The Mattatuck Museum in Waterbury was first established in 1877 as the Mattatuck Historical Society. Initially dedicated to preserving the history of Waterbury and its surrounding towns, the Museum‘s mission later expanded its focus to include the work of Connecticut artists. From 1912 to 1987, the Museum was located in the John Kendrick House on West Main Street. It then moved into a former Masonic Temple, located at 160 West Main Street. Built in 1912, the steel-framed Temple, with a facade of brick and limestone, was designed by Waterbury architect W.E. Griggs. The Museum’s new home comprised two distinct structures, meeting at a right angle: the West Main Street building and the Park Place auditorium building. Located between the two wings of this “L” was a former service station (144 West Main Street), built c. 1930, that had a modern retail front added in 1966. This structure was replaced, in 1986, by the Museum’s new entrance and courtyard garden, designed by renowned architect César Pelli, who also renovated the interior of the 1912 building. The materials of the new addition match the brick and limestone of the original building, while the new main entrance has a copper crown, indicating the Museum’s public function. Read the rest of this entry »
Happy New Year!!! We begin the year with the Litchfield Historical Museum. The Noyes Memorial Building was constructed in 1901 (and expanded in 1906-1907) to house the town library and the Litchfield Historical Society, the latter of which had been founded in 1856. The building was built by John A. Vanderpoel in memory of his grandmother, Julia Tallmadge Noyes, a local resident and amateur historian who had led the Historical Society for many years. A granddaughter of Benjamin Tallmadge, she had married New York City attorney William Curtis Noyes in 1857. The couple owned the Benjamin Tallmadge House in Litchfield, which was inherited by their daughter, Emily Noyes Vanderpoel. Also an active member of the Historical Society, Emily Noyes Vanderpoel oversaw the completion of the Noyes Memorial Building after the death of her son, John A. Vanderpoel. She wrote two books about Sarah Pierce’s Litchfield Female Academy, which her mother had attended. The library moved out to a new building in the 1960s and the Historical Society then occupied the entirety of the Noyes Memorial, which was expanded in 1989-1990. Read the rest of this entry »
The building in Collinsville that today houses the Canton Historical Museum is one of the original buildings of the Collins Axe Company. Built in 1865, it was used by the company for finishing agricultural plows. In 1924-1925, the building was converted to become a recreational facility for employees, with bowling alleys and a rifle range. At that time, the verandas and chimney were added to the north side of the building. Today, the museum features artifacts and memorabilia on three floors.
The Wadsworth Atheneum art museum in Hartford consists of four connected structures. Three of them can be seen, lined up adjacent to each other, on Main Street: the original Atheneum building (1844), the Colt Memorial Building (1906) and the Morgan Memorial Building (1910). The fourth section, the Avery Memorial Building, is on Atheneum Square and Prospect Street, behind the 1844 building. Samuel P. Avery left his art collection and funds to construct a building to house it. The Avery Memorial, built in 1934, was designed by the firm of Morris & O’Connor to have a minimum of decorative ornament. The interior has the earliest International Style interior of any museum in America.
The Tantaquidgeon Museum, on the Norwich-New London Turnpike in Uncasville (in Montville), is the oldest Native American owned and operated Indian museum in America. The Museum‘s stone building was built in 1931 by three members of the Mohegan Tribe: John Tantaquidgeon, who was blind in one eye and on crutches, with his son, Chief Harold Tantaquidgeon, and daughter Gladys Tantaquidgeon. Dr. Gladys Iola Tantaquidgeon (1899-2005) was a Mohegan Medicine Woman who wrote A Study of Delaware Indian Medicine Practice and Folk Beliefs (1942), later reprinted as Folk Medicine of the Delaware and Related Algonkian Indians. She also did social and economic development work with the Bureau of Indian Affairs and the Indian Arts and Crafts Board. The Tantaquidgeon House and the Museum building were recently acquired by the Mohegan Tribe. In 2008, the Museum, which contains objects made by Mohegans and members of other Native American tribes, was reopened after renovations.
The Slater Memorial Museum was begun in 1886 and dedicated in 1888 on the campus of the Norwich Free Academy. It is one of only two fine arts museums in the United States on the campus of a secondary school. The Museum was donated by William Albert Slater in memory of his father, the wealthy industrialist and philanthropist John Fox Slater. The building was designed in the Richardsonian Romanesque style by architect Stephen C. Earle of Worcester and was expanded in 1906 with the addition of the Converse Gallery, donated by Charles A. Converse. The Museum‘s collections include regional American paintings, plaster casts of classical and Renaissance sculpture, and Asian, Pre-Columbian, Native American, African and Oceanic art. The use of plaster cast copies were a way American museums over a century ago would bring great European works to the American public. In 1891, at a time when the Metropolitan Museum was developing its own collection of plaster casts, a cast committee traveled from New York to Norwich to observe the arrangement of the Slater Memorial Museum’s collection and meet with William Albert Slater. The Slater Memorial Museum continues to be an educational resource for the Academy and the area community.
This is Historic Buildings of Connecticut’s 900th post, excepting the two April Fools posts, which some people have taken too seriously! What is that famous quote often attributed to P.T. Barnum? Well, with that in mind, let’s keep to the Barnum theme! The Barnum Museum is a place worth celebrating in an anniversary post, as it is a surviving legacy from one of Connecticut’s most important historical figures. P.T. Barnum had his famous American Museum in Manhattan, but this later burned. Barnum built four successive mansions in Bridgeport, where he served as mayor in 1875, but only a few traces of these survive today. The museum in Bridgeport which today bears his name was built in 1893 as the Barnum Institute of Science and History and originally housed a resource library and lecture hall. The building, which reflects the influence of Byzantine, Moorish and Richardsonian Romanesque architecture, was constructed of stone and terra cotta after Barnum‘s death using funds he had bequeathed for the purpose. The original societies which occupied the building ceased operation during the Great Depression and the city of Bridgeport assumed ownership in 1933. In 1943 the museum was closed for remodeling, reopening in 1946 as a city hall annex. In 1965, the city offices were removed and the building was again remodeled to reopen as the P. T. Barnum Museum in 1968, with exhibits about Barnum and the history of Bridgeport. The museum, which since 1986 has been operated by the Barnum Museum Foundation, was renovated in 1986-1989 and is today the only museum dedicated to the life of P. T. Barnum