Litchfield Celebrates its 300th Anniversary
It all began back in 1719 when the town was first established by John Marsh and John Buell. Land was set aside for just three buildings: the Congregational church, a school, and a house for the minister. And a town called Litchfield was born. A lot has transpired since then, but the iconic church is still one of the most recognized and treasured buildings in town and the first one you see as you reach the top of the hill and the village green.
In celebration of its 300th year various ceremonies and exhibitions are planned. Perhaps the first, and most prominent among them, will be presented by the Litchfield Historical Society, overseer of the Litchfield History Museum, Tapping Reeve House and Litchfield Law School (the nation’s first), and the recently completed Tapping Reeve Meadow.
Entitled “Sold, Made, and Grown in Litchfield,” it showcases the history of commerce, industry, and agriculture in the town, with emphasis on the twentieth century up to the present. It will examine the continued connection between Litchfield businesses and the formation
of community space, identity, and memory. The exhibition will include old business signs, historic photographs, and objects from Litchfield.
“We think people will enjoy going down memory lane and seeing the growth and changes in our town,” says curator of education Kate Zullo. “The exhibition incorporates agricultural as well as industrial history.”
“The Historical Society was originally founded in 1856 and is a way of connecting the community with its history,” explains Linda Hocking, archivist in charge of the library and archives collections.
The main building housing the Historical Society was originally built to house the local library and the society was given a room within that structure. In 1964 the Oliver Wolcott Library moved into its present building on South Street. The following year the addition by Eliot Noyes was constructed. At that time the Historical Society took over the entire space on the corner of South Street.
Over the years the organization has become indispensable in terms of maintaining the history of Litchfield. “We are striving to document the history of the town,” says Hocking, “and representing what it was like. We are always on the hunt for new things to acquire and we accept new donations that will contribute to our knowledge of Litchfield, from the 18th century through to the 20th.”
The exhibition, which opens with a reception on April 12, will be on display for a year. Additionally,there will be an extensive set of programs about the history of the town, including the Great Litchfield Challenge on June 1. “We are going to initiate a series of talks called Community Conversations,” says Zullo. “People who have grown up here or have memories to share will be invited to speak. The first of these will be in May.”
“May 19 is the actual 300th-anniversary date and there will be a commemorative ceremony on the green with the raising of a special flag and a possible proclamation from the governor,” says Peter Vermilyea, a member of the 300th Anniversary Committee. “We are also hoping to organize fireworks displays.” Another pivotal event commemorating the town’s anniversary will be “300 Years of Architecture,” organized by The Litchfield Aid of the Connecticut Junior Republic (CJR), a nonprofit organization that helps children, youth, and families across Connecticut. The event will include a one-mile walking tour and visits to some of the major houses within the Borough of Litchfield, designated a National Historic Landmark District.