave 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" was open for viewing in the Gunn Museum before and after this presentation.Refreshments were provided.
Book Talk/Signing with Ann Y. Smith, Author of Ehrick K. Rossiter; Designs for Modern Living 1880-1930
On May 11, 2013 Ann Y. Smith, author, lecturer and former museum curator gave 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.
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
1747 George II Baby House
from the collection of Allerton Cushman III
It's a Small, Small World: Dollhouses and Miniatures
Held over by popular demand, our precious holiday exhibition enthralled visitors with a fantasy world of miniature houses, furnishings, toys, and dolls. Under the guidance of artistic director Chris Zaima, designer Sandy Booth and John Pitts, the former scenic artist at The Metropolitan Opera in New York City, this whimsical exhibit captured the holiday spirit for children of all ages and broke all attendance records at the museum.
The enchanting display featured over fifty unique handcrafted dollhouses and room boxes, spanning three centuries, from the Gunn Museum, Washington residents and private collectors across the Northeast. A number of dollhouse treasures, discovered in local attics, basements and barns, saw the light of day for the first time in decades in this exhibit. The oldest item on display was a very rare George II English Baby House built in 1747. Some other notable artifacts in the exhibit were 1890s Moritz Gottschalk dollhouses, elaborate 19th century German "room boxes", a 1920s Tynietoy dollhouse with original Tynietoy furnishings, an early 20th century British Tri-ang dollhouse, a Mt. Vernon dollhouse built in 1932 for the bicentennial of George Washington's birth, Louis Marx tin houses, among many others. Also included in this exhibit was the work of local dollhouse craftsmen and miniature artisans Rick Maccione of Dollhouse Mansions, Susan Anthony Klein and Teresa Layman of of Teresa Layman Designs.
October 26, 2012: 5th Annual Washington Green Cemetery TourThe 5th Annual Washington Green Cemetery Tour had a special Gunnery theme. Costumed guides led groups of visitors from the Gunn Museum to the Washington Green Cemetery where the town's departed citizens were stationed at their gravestones to tell their tales of tragedy and triumph. Tour groups followed a path of 1,000 luminaries spanning a quarter of a mile through the shadowy cemetery and heard the dramatic experiences of past students and faculty from the Gunnery. Features of this magical theatrical evening included tales of murder, town controversies, the Titanic disaster, Civil War soldiers, abolitionists and more.
This jug is one of only three extant Bennington vessels made by J&E Norton depicting a horse (circa 1850). It is among over 100 very rare pieces of stoneware displayed in this exhibit, and is owned by Edwin and Thayer Hochberg.
Stoneware Exhibit & Programs, 2012The following monthly programs coordinated with this exhibit:
The Birds of Bennington Presentation | Leslie Keno on Hidden Treasures | Guy Wolff Pottery Studio Tour | Archaeological Evidence of Early Stoneware in NYC | Manhattan Stoneware Lecture and Appraisal Event
"Art from the Earth: Early American Stoneware" featured over one hundred pieces of uniquely decorated stoneware, made in the Northeast between 1780 and 1880, assembled by Edwin and Thayer Hochberg, in addition to pieces from David Behnke & Paul Doherty, and Edward & Judith Kelz.
Stoneware, known for its durability, was considered the perfect material for making sturdy household necessities such as jugs, crocks, jars, pots, pans and became a staple of American life during the nineteenth century. The elaborate and unusual cobalt blue designs on stoneware are the reason these once utilitarian goods are now cherished as Folk Art. The clay also lent itself to the production of more decorative items such as dolls, vases, ink bottles and figurines which are included in this display.
Led by artistic director Chris Zaima and designer Sandy Booth this exhibit featured wall murals by local artists Keith Templeton and John Pitts, the former scenic artist at the Metropolitan Opera in New York City. Large and elaborate examples of stoneware were creatively displayed on beautiful antique tables, cupboards and armoires from Monique Shay Antiques of Woodbury.
The exhibit was funded in part by a grant from The Community Foundation of Northwest Connecticut, in collaboration with the Connecticut Humanities Council. It was on display through October 14, 2012. The following special programs delved into the varied histories and characteristics of stoneware.
May 5, 2012: The Birds of Bennington PresentationDr. Steven Leder of Yale University gave a slide presentation "The Birds of Bennington" in the Wykeham Room of the Gunn Library. Steven discussed the elaborate and unusual bird decorations found on nineteenth century stoneware made in Bennington, Vermont. Steven has been collecting and writing about stoneware for over 25 years and is the co-author of the definitive book entitled, The Birds of Bennington, that describes the many bird designs on the stoneware from the Norton family pottery of Bennington, VT. His presentation covered the relative rarity of the bird decorations with respect to the design, form and size they are found on. New information regarding who may have decorated the stoneware vessels was discussed, as well as the prices the wares originally sold for. Copies of his book were for sale.
June 10, 2012: Leslie Keno of Antiques Roadshow Lecture on "Hidden Treasures"
Leslie Keno, one of the foremost experts in the field of antique arts and furniture, presented a lecture entitled "Hidden Treasures," discussing his adventures in the antiques business and sharing some of his most memorable discoveries.
Leslie and his twin brother Leigh first started in the antiques business as teenagers collecting American stoneware. The dynamic and engaging brothers became celebrities on PBS's highest rated series, Antiques Roadshow and have been part of its team of appraisers since the series began in 1996. Leslie Keno has been a Senior Vice President and Director of American Furniture and Decorative Arts at Sotheby's since 1983. Throughout his tenure, he has cultivated relationships with leading Americana buyers, as well as with a broad range of art collectors, including board members and directors of institutions, renowned private collectors and prominent dealers. With his brother Leigh, he published Hidden Treasures: Searching for Masterpieces of American Furniture in 2000. The Kenos were awarded the National Humanities Medal by the President of the United States in 2005 for their contributions to the Americana field. Leslie graduated from Williams College with Honors in American Art and was a Fellow at Historic Deerfield.
August 4, 2012: Guy Wolff Pottery Studio Tour and Demonstration
Renowned local craftsman and master potter Guy Wolff will gave a tour of his early American stoneware collection, and demonstrate how he makes hand-thrown pots in his shop in Bantam.
Guy is a traditional potter who has operated Guy Wolff Pottery since 1971 and is an authority on the production of simple and beautiful historically inspired pottery. His apprenticeships were at older pottery shops in North Carolina, Wales and Northern England. Guy has designed and produced garden pottery for many of America 's most prestigious estates, botanical gardens, museums and historic homes including the U.S. Botanical Gardens, Bartram's, Monticello, New York Botanical Gardens, Martha Stewart, The White House, The Atlanta History Museum and The Japanese Folk Museum. Guy Wolff's limited, highly sought after studio collections are hand thrown by the master himself, individually stamped and signed.
The architecture of the piece is his passion and is why he can look at 18th and 19th century English flowerpots and centuries old Asian vases with the same eye and discern "What makes this antique pot so wonderful?" The answer always comes back to the architectural integrity of the pot and the potter's reverence and knowledge of the materials he is using. The potter knew where he was going in the making of that particular pot. This is where traditional craftsmanship is born: The knowledge of a particular material and its attributes after years of working with it and respecting the true potential of that material. See Guy in our video, below.
September 23, 2012: Archaeological Evidence of Early Stoneware in New York City
Dr. Meta Janowitz, a noted archaeologist from the African American Burial Ground project in Manhattan, presented the lecture, "Archaeological Evidence of Early Stoneware in New York City."
The African Burial Ground project began in 1991, when during excavation work for a new federal office building, workers discovered the skeletal remains of the first of more than 400 men, women and children. Further investigation revealed that during the 17th and 18th centuries, free and enslaved Africans were buried in a 6.6 acre burial ground in lower Manhattan outside the boundaries of the settlement of New Amsterdam, which would become New York. Over the decades, the unmarked cemetery was covered over by development and landfill. Today the site is a National Monument featuring a distinctive memorial that commemorates the story of the African Burial Ground the single most important, historic urban archaeological project undertaken in the United States.
Dr. Janowitz has worked as an archaeologist with a specialty in material culture studies, in particular ceramics, for over thirty years. She analyzed and inventoried the stonewares excavated at the African Burial Ground project. This project was significant to the study of American-made salt-glazed stonewares because it was the first (and to date only) large-scale excavation of kiln wasters from eighteenth-century German-tradition stoneware potters in America. Dr. Janowitz discussed the archaeological project, the history of the Crolius and Remmey potters which were located adjacent to the African American Burial Ground, and what was learned about the wares of these potters from the excavations. A significant finding of this archaeological project was that vessels heretofore attributed to Germany, based on their forms and decorations, were actually made here in America.
October 13, 2012: Manhattan Stoneware Lecture and Appraisal Event
Brandt and Mark Zipp of Crocker Farm, the nation's leading auction house of American stoneware and redware pottery, presented the lecture "Manhattan Stoneware, 1795-1820," followed by a free appraisal event, where the Zipps gave verbal appraisals of attendees' stoneware and redware.
In 1795, four of the most important stoneware potters in American history were all working in lower Manhattan, around a place called "Potter's Hill." In 1820, two were still there, two had moved on: one to Baltimore where he took the American stoneware craft to what could be called its zenith and one to the west coast of Africa. The story of these potters during that quarter of a century and beyond is amongst the most interesting in the history of the American stoneware craft. This lecture discussed the life and work of Clarkson Crolius, John Remmey III, Henry Remmey, and Thomas W. Commeraw the latter a free African-American potter who worked on Manhattan's lower east side.
Brandt and Mark Zipp are principals in Crocker Farm, Inc., the nation's leading auction house of American stoneware and redware pottery, located in Maryland. Their research and writings are consistent contributions to the study of American utilitarian ceramics. The book Brandt is authoring on Thomas W. Commeraw is one of the most anticipated works to be published on the topic of American stoneware.
Shepaug School Civil War Exhibit Samuel Jay's Story
The Shepaug Middle School's exhibit, "Life Through Letters: Samuel Jay's Story," commemorated Washington Civil War soldier Samuel Jay Nettleton of the 8th Connecticut Regiment was displayed in the entrance mall of Shepaug Valley School from May 14 - June 11, 2012. The exhibit traced the life of Samuel Jay Nettleton, from his perspective, and his journey through the War. Civil War letters, pictures and artifacts from the Gunn Museum were creatively used by the students to explore his life and share his stories.
This exhibit was part of the national, award-winning annual history project with the Gunn Museum, now in its 6th year, that teaches history to students using local primary source documents from the Gunn Museum. Eighty-six 8th grade social studies students at Shepaug School transcribed (forty) letters by this civil war soldier, and researched his life. Their research included family genealology, an oral history interview with Samuel Nettleton's 103-year-old granddaughter Edith Nettleton, a field trip to the Washington Cemetery and the Nettleton Family Homestead. The students also compiled their transcriptions, original research and interpretation, consisting of poems, essays and illustrations in a book. Copies of their book are for sale at the school and the museum.
Shepaug Railroad Crew - April 19, 1906 (Click to enlarge.)
April 17: History of the Shepaug RailroadBob Devine, the last living employee of the Shepaug Railroad, discussed his memories of working for the railroad that came through Washington Depot.
The Shepaug, Litchfield, and Northern Railroad was a short independent railroad that was chartered as the Shepaug Valley Railroad in 1868. It operated as the Litchfield Division of the New York, New Haven and Hartford Railroad until being abandoned in 1948. Much of the line, which stretched from Hawleyville to Litchfield, remains in place as rail trails to this day. Bob was the last to work on this line and will tell his story of working on this historic railroad as a young man.
Bob Devine, formerly of Washington, has resided in New Fairfield since 1951. Bob has led a fascinating life as a self-taught photographer, Korean War veteran, pilot, race car champion, and carpenter. Bob is a living piece of Americana and textbook of local history. This special discussion was attended by an overflow crowd!
From the Archives
On the first Monday of each month at 10:00 a.m., staff from the Gunn Museum present a topic from the Museum's archives at the Washington Senior Center. We share photos, artifacts, and stories and reminisce about Washington's history.
1886: Washington Green with Woodruff House, the Episcopal Rectory, the Chadwick's House (before restoration) and the Congregational meeting house.
April 2nd: During the nineteenth century Washington was home to many small industries, located on practically every brook and stream, producing a great variety of household implements. Washington Depot was then known as Factory Hollow due to the large number of factories located there. We read and dicussed "Old Time Industries in Washington" written in 1915 by Edith Heath Rossiter and learned about the industrial heritage of Washington during this special presentation.
March 5th: The reading was "A Sketch of Daniel N. Canfield and his Brother Lewis" written by Florence Canfield Kinney in 1913. Daniel and Lewis were longtime Washington fixtures. They were carpenters who built many buildings in town, farmers and abolitionists. Daniel started the Washington public library association, dramatic association, was active in the formation and administration of the Washington Cemetery, and was town clerk & town treasurer. Come learn about the Canfields and the history of Washington during this special presentation.
February 6th: "Memories of Washington." Two papers were presented: "Reminiscences of Life in Washington" written by Rev. Henry Calhoun in 1892 and "A Paper of Memories of, or Near Washington Green 1872-1875" written by Clarence Nettleton.
March 10: Putnam's Revolutionary War EncampmentAuthor Daniel Cruson presented a slide lecture and book signing of his new book, Putnam's Revolutionary War Winter Encampment: The History and Archaeology of Putnam Memorial State Park.
During the winter of 1778-79 General Israel Putnam led 3,000 troops of the Continental Army into three separate valleys of northern Redding, Connecticut where they built temporary huts for protection against the winter cold and lived for six months before marching out to engage the British the next fighting season. Mr. Cruson's book tells the story of that winter sojourn in the wilds of western Connecticut and the dramatic effect that this fourfold increase in population had on Redding.
For the past 12 years Mr. Cruson has been engaged in archaeological excavations in the eastern most of these three encampments and has discovered startling new information having application to not only the winter camp in Redding, but also that at Valley Forge, which was the year before, and at Morristown, the year after. Putnam's camp in Redding represents a true transition as the Revolutionary Army continued to turn itself into a professional army proficient enough to finally defeat the British Army at Yorktown.
A retired high school teacher, Daniel Cruson has done extensive research and writing on the history of the towns of central Fairfield County as well as conducting several archaeological investigations. A prolific author, Mr. Cruson has published The Prehistory of Fairfield County; Newtown's Slaves: A Case Study in Early Connecticut Rural Black History; Newtown and Redding and Easton in the Images of America series, as well as Newtown: 1900-1960; A Mosaic of Newtown History; The Slaves of Central Fairfield County; a collection of essays; and the history of The Newtown Savings Bank. Mr. Cruson is active in a number of organizations dedicated to the research and preservation of local history including the Historical Society in Newtown, the Easton Historical Society, The Heritage Preservation Trust of Newtown, Society of American Archeology, and The Archaeological Society of Connecticut.
February 4: Rochambeau in Connecticut - Lecture and Book SigningIn commemoration of the 234th anniversary of one of the most important events in French-American History, the signing of the French-American Alliance on February 6, 1778 in Paris, Jini Jones Vail, the author of Rochambeau: Washington's Ideal Lieutenant - A French General's Role in the American Revolutiongave a lecture and book signing. The Treaty of Alliance with France was a defensive alliance between France and the United States of America, formed in the midst of the American Revolutionary War, which promised military support in case of attack by British forces indefinitely into the future. This signing made France America's first publicly avowed friend and ally, and only with their assistance did America achieve victory over the British and gain independence. This presentation recalled the remarkable history of this unprecedented alliance, improbable victory and the true story behind our nation's incredible birth.
Rochambeau arrived in the darkest hours of the revolution. Though he landed in Newport, RI with 5,500 troops, hard currency from King Louis XVI, and an impressive background in military training and experience, Jean Baptiste Donatien de Vimeur Comte de Rochambeau was received with skepticism by the American revolutionaries as he placed himself under the command of General George Washington. Rochambeau and his troops traversed the State of Connecticut on their way to join forces with George Washington in 1781, marching through the local towns of Waterbury, Middlebury, Southbury, Newtown and Danbury. It was difficult at the beginning, but within a year Generals Rochambeau and Washington forged a working relationship and overcame their differences in language, experience, background, and preferred military strategy.
In her clean and precise style, author Jini Jones Vail uses her copious research to bring to life the vivid details of the merging of their two armies at New York. In the end, it was General Rochambeau who inspired General Washington to agree to march their men the grueling 400 miles to Yorktown, Virginia where they would win an improbable victory against the formidable British forces and usher in the birth of the United States of America. Vail, a scholar in French language and history, is passionate about Americans understanding and appreciating the importance of the honest, loyal, patient and skilled Rochambeau in the success of the American Revolution. As a member of the advisory commission that promoted the establishment in 2009 of the Washington-Rochambeau Revolutionary Route, stretching from Newport, Rhode Island to Yorktown, Virginia, Jini Jones Vail sees her book as a contribution to the profound historic experience offered by this national historic trail.
Sound Rising Presentation & Book SigningTo commemorate the 200th Anniversary of the War of 1812, Richard Radune, author of Sound Rising: Long Island Sound at the Forefront of America's Struggle for Independence gave a powerpoint presentation and book signing.
The War of 1812 was a three-year military conflict fought between the United States of America and the British Empire which famously resulted in the capture and burning of Washington, D.C. by the British. The Battle of Fort McHenry in Baltimore, Maryland during the War of 1812 also inspired Francis Scott Key to write the poem that supplied the lyrics for The Star Spangled Banner.
Sound Rising challenges our perception of Long Island Sound in many surprising ways. The Sound was at the forefront of American trade with the West Indies and its location placed it in a position to influence the course of history during the critical years between 1750 and 1820. Its multitude of small ports, coves and navigable rivers provided a distinct advantage by thwarting British efforts to enforce trade restrictions and collect taxes. Merchants' desire for free trade and the avoidance of customs duties set the stage for war. Long Island Sound played a crucial role in America's Revolutionary War victory when its naval vessels, privateers and whaleboat raiders swarmed out of these same ports to interdict British supplies and force major changes in the enemy's strategic war plans. Long Island Sound became no man's land and an emotional vortex of "Whaleboat War" involving refugees from each side of the Sound. This groundbreaking, true story relates the Sound's involvement in the capture of Fort Louisbourg, rampant smuggling, the Revolutionary War, the Undeclared War with France and the War of 1812.
Richard Radune, a resident of Branford, Connecticut, is an author and independent historian. After graduating from Syracuse University in 1965 with a major in U. S. History, he served as an Air Force Captain in North Dakota and Alaska. Following a 30-year business career, Mr. Radune researched and wrote the award winning book, Pequot Plantation: The Story of an Early Colonial Settlement which was published in 2005. His second book, Sound Rising, was published in 2011.
The Magical Christmas HorseNovember 2011 to January 2012
For this holiday show, Museum visitors were introduced to the new children's book of the same name by best-selling author Mary Higgins Clark and award-winning artist Wendell Minor. The setting of The Magical Christmas Horse is based on the historic 1746 Averill Farm in Washington, Connecticut and the Gunn Museum's toy horse is the inspiration behind this enchanting Christmas story.
This exhibition featured Wendell Minor's original works of art from The Magical Christmas Horse, along with whimsical displays of spectacular toy horses of all shapes and sizes from the collection of the Gunn Museum and area residents. Designer Chris Zaima with the collaboration of John Pitts, the former scenic artist at The Metropolitan Opera in New York City, captured the holiday spirit for this exhibit.
Mary Higgins Clark is the beloved and world-wide bestselling author of thirty suspense novels, three collections of short stories, a historical novel, and a memoir. In the U.S. alone, her books have sold over one hundred million copies. She is also the coauthor with her daughter, Carol Higgins Clark, of five holiday suspense novels.
Wendell Minor is the award-winning illustrator of more than fifty picture books, including the New York Times bestselling picture books Reaching for the Moon and Look to the Stars, written by astronaut Buzz Aldrin. Mr. Minor's work can be found in the permanent collections of such institutions as the Norman Rockwell Museum and the Library of Congress. He lives with his wife Florence, in Washington, Connecticut, where this story is set.
Following the success of their New York Times bestselling picture book, Ghost Ship, author Mary Higgins Clark teamed up once again with long-time friend and artist, Wendell Minor, who originally created the cover art for Clark's first classic, Where are the Children?
The setting of the book is based on Averill Farm here in Washington, Connecticut that has been passed down through nine generations. Wendell's captivating paintings create the backdrop for Clark's superior storytelling, making The Magical Christmas Horse a book that captures the true heart of the holidays, and one that families will make part of their Christmas tradition year after year. The Museum still has signed copies of the book available for sale.
December 10th: Book Talk & Signing with Wendell Minor & Mary Higgins ClarkThe Museum hosted a book signing and short reading with beloved best-selling author, Mary Higgins Clark and award-winning artist, Wendell Minor as they shared their latest collaborative work, The Magical Christmas Horse. After the book signing, visitors enjoyed the holiday exhibit featuring Mr. Minor's original works of art from this book, along with the Museum's toy horse that was the inspiration behind this wonderful Christmas story.
A History of the Washington Agricultural Fair
The Georgianna Middlebrook Room is dedicated to Washington history. Incorporated in 1779, Washington, Connecticut boasts a rich and diverse history. Through pictures, stories and artifacts, visitors are brought on a journey through Washington's unique history in this room, starting 10,000 years ago with the first inhabitants of the area, the Native Americans, to the modern day. Displays in this room rotate seasonally, highlighting different components of Washington's past. This 2011 display featured the history of Washington's Agricultural Fair along with a newly restored film of the Fair in 1950.
The Mallory Murders
On February 3rd, local author and historian Michael-John Cavallaro presented a lecture in the Wykeham Room of the Gunn Library describing the first mass murder in America, which took place in Washington, CT on the night of February 3, 1780. The Mallory Murders, as they came to be called, were so shocking that the news spread from Maine to Georgia in a matter of days.
The murderer, 19-year-old Barnett Davenport, was from the neighboring town of New Milford, and for the first time in history 231 years to the day of the actual shocking and tragic event the truth of the story was brought to light. Mr. Cavallaro spent three years researching this fascinating and disturbing tale, and related not only the story itself, but explained how his research came to fruition in a detective story that took him deep into history and military research. Davenport's tragic life and his fall into mental illness and social dysfunction are fully explored in his next book, scheduled for release in 2011. Mr. Cavallaro is also the author of the book, Tales of Old New Milford.
"Washington Winter Wonderland" (November 2010 to January 2011)
Our holiday exhibit featured over one hundred and thirty vintage Steiff stuffed toy animals in whimsical displays throughout the Museum. Steiff is best known as the company that invented the Teddy bear. Local designers, Chris Zaima and Anne Chapin, decorated beautiful Christmas trees as well. John Pitts, former Scenic Artist at The Metropolitan Opera in New York City, painted a beautiful winter mural on the walls of the Museum. This enchanting exhibit ran from Thanksgiving 2010 through January 30, 2011. The exhibit was reviewed here.
Steiff Appraisal Day January 22
The public was invited to bring their Steiff bears and animals to the Museum to be evaluated by Sandy Booth and Shelley Smith, both long-time collectors whose toys were on display in the current exhibit. They answered questions and verbally appraised items for estimated age and value. This fun, informal event was free.
Dedication of the Georgianna Middlebrook Room
On Sunday, November 28th, we dedicated the main entrance gallery in the Museum in honor of Georgianna Middlebrook, a long-time Washington resident and supporter of the Gunn. The Georgianna Middlebrook Room will be dedicated to Washington history.
New Year's Tea Party at the Museum
On Sunday, January 2 from 1:00 to 3:00 p.m. we rang in the New Year with an old-fashion Victorian tea party at the Museum. Visitors viewed our holiday exhibit and socialized with friends in a festive setting as they enjoyed tea and refreshments.
Life on Lake Waramaug: Past, Present, Future (May - October 2010)
Through pictures, stories and artifacts this wonderful exhibit took visitors on a journey, starting 10,000 years ago with the first inhabitants of the Lake, the Native Americans and Chief Waramaug, to its rise as a 19th century summer resort showcasing the hay day of inns and summer fun on the Lake. This celebration was a collaboration of the Gunn Memorial Library and Museum, Lake Waramaug Association, Lake Waramaug Task Force, Institute for American Indian Studies and Washington Art Association. The exhibit and associated programs were made possible by the generous support of The Community Foundation of Northwest Connecticut in collaboration with the Connecticut Humanities Council.
The following programs enhanced this exhibit:
- May 27: Dr. Lucianne Lavin, Director of Research at the Institute for American Indian Studies, gave a Powerpoint presentation, "Native Americans at Lake Waramaug," in the Wykeham Room of the Gunn Library. Dr. Lavin discussed lifeways of the original inhabitants of the Lake, Chief Waramaug and his tribe, as well as findings from past and recent archaeological excavations around the Lake.
- June 12: Connecticut Open House Day. Stephen Bartkus, Gunn Museum Curator, gave a Powerpoint presentation, "Lake Waramaug: A 19th Century Summer Resort" in the Wykeham Room of the Gunn Library. Visitors were given a visual tour of the numerous inns, restaurants and cottages that have risen and fallen over the past 150 years on Connecticut's second largest natural lake.
- August 17: In collaboration with the Gunn Junior Library, we hosted a music and story program for children called "Waterbound by Tom Hanford's Musical Menagerie and Chimneyside Tales." Tom's show illuminated the history of America's lakes, rivers and canals through songs and stories of steamboat captains, roustabouts and canal hoggees of yesterday.
- October 23: Oral History Roundtable where friends and neighbors gathered at the library to reminisce about memories of Lake Waramaug. A reception followed in the Museum.
Jerome Titus: The Story of a Civil War Soldier from Washington (2010)
Michael Croft's 8th grade Social Studies classes at Shepaug Valley Middle School transcribed part of the 1864 diary of Jerome Titus, a musician in the Second Connecticut Heavy Artillery, from the collection of the Gunn Museum for their annual local history project in 2010. This award-winning local history project is an annual collaboration of the Gunn Memorial Museum, the Gunnery and Shepaug Valley Middle School. The students' work is being shared with the public in a book that they have published and through an exhibit that they have created at the Gunn Memorial Museum.
Annual Washington Green Cemetery TourThe Gunn Memorial Museum hosted tours of the Washington Green Cemetery on October 29, 2010; October 30, 2009; and October 30, 2008. Throughout the evening, costumed guides led visitors from the museum to the cemetery where the town's departed citizens, stationed by their gravestones, told their tales. Visitors could explore the shadowy cemetery and hear fascinating stories about some of Washington's most noteworthy citizens from years past, with many new characters added each year. Tours departed from the museum every ten minutes, following a path of luminarias to and through the cemetery.
Christmas Through the Ages (November 2009 to January 2010)
Visitors traveled back through time to Christmases past. Our holiday exhibit featureed vintage toys and memorabilia in festive Victorian era, 1920s and 1950s inspired settings. Designers Chris Zaima and Anne Chapin worked with the Gunn to transform the entire first floor of the museum into a Christmas wonderland. Spectacular dolls from past generations filled one entire gallery. Additional highlights of this fantastic exhibit included Christmas trees and stunning vintage dresses from each era. Children of all ages were delighted by this festive holiday exhibit!
Victorian Tea PartyThe Gunn Museum hosted an old-fashion Victorian tea party on Saturday January 2, 2010. Visitors viewed our spectacular holiday exhibit, "Christmas through the Ages" and socialized with friends in a festive setting. Guests were asked to bring their favorite tea cup, and tea and refreshments were provided.
Paranormal LectureInsight Paranormal Agency conducted a paranormal investigation at both the 1908 Gunn Memorial Library, and the 1781 Museum. The ghost hunters revealed what they found roaming the halls of the Gunn during a lecture on October 29. Tony Diana, co-founder of Insight Paranormal Agency, explained the different types of ghosts, the equipment they use in their surveys, and showed evidence of haunted sites that they have investigated in Connecticut.
Insight is a paranormal investigation group comprised of volunteers who have a passion for the supernatural. They seek answers to questions about the other side, but with an ear towards reality. Steve Bednar, co-founder of Insight Paranormal Agency, explains what got him interested in the paranormal: "I have had personal experiences growing up that are unexplained and after learning ghost hunting techniques I set forward in search of a group as focused and determined as I was for answers and had a passion for the hunt."
Washington Club: A Century in the Community (June - October 2009)
The Washington Club has been a fixture in town since 1903, hosting community theater performances in Club Hall, as well as offering a 9-hole golf course, tennis and Holt Beach on Lake Waramaug. We looked back at the history of the Washington Club with wonderful pictures and artifacts from the collections of club members and the Gunn Memorial Museum.
The Keepers of History: Scrapbooks and Albums (April - October 2009)
Visitors could explore life over the past two centuries through the prism of wonderful scrapbooks from local residents and our collection. Scrapbooks are a quintessential shared American art form, beautifully presented time capsules of bygone people, places and times. Pasted fragments of memory from past generations were on display in this wonderful visual history of Washington. The innovative exhibit provided an opportunity for guests to 'walk into' a book through the use of unique paint colors, large-scale reproductions of pages and vignettes that created a sense of time and place. Chris Zaima created a beautiful old-fashion mural of Washington on our walls as a backdrop for this exhibit. Period clothing and historic artifacts from our collection completed the experience.
Many of the scrapbooks featured in Jessica Helfand's new book, Scrapbooks: An American History, were on display in this exhibit. Fabulous, rarely seen scrapbooks from the collection of the Gunn Museum included:
the albums of Helen Wersebe, Marjorie Boyd and Anna DePeyster, from their days as students at the Wykeham Rise girl's school in Washington; the founder of Wykeham Rise, Miss Davies's, own scrapbook; the founder of the Mayflower, Harry Van Sinderen's Yale scrapbook; artist and former curator Alice Peck Snow's Smith College Scrapbook; Evelyn Holt Lowry's NY Opera and Theatre scrapbook; one of Washington's original summer residents and a publisher R.S. Barnes's scrapbook of Brooklyn dinner invitations and menus; the Barnes Family scrapbook of Washington Concerts and Plays 1887-1906; Wilhelmina Knowles's scrapbook of pressed Washington flowers and ferns; wonderful scrapbooks of chromolithographs from the Morehouse and Sackett Families; Estella West's scrapbook of The Judea Chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution; Home study scrapbooks for domestic instruction for sewing, lace, thimbles, birds, paper dolls, scrapbook houses, paper cutting and folding from Clara Richmond, Emily Hunt and Esther Peck; the scrapbook of the Dramalites; The Washington Lions Club's scrapbook of the Washington Fair; The Washington Girl Scout's Scrapbook; Victorian Death Scrapbooks; and numerous Town History Scrapbooks chronicling every event in the town of Washington from 1900-1960, from WWI to WWII to the Flood. Modern digital scrapbooks of Kristin White, Emily Anderson, and others were also included to show the evolution of this hobby, from a parlor activity of the 19th century to the worldwide phenomenon that it has become today.
A grant from The Community Foundation of Northwest Connecticut, in collaboration with the Connecticut Humanities Council, made this exhibit and associated programs possible.
National Scrapbooking Day "Crop" WorkshopOn National Scrapbooking Day, Saturday, May 2nd, the Gunn Memorial Library and Museum held a workshop, open to both beginners and expert "croppers" of all ages. The day started with a scrapbooking demonstration for beginners and a digital scrapbooking demo in the afternoon. Our consultant, Kristen White of Creative Memories, offered creative tips and unique ideas, in addition to sharing her professional tools. She also displayed both digital and traditional scrapbooks that she has completed with interesting ideas on photo display.
There were raffles for cool scrapbooking supplies throughout the day. Each guest received a goodie bag with stickers, paper and helpful information. This workshop coincided with the Museum's exhibit, The Keepers of History: Scrapbooks and Albums.
Booksigning and Chat with Jessica HelfandOn Saturday June 13, 2009, during Connecticut Open House Day and Washington's Locally Grown History Day, a one-day statewide event designed to pay tribute to Connecticut's unique world of history, art, film and tourism, Jessica Helfand, the author of Scrapbooks: An American History, gave a book signing and chat exploring the history of this hobby. Jessica Helfand is a graphic designer, professor at Yale University and the author of several books on graphic design and cultural criticism. Many of the scrapbooks featured in Jessica's book are on display in the Gunn Museum's new exhibit, "The Keepers of History: Scrapbooks and Albums."
Scrapbook Preservation Workshop
On Tuesday September 15, we hosted a scrapbook preservation workshop. Deb Wender, a national expert from Northeast Document Conservation Center in Massachusetts, taught participants how to care for their old scrapbooks so that they'll survive for future generations.
Scrapbooks present some of the most complex conservation and reformatting challenges. Composed on varying materials, adhered with problematic glues and tapes to often acidic pages, scrapbooks frequently need to be reformatted in order to preserve the intellectual information contained within. The workshop was free and open to the public as well as library and museum professionals interested in preservation options for scrapbooks.
Participants were encouraged to bring a scrapbook from their collection for hands-on examination and discussion. Visitors also viewed the exhibition, "The Keepers of History: Scrapbooks and Albums," which included many scrapbooks featured in Jessica Helfand's new book, Scrapbooks: An American History, on display next door at the Gunn Museum. The exhibit and workshop were sponsored by The Community Foundation of Northwest Connecticut, in collaboration with the Connecticut Humanities Council.
The Gunn Memorial Library and Museum hosted a program titled "Digital Scrapbooking: An Introduction to Facebook" on Saturday October 3rd. While traditional scrapbooking remains a hit, the surge in popularity of social networking sites can be considered a virtual form of scrapbooking where individuals document their daily lives by posting pictures and comments for their friends to see. Emphasis was placed on the evolution of memory keeping from the "old" to the "new" and establishing virtual connections with friends and family. A local web specialist offered an introduction to the popular website. Participants had the opportunity to work with our specialist on one of the library's computers to create their own Facebook page. Participants were asked to register for this free program.
Washington's Community ScrapbookThe Gunn Memorial Library and Museum created a community scrapbook during the exhibition, The Keepers of History: Scrapbooks and Albums. Washington residents, businesses and organizations were encouraged to pick up a blank scrapbook page, fill it with their memories, photographs and objects and then return it to the museum by October 31, 2009. The completed book will become part of the Museum's permanent collection. The community scrapbook will give future generations a glimpse of what life was like in Washington in the year 2009.
Washington's Emergency Services: A History
of the Fire Department & Ambulance Association
November 28, 2008 to May 1, 2009
Fire department and ambulance association volunteers have been serving Washington for decades. Riveting first-person accounts of Washington emergencies during the past century, from the Flood of 1955 to fires and automobile accidents were accompanied by vintage photographs and artifacts from the fire department and ambulance association, conveying stories of brotherhood, tragedy and triumph. The history of these volunteer safety organizations came alive in this tribute to Washington's finest.
The Centennial of the Gunn Memorial Library, 2008 - 2009
The Gunn Memorial Library, designed by Ehrick K. Rossiter and constructed by Dallas Wyant in 1908, celebrated its 100th Anniversary in 2008. The exhibition highlighted the history of the construction of this venerable building and celebrated all of its wonderful features. The Renaissance Revival period architecture, memorial reliefs, sculptures, stained glass windows and ceiling mural by painter and Washington resident H. Siddons Mowbray all combine to make the Gunn Memorial Library one of Washington's architectural and cultural treasures.
The Fabric of Marriage: Wedding Dresses, 2008 - 2009
An elaborate display of wedding gowns from the Gunn's vintage clothing collection focused on the history of weddings and wedding dresses, spanning the mid 19th and early 20th centuries, while tracing Washington's history through the people that wore them. One of the prized pieces displayed during the exhibition is the wedding dress made and worn by Abigail Brinsmade when she married Frederick Gunn on April 16, 1848. An extensive display of wedding photographs from Washington residents, spanning the last century, accompanied the wedding gowns throughout the museum.
Wedding Dress Preservation Workshop - July 26 & August 23, 2008
In conjunction with the exhibition, "The Fabric of Marriage: Wedding Dresses," we offered a two-part workshop in July and August on preserving historic wedding gowns and costumes. Sarah Griswold, curatorial consultant, has many years of experience working with the preservation of vintage textiles. She offered an educational lecture on the proper archival materials and housing required for professional storage and care of historic costumes on Saturday July 26th in the Wykeham Room of the Gunn Memorial Library. Mrs. Griswold also demonstrated proper techniques for storage of vintage clothing and showed how not to store them, with examples of recently donated items in non-archival boxes and plastic wrapping. At this program, interested individuals were able to purchase and order archival materials, including boxes and tissue paper. The second part of the workshop took place on Saturday August 23rd. Participants picked up their supplies and got assistance in properly storing their garments for preservation.
Trucks, Hydrants and Hoses
November 28 to January 11, 2009
Our must-see holiday exhibit featured vintage toys, fire engines and memorabilia in an eye-catching, fiery setting. Highlights of this fantastic exhibit included toy fire trucks of all shapes and sizes on loan to us from area collectors. Children of all ages were delighted by this festive holiday exhibit.
Locally Grown History Day at the Gunn: Roundtable Discussion on the History of Marriage
On Saturday, October 18, 2008 -- Locally Grown History Day -- the Gunn Memorial Museum hosted a roundtable discussion of the history of marriage practices with local clergy. Marriage has evolved over the centuries and is still evolving today. Discussions included the difference between Christian marriage and state licensing, the relationship between marriage and procreation, the sacramental nature of marriage and where same-sex unions fit into the equation. Participants included: The Reverend Dr. Catharine Randall, the newly ordained minister of St. John’s Episcopal Church in Washington, The Reverend Dr. Christopher Webber, the author of Re-Thinking Marriage, the complete background to the current debate over a definition of marriage, and Universal Minister and Justice of the Peace, the Reverend Joseph A. Mustich, et al. This discussion was held in conjunction with the exhibition "The Fabric of Marriage: Wedding Dresses."
Northwest CT museums joined together this fall to highlight their treasures, culminating with a multitude of events on Locally Grown History Day. Maps and passports to visit museums throughout the area were available at the Gunn Museum.
The Cogswell Family Papers: In 250 Years of One Family’s Records, The History of a Town - Through Summer 2008
In January of 2006, the Gunn Memorial Library & Museum acquired the "Cogswell Family Papers," a large volume of family papers -- totaling hundreds of documents, correspondence, deeds, account books, as well as newspapers, maps, publications and photos filling 26 cartons of various sizes -- from the Cogswell Family of New Preston, Connecticut. Until recently, this private collection had been stored in the attic of the Cogswell Tavern (now a residence) in New Preston. The collection was donated to the Gunn Memorial Library & Museum by descendents and current owners of the homestead.
Beginning more than 200 years ago, the Cogswell Family, from one generation to another, created and kept records, mementos, and evidence of everyday life from the time of their settlement of New Preston in 1746 through the present day, preserving information about their history, their community and its people. The collection is remarkable for its size, age and condition, and will be invaluable in providing helpful insights about the town’s history.
The Cogswell Family had a hand in practically every important aspect of community life -- commerce, industry, law, education. They were active citizens, business owners, schoolmasters, sheriffs, church deacons, judges, lawyers and tavern keepers. It was at "Squire Cogswell's" that General George Washington recorded a stop at the Tavern for breakfast, in his diary on May 25, 1781.
To reinforce its mission to collect, preserve, interpret and make available records that would otherwise be lost, the museum accepted the challenge and the responsibility to preserve and protect this fragile collection in a way that is consistent with professional archival practice. As we continue to sort and organize these historical papers, the museum will be showcasing representative examples that offer insight into the history of New Preston and our town of Washington over the last 250 years.
History Bites Lecture: The Museum hosted a lecture and slide show by Alison Gilchrist, "Their Hands in Every Thing: The Cogswells of New Preston," as part of the History Bites lecture series, on Thursday April 12th. Audience members were invited to bring their lunch, and refreshments were served. Alison's lecture coincided with the Gunn Museum's exhibit showcasing the newly discovered "Cogswell Family Papers," a treasure-trove of documents from the Cogswell Family of New Preston.
"The Victorian Lady" performance was sponsored by the Gunn Museum on June 14th at the Washington Club Hall in conjunction with the 4th annual Connecticut Open House Day.
While dressing in vintage clothing and accessories, Kandie Carle adds humor, history and intriguing anecdotes about fashion, home life and the etiquette of men and women. Ms. Carle created this one-woman show in 1996. She has assembled a vast collection of authentic Victorian and Edwardian clothing and accessories dating from the mid-nineteenth century to the turn of the twentieth century. With many years of research in social history and fashion behind her, along with humor and grace, Ms Carle shared her passion for history and love of these eras.
Abner Mitchell: Letters of a Civil War Soldier
June 2007 - May 2008
Shepaug Valley Middle School eighth-graders, under the guidance of their history teacher Michael Croft, guest-curated this exhibit which explored the Civil War era through the letters of a local Union soldier. Abner Mitchell, a Washington resident, was drafted into the Civil War in August of 1863 with family tragedy mounting. Despite town pleas to send a substitute, he left "Baby Mary" in the hands of relatives and answered the call of duty, entering into Company B of the 6th Regiment of Connecticut Volunteers. Abner met his fate at the battle of Deep Run, Virginia, in 1864.
The Shepaug Middle School students pieced together Abner Mitchell's life through the letters that he sent from the battlefront to his family in Washington. Michael Croft's history classes transcribed 49 Mitchell letters this year, "a discovery that usually gets sent to a college professor," Croft said. Together the class created a book and the museum exhibit. The project was featured on Diane Smith’s Positively Connecticut show on CPTV in April. Diane Smith filmed scenes at the Shepaug Middle School, the Gunn Memorial Museum and around the town of Washington.
Dolls: An Easter Extravaganza, ran through April, and followed on the heels of the popular Holiday and Valentine's display of dolls at the museum. The dolls featured in this display came from the Gunn Museum and the treasured collections of Bobbi Smith, Ellen Kenney, Dee and Wally Domroe, and other area collectors. There were also beautiful Shackman reproduction Valentine and Easter cards and other gifts for sale at the museum.
Doll's Paradise - Holiday 2007
The treasured doll collections of Miss Mary Browne, Mary Logan Bronson, Dorothy Averill and past curator, Ester Peck, etc., were showcased in this holiday season exhibition, A Doll's Paradise. With the creative guidance of Chris Zaima, this exhibit was a delightful vision of dolls from yesteryear in a beautiful, enchanting setting.
1952-2007 Washington Art Association 55 Years and Growing
September 23, 2007 - January 1, 2008
The Washington Art Association celebrated its 55th year with an anniversary retrospective exhibition at the Gunn Memorial Museum . Over its history, the art association has drawn the aesthetically curious to view, learn about, create and exhibit art. Since its founding in 1952 by Margaret Train Samsanoff and a small group of local artists and patrons, the Washington Art Association has attracted full-time residents, weekenders and visitors from both near and far.
This anniversary exhibition traced the history of the art association through photos, documents, words, and memories. Over the years a long list of talented artists have shown their work on the seasoned walls of the art association. We proudly offered a sampling of the level of their mastery, including the work of current and past faculty, and of artists who previously exhibited at the WAA and who achieved acclaim for their art.
Country Chairs: From Children to Garden and Everyday Use
May 1, 2007 - November 3, 2007
Florence de Dampierre, the noted furniture historian, author and interior designer, guest-curated this exhibit. It showcased an eclectic collection of country chairs from the Gunn Museum and many private collections throughout the area. The chairs featured ranged from the most elemental form -- the handcrafted hedge chair -- to the elaborate workmanship of the marriage chair. The variety of country chairs on display in this exhibition was a feast for the eyes, a grouping of all shapes and sizes spanning three centuries.
From the Archives of the Gunn Historical Museum....
Washington Senior Center series of coffee hour readings from the archives of the Gunn Historical Museum. On September 24th, October 1st, 15th, 22nd, 29th, Museum curator Stephen Bartkus read research papers from the museum's archives, shared photos, stories and encouraged reminiscing about Washington's history.
Three Decades of Care for Our Town: The Washington Environmental Council - Fall 2006 through Spring 2007
This local volunteer organization has fostered the care and stewardship of our town’s beautiful and diverse landscape for thirty years. Celebrating this important anniversary this exhibition will examine the history of this organization and its contributions to improving the quality of our environment since the mid-1970s.
Steam Toys: A Collector’s Passion - Holiday 2006
Inspired by a local collector’s love for anything steam, this year’s holiday exhibition at the Gunn Memorial Museum in Washington, Connecticut, is Steam Toys: A Collector’s Passion. Opening November 24, 2006 and running through January 2, 2007, this exhibition will interest admirers, collectors, and hobbyists of all ages.
The widespread use of steam engines in locomotives, steam ships, and factories contributed to the start of the Industrial Revolution. In Victorian times the steam engine was almost the only source of mechanical power. Model steam engines recapture the fascination of steam power from that bygone era. Everyone can learn from the steam models, which demonstrate the basic principles of converting heat and water into mechanical energy.
George Baxter, a machinist for 42 years, has been collecting and building steam models since 1986, owning a vast array of steam engines and accessories from various brands. He has generously loaned the museum many of his steam engines to make this exhibit happen. Joining Mr. Baxter in his generosity is another local collector, James Greenfield, and the Connecticut Antique Machinery Association, Inc., each contributing exemplary models to this exhibition.
Wilesco and Mamod steam engines and accessories are available for purchase as well as tin toys and Victorian holiday ephemera from Toodle Time Toys.
Tractor Mac and His Farm Friends - July to October 2006
The Children’s Gallery of the Gunn Historical Museum presented the world of Tractor Mac and his friends. The exhibition showcased the beautifully painted, original watercolor drawings from the popular "Tractor Mac" series, written and illustrated by Roxbury artist, Billy Steers. Steers, who grew up with horses and sheep, introduced the series in April, 1999.
Open House Farm Tour, Saturday, October 29 from 1:30 to 4:30 p.m.
Meet at the museum and board a local school bus for an historical tour of the Town of Washington, visiting several working farms. At each stop the owner will discuss their farm's operation. Co-sponsored by the Steep Rock Land Trust with the Gunn Historical Museum, this educational program showcases the important agricultural heritage of the Town of Washington.
Great Caesar’s Ghost, What a Catastrophe! The Flood of 1955 in Washington, Connecticut
On August 19, 1955, Connecticut was the hardest hit victim of the worst flood in the history of the eastern United States. President Eisenhower declared the state a major disaster area. Through numerous photographs, newspaper articles and first-hand accounts, relive this disaster and the amazing response of the people of Washington, Connecticut as they rescued one another, recovered and rebuilt their town.
H. Siddons Mowbray: American Muralist and Washington Luminary - Summer/Fall 2006
Enjoy the diversity of this American artist (1858-1928) in more than 30 of his works of art borrowed from family members throughout the New England region. This exhibition is split between the museum and the Gunn Memorial Library where visitors will have an opportunity to enjoy seeing one of Mowbray’s ceiling murals as well as numerous easel paintings, religious scenes and other works of art.
Our Town of Washington, nestled in the hills of northwest Connecticut, has long been a quiet place with a beautiful rural landscape and home to numerous famous people. Many of them -- artists, writers, architects, naturalists, educators, philanthropists -- have contributed to the history and culture of the town, often in subtle but important ways. This Mowbray exhibit is the first in a series that will showcase a notable Washington figure each year. These Luminaries include: Ehrick Kensett Rossiter, Elias Boudinot, Mrs. E. H. Van Ingen, Benjamin Foulois, Herbert Faulkner and William Hamilton Gibson.
Connecticut's First Heritage Lake: Waramaug
The Lake Waramaug Task Force was formed thirty years ago in response to the need to do something about the serious water quality issues of Connecticut’s second largest natural lake. Through a curious combination of dedicated volunteer efforts, experimental science, public education and grassroots and governmental support, success was achieved and this exhibition tells the story of this success.
Tuesday, November 1 at 7:00 p.m.: "Beautiful Lake Waramaug" will be the topic for a discussion in the library's Wykeham Room. In its 30th anniversary year the Lake Waramaug Task Force celebrates its successes with an exhibit at the museum, and Tom McGowan, executive director of the Task Force, discusses the history and work of this important local environmental group over the past three decades. Following Tom's talk, refreshments will be served, with an opportunity for all to see and enjoy the exhibit at the museum.
Toy and Miniature Villages - another popular Holiday show of charming miniature toys and models, borrowed from area collectors and hobbyists.
100 Years of Baseball in Washington - a Gunnery student's research project inspired this look at our town's national pass-time, from 1860-1960.
Under the Big Top - an exciting round-up of circus-related artifacts, toys, models and artwork, gathered from area lenders, made for another fun and very well-attended 2003 holiday show.
Picture Perfect: The Art of John Folinsbee - part of a multi-site project sponsored by the Mattatuck Museum of Waterbury, Connecticut, this showcased the work of an accomplished American painter who first came to Washington, Connecticut as a student at The Gunnery.
A Childs Delight: Toy Trains and the Magic of Make Believe - an enchanting display of toy trains and miniature villages, showcasing collections loaned by local enthusiasts.
Dreams Beneath Design: An Exhibition of Quilts
It Started With Mr. Gunn: The Education Experience in Washington - the life, times and accomplishments of one of our most significant citizens, curated by Sarah Griswold and Paula Krimsky, archivist for the Gunnery School.
Pride of Place - Landscapes by local artists.
From the Bounty of the Land: Washington's Agricultural Heritage from Native American Roots to the Rise of Dairy Farming
Home | What's Up | Index | About Us | Catalog & Links | Kids | Blogs | Museum | Contact Us