History of Wethersfield
The first thing you may notice in your visit to Wethersfield is that the pace here is a little slower. That's because Wethersfield is not a re-created village, but the real thing: a living and working community that also happens to be deeply devoted to preserving its authentic New England heritage, now nearly 375 years in the making. As you stroll along shade-covered lanes and by-ways, you'll befollowing thousand-year old footpaths tread by the very first inhabitants here - the Wongunk Indians. Amble about the largest Historic District in Connecticut and you'll find 50 houses built before the Revolutionary War; 100 built by the time of the Civil War; and another 150 built shortly thereafter. Each fascinating home captures the essence of the style in vogue at the time.
A more formal approach would have you visiting the various museums and historic homes open to the public. Start at the Wethersfield Museum, 200 Main Street, for an overview of Wethersfield's historic past. Then visit the bedroom where Washington slept at the Webb-Deane- Stevens Museum. When you're done "museum hopping, "there are plenty of places nearby to eat, shop - or even stay overnight if you'd like. Of course, any visit to Wethersfield gives you the chance to explore life's simpler pleasures: enjoying a summer evening withice-cream cone in hand; browsing an antiques shop or art gallery; relaxing at a sidewalk café; comparing notes with the locals about old home restoration; pausing at a garden shop or farm stand for fresh vegetables or something to plant in your own garden. Come to Wethersfield, and discover the place where history lives.
A mere 14 years after the landing at Plymouth, John Oldham and small band of enterprising traders settled in what is known today as Wethersfield. In 1634, the land was a mixture of timber, meadow, river and marsh. Native Americans - Wongunks - had lived here for centuries until discovered by the new-worlders. From that wilderness would be carved the very first permanent settlement in what would later become Connecticut, one of the 13 original colonies. Today, visitors can re-discover our nation’s heritage in an authentic, living, New England village, whose artifact-rich museums, historic homes, shops and places of interest are nestled among tree-lined streets.
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Once part of a thriving commercial center, the warehouse - now housing a Wethersfield Historical Society maritime exhibit - contains reminders of the West Indies trade that flourished in Wethersfield from 1650 to 1830. Merchants exported lumber, grain, onions, salted beef, fish and pork in exchange for salt, sugar, molasses and rum from the Caribbean. Open mid May through mid October, Saturdays 10am - 4pm and Sundays 1pm - 4pm. $1.00 for Adults, Free for children 16 and under and Society Members.
Revolutionary War diplomat Silas Deane's portrait hangs in his home on Main Street, one of three remarkable 18th century houses that comprise the Museum. These homes - all with important stories to tell about Wethersfield's rich past - capture the vitality of our nation's formative years. Museums are open May 1st through October 31st, Wednesdays to Mondays 10am - 4pm. November 1st through April 30th, Saturdays and Sundays 10am - 4pm. For more information call 860-529-0612
The Wethersfield Museum is an excellent way to begin your tour of Old Wethersfield. Informative exhibits provide a good introduction to the town's history. Museum staff have brochures and information on local attractions, shops, and restaurants to help you plan your stay. The building also has free public parking, rest rooms and a gift shop. Open Monday to Saturdays 10am - 4pm, and Sundays 1pm - 4pm. $3.00 for Adults, Free for children under 16, Society Members, and Wethersfield Residents
This handsome brick house is filled with original furnishings, wallpapers and painted ceilings of the late 19th and early 20th centuries, when Jane and Howard Dunham, social and civic leaders of their day, made it their home. Open mid May through mid October. Saturdays 10am - 4pm and Sundays 1pm - 4pm. $3.00 for Adults, Free for children 16 and under; Society members. Tours begin at the Keeney Memorial Cultural Center (Wethersfield Museum). 860-529-7656
BUTTOLPH - WILLIAMS HOUSE
Built for Benjamin Belden around 1715, this house provided the setting for Elizabeth George Speare's award-winning novel, The Witch of Blackbird Pond, which depicts a young woman's encounter with superstition and intolerance in a 17th century New England town. The restored kitchen contains an extensive collection of period cooking equipment. Open May 1st through October 1st. Wednesdays to Mondays 10am - 4pm. 860-529-0612
WETHERSFIELD ART ACADEMY
The Wethersfield Academy for the Arts is a nonprofit educational organization that can be found at the Old Buck Farm located on Hartford Avenue where some of Old Wethersfield's most beautiful homes can be seen. The Academy offers tours, family events, festive celebrations, exhibition previews, concerts, guest artist gatherings, as well as catered affairs. Keep an eye on our website calendar for up coming events.
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An excellent genealogical research center is located in Old Wethersfield. This research library isoperated by the Wethersfield Historical Society in the 1804 Old Academy building at 150 Main St. It contains over1000 books, including genealogies of Wethersfield families, as well as local and regional histories and other paper and photographic material. The library is open Tuesday through Friday, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Appointments may be made for other hours. Please call (860) 529-7656 or for mail Written Inquiries to: Wethersfield Historical Society, 150 Main St., Wethersfield, CT 06109.
In addition, the Wethersfield Town Hall is another source for land and probate records dating back tothe town's founding in 1634. Secondary sources and additional paper resources are available. The office is open Monday to Friday from 8:30-4:00.
Two other excellent research facilities are within 15 minutes driving time of Wethersfield. They are the Connecticut State Library - Museum of Connecticut History (cslib.org/museum.htm) and the Connecticut Historical Society (chs.org)
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The Wethersfield Tourism Commission is a Volunteer based Town Organization. We take pride in marketing Wethersfield's historic assets through events to encourage the community and visitors to be inspired by the historic preservations including its Museums, Architecture, Parks and Gardens, Landscape and ambiance overall.
Meetings are open to the Public Knowledge, please refer to the Town of Wethersfield's website
(www.wethersfieldct.com) for dates and locations of future meetings.
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