A Thoughtful Young Intern: An Essay by Chris Moore


A Thoughtful Young Intern: An Essay by Chris Moore

In our January 2015 newsletter, we wrote about our summer interns at Tallman House. One of them, Chris Moore, was in the process of applying to college. He asked us for a recommendation, and in return sent to us the essay he wrote to accompany several of his applications. We were so touched by it that we asked him if we could share an excerpt from it with all of you. We hope you are as impressed as we are.

Marge Smith, the curator of the Kent Historical Society, who has asked me to sort through boxes of old documents, photos and notebooks that have been awaiting attention for many years, is talking on the phone. I begin to catalogue the photos and documents of an artist who is not well known. His name is George Laurence Nelson. He is a man who fought the tide of modernism in art, an artist preserving his ritualized style amidst the insurrection of color fields and splatter art. As I organize these delicate artifacts I realize something real and inevitable: most people will be reduced to photos or documents expressing scenes or thoughts that may not seem understandable a hundred years later. Like Nelson and the people he knew, our lives can be destined to be forgotten, thus it is the duty of the living to preserve the past. In a perverse way, I find this comforting.

I have not been the first one in my bloodline to have this urge to preserve the past. My great-grand-uncle, Theodore Sizer, was a Monuments Man. Yes, one of those people trying to save art during WWII you might know from that George Clooney movie. Like my great-grand-uncle, I seem to feel the pull towards preserving the past. To me, such preservation seems natural, because thoughts are fleeting and if unrecorded, they can disappear forever.

I even think of George Laurence Nelson and his paintings. Many depict the Litchfield Hills, a location that I have known all my life, which still looks more or less the same as when he was alive, but I wonder: will that always be so?  Do cultures and even locations deserve to lose their identity?

My preoccupation is in preserving the past … This matter of preservation can be a window into past lives. During the summer, I discovered the account of the trial of an ancestor of mine, William Wynne Ryland. He was a court engraver to King George III who was hanged for committing forgery. Finding that document was thrilling and was one of the highlights of my summer. My other summer highlight was the place where I started this essay: the Kent Historical Society. In that small house, I discovered something integral to myself; it is that urgency to preserve a freeze frame in time, or thoughts that might have otherwise disappeared.

Hidden History of Litchfield County

 A Sunday Series “Extra”
Peter Vermilyea speaks on
Hidden History of Litchfield County

The Kent Historical Society and Kent Memorial Library presented local author and prominent educator Peter Vermilyea as he discussed and signed his new book “Hidden History of Litchfield County” on Sunday, February 8, 2015.

In his book and presentations, Vermilyea uncovers abundant clues all around us, and shares them with audiences and readers throughout the region. His curiosity takes him all over the local landscape, and he constantly turns up instances of history that still linger, if you open your eyes to see them.

Stonewalls and graveyards summon numerous stories from Vermilyea. He points out weed-choked railroad tracks that crisscross the county, in Kent and beyond, and brings our attention to a ruined cinderblock bunker in Warren that was once a crucial radar station during the Cold War. He reminds us of a catastrophic fire that devastated Winsted in 1908, forcing residents to flee the Odd Fellows boardinghouse in fear of their lives. In Bantam, art deco chairs made by the Warren McArthur Corporation were so appealing and comfortable that the War Department ordered bomber seats from the company during World War II. Vermilyea explores these and other juicy tales from the history of Litchfield County, Connecticut.

A resident of Litchfield, Mr. Vermilyea teaches history at Housatonic Valley Regional High School in Falls Village, Connecticut, and at Western Connecticut State University. A graduate of Gettysburg College, he is the director of the student scholarship program at his alma mater’s Civil War Institute. He is a member of the Litchfield Historical Society Board of Directors. He is the author or editor of three books and more than a dozen articles and maintains the Hidden in Plain Sight blog. In fact, the book grew from Vermilyea’s fascinating blog, which can be found at www.hiddeninplainsightblog.com. “Hidden History of Litchfield County” boasts five-star reviews on Amazon, with such comments as, “extremely well-written and impressively researched,” and “it is amazing how many remnants of the nation’s past the author has uncovered…”

Vermilyea’s lecture was geared to Kent and its citizens. A long-time friend of both the Kent Historical Society and Kent Memorial Library, Vermilyea made ample use of the society’s archives in researching this book. Readers will find a handsome acknowledgement to the Kent Historical Society’s Curator, Marge Smith, on page 8.  His book, “Hidden History of Litchfield County” is available for purchase at Kent’s House of Books