Holiday House Tour Showcases Historic Homes
The Kent Historical Society will feature a Historic Holiday House Tour in December to showcase seven historic homes in Kent, CT.
“We are fortunate in Kent to have several Colonial-era buildings (18th Century) that articulate the difference in scale, character and construction that were characteristic of early Connecticut upland vernacular architecture. Many of these houses have been ‘accumulative. as they have seen 19th, 20th and 21st century additions and alterations. Some retain most of their early fabric and others have evolved over time,” said Bruce Whipple, who is a member of the society’s Board of Trustees and serves as treasurer for the organization.
The tour will take place Sunday, Dec. 10 from noon to 4:30 p.m. Advance tickets are available for $45 online and at the Heron Gallery, Kent Wine & Spirit, and the Kent Town Clerk’s Office. The price jumps to $60 on the day of the tour, so be sure to get your tickets early!
Whipple had the idea for this fundraiser in part due to his own interest in historic architecture and he knew that others would also enjoy seeing what Kent has to offer.
“We knew that patrons would be interested in visiting several homes and seeing them in their current uses. Each house has a distinct sense of their owner’s tastes and we were pleased that seven families agreed to open their homes for a charitable cause,” Whipple said. “These homes will not disappoint realtors, designers, builders, historians or everyday visitors who come.”
Many of the homes are located in the Kent Hollow section of town. One house is on the National Register of Historic Places.
The fun will begin that day at the Swift House, located at 12 Maple Street (also known as Route 341), where day-of tickets may be purchased and ticket holders will be able to get a map to the homes with a brief description of them. The Swift House will be open from 11 a.m. through the afternoon.
Afterwards, everyone participating is invited to gather back at Swift House to share festive beverages at the wassail bowl.
“The cocktail punch reception that will follow at the Swift House will allow patrons a chance to meet and compare their reactions to what they saw during their visits,” Whipple said.
Proceeds from the event will be used by the Kent Historical Society for its operating budget. Our mission is to collect, preserve, interpret and present the rich history of Kent, as well as to provide educational and research material to enrich the public understanding of Kent’s artistic and cultural heritage. For more information, call 860-927-4587.
Giving thanks for our volunteers
The Kent Historical Society would like to acknowledge those who generously helped us with their time and services during the 2017 calendar year. As a small non-profit, we depend on those who share their time with the organization because this allows us to continue to provide events, exhibitions and programming to the community of Kent and the region.
Our thanks to all of you!
Seven Hearths Museum Docents
- Sue Lopardo, volunteer coordinator
Curator Marge Smith
Guest Curator Susan Shepard
Seven Hearths conservator Jeffrey Morgan
Anne and Mike Everett
- Austi Brown
- Melissa Cherniske
- Mike Everett
- Deb Chabrian
- Kent Freeman
- Roger Gonzales
- Jeffrey Morgan
- Chris Naples
- Guy Peterson
- Bruce Whipple
- Lynn Worthington
Seven Hearths in Bloom volunteers
- Deborah Chabrian, co-chair
- Jeffrey Morgan, co-chair
- Melissa Cherniske
- Mike Everett
- Kent Freeman
- Roger Gonzales
- Adriana Martinez
- Ed Martinez
- Marge Smith
- Lyn Stirnweiss
- Kate Vick
- James Vick
- Michael Ward
- J.P. Gifford Market and Catering Company
- Kent Greenhouse and Garden Center
- Kent Wine & Spirit
- Tepoz Tequila
GLN Art Scholarship contributing artists
- Scott Bricher
- Deb Chabrian
- Mike Everett
- Susan Grisell
- Bob Lenz
- Ed Martinez
- Richard Stalter
Other Volunteers and Contributors...
- Ky Anderson
- Sarah Bacon
- Michael Benjamin
- Berkshire Taconic Foundation
- Diane Blick
- Darlene Brady
- Christine Branson
- Austi Brown
- Kevin Capobianco
- Patti Case
- Michael John Cavallaro
- Zanne Charity
- Aiden Cherniske
- Darrell Cherniske
- Bonnie Jo Cheron
- CT Humanities
- Bobbie Davis
- Davis IGA
- Caroline DeVita
- Don DeVita
- Paul Everett
- Fife ’n Drum
- Bill Gawel
- George-Ann Gowan
- Dan Greenbaum
- Linda Hall
- Heron Gallery
- Alice and Jim Hicks
- Housatonic Valley Association
- House of Books
- Tony Iovino
- John Gleason and Gleason Electric
- Kent Barns
- Kent Center School Wildlife Habitat Committee
- Kent Coffee & Chocolate
- Kent Greenhouse
- Kent Land Trust
- Kent Lions Club
- Kent Memorial Library
- Kent Wine & Spirits
- Tom Key
- Joan Larned
- Kathi Lee
- Connie Manes
- Adriana Martinez
- Alfred W. McCoy
- Norm Mosher
- Wendy Murphy
- National Society Daughters of the Revolution
- Northwest CT Community Foundation
- Joanne Pappano
- Frank Pierzga
- Martin Podskoch
- Christina Purcell
- Catherine Rawson
- Marel Rogers
- Nancy Schaefer
- Ira Smith/ Kent Wine and Spirit
- Richard Stalter
- Students from the Kent School
- The Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS)
- The Marvelwood School
- The Town of Kent
- Paul Tines
- Gail Tobin
- Town Clerk's Office
- Michael Ward
- Weantinoge Heritage Land Trust
- Susi Williams
- John Worthington
A Housatonic View
By Brian Thomas
Rumors of a possible Kent connection prompted us to get in touch with Alfred W. McCoy, a distinguished historian of US foreign policy and a 1964 graduate of Kent School. His latest book will be out in September 2017. It’s called In the Shadows of the American Century: The Rise and Decline of U.S. Global Power, and it contains several passages highlighting his time in Kent. For example, in the acknowledgements he notes:
“Whenever I write, I am reminded of a deep debt to my high school English teacher, Bob Cluett, who gave a me both a love of this craft and the skills to pursue it.”
McCoy informed us that he returned to Kent for his 50th reunion in 2014, bringing his single shell for three days of rowing on the Housatonic, down to the Bull’s Bridge dam and back, pausing to take in the countryside and think a bit. He said, “Boarding schools in general, and Kent in particular, are transformative experiences. So, yes, Kent has personal meaning for me.”
Indeed, the introduction to his book, “ever-so modestly” titled “US Global Power and Me,” spells out some of that meaning. There, he says, “I was also privileged to attend schools that trained our future leaders, allowing me to observe firsthand the ethos that shaped those at the apex of American power, their character and worldview. For five years in the 1960s, I went to a small boarding school in Kent, Connecticut, that steeled its boys through relentless hazing and rigorous training for service to the state. Admiral Draper Kauffman (class of ’29), founder of the Navy’s underwater demolition teams (forerunner of the SEALs), was the father of a classmate. Cyrus Vance (class of ’35), the future secretary of state, was a commencement speaker. Sir Richard Dearlove (class of ’63), later head of Britain’s MI-6, was a year ahead of me. Countless alumni were known to be in the CIA. Through its defining rituals, this small school tried to socialize us into a grand imperial design of the kind once espoused by East Coast elites back when America was first emerging as a world power.”
Since his time in Kent, his scholarly work has had a significant worldly impact. After earning a Ph.D. in Southeast Asian history at Yale, he focused on Philippine political history and global opium trafficking. His first book, The Politics of Heroin in Southeast Asia (published in 1972), sparked controversy when the CIA tried to block its publication. But after three English editions and translation into nine foreign languages, this study is now regarded as the “classic” work on the global drug traffic.
His more recent work on covert operations, A Question of Torture: CIA Interrogation, from the Cold War to the War on Terror (2006), explores the agency’s half-century history of psychological torture. A film based in part on that book, “Taxi to the Darkside,” won the Oscar for Best Documentary Feature in 2008. His 2012 study of this topic, Torture and Impunity, explores the political and cultural dynamics of America’s post 9/11 debate over interrogation.
The Philippines remains the major focus of his research. An investigation of President Marcos’s “fake medals,” published on page one of the New York Times (January 23, 1986) just weeks before the country’s presidential elections, contributed to the country’s transition from authoritarian rule. Analyzing the many coup attempts that followed, his 1999 book Closer Than Brothers (Yale) documents the corrosive impact of torture upon the Philippine military.
In Shadows of the American Century, he says, “Both family and school taught me that criticism was not only a right but a responsibility of citizenship. So it has been my role to observe, analyze, and, when I have something worth sharing, to write and sometimes to criticize.”
The KHS hasn’t escaped his critical eye. McCoy also said in his email, “Your message led me to your KHS website where I spent a profitable, pleasant half-hour learning a great deal about the town’s history… If you will forgive a suggestion, there seem to be two major lacunae on your coverage—the Schaghticoke people and the Kent School. Both, of course, have their complexities, but you might find a way to incorporate them into your website….” It’s a fair point, and this article is an attempt to begin filling in the gaps about the Kent School.
Holiday Historic House Tour Dec. 10
Kent, Connecticut, is rich with historic homes and the Kent Historical Society is excited to be able to offer you an opportunity to tour seven private homes that all date to the 18th century in town. The Society is grateful to the homeowners who are sharing their homes so people can appreciate the town’s history in a new way and how people lived in these buildings and how they’ve evolved over the years.
Advance tickets for this Dec. 10 fundraiser are available for $45 per person by clicking here. Tickets will cost $60 on the day of the event. Maps of the homes on the tour and directions to each house will be available at the Swift House, 12 Maple Street, Kent, CT, from 11 a.m. through the afternoon. The tour will be from noon to 4:30 p.m. and an ending party for participants will be held at the Swift House.
“We knew that patrons would be interested in visiting several homes and seeing them in their current uses.” – Bruce Whipple, Trustee
All proceeds from this event will be directed to the the Kent Historical Society’s operating budget.
Tickets are available at the Kent Town Clerk’s Office at the Kent Town Hall (41 Kent Green Blvd.), the Heron Gallery (16 North Main Street) and Kent Wine & Spirit (24 North Main Street) in Kent.
Colonial religion explored through Sunday Series
A glimpse into the religious life of colonists in Connecticut prior to the Revolutionary War was provided by Thomas Key of Salisbury during the Sept. 17 Sunday Series. He shared how the First Great Awakening shook up the religious foundation in the 1730s and disrupted the life of those living in Connecticut and other New England states. Traveling “itinerant” preachers stirred up local residents and caused younger generations to question long-held beliefs.
Key is an instructor for the Taconic Learning Center and vice president of the Salisbury Association. He is also a speaker at the Scoville Library and has given over 75 lectures on a number of historical topics.
He led participants through a timeline of history of “British North America,” which is how he referred to the Colonies. Key highlighted the wars that were fought in the 1600s and 1700s and said that this constant state of unrest impacted the colonists.
“Death was right at their door all the time,” Key said.
The Great Awakening began in 1734 and continued until 1745. It was about religion, but it was also about a changing society.
They were operating a “young capitalistic society” and men and women were marrying later, with young men staying at home much longer than before. The lived under a strict moral code in a what Key called a “pressurized society.” There were three generations since the Pilgrims arrived in 1620 and it was getting harder and harder for younger people to accept the strict rules being imposed by religious leaders.
Jonathan Edwards, who was living and working in North Hampton, Mass., stimulated his congregation and started challenging people to think in different ways. A young man died suddenly in town and it got people thinking about life and death.
“Jonathan Edwards was a really devout person,” Key said. “He was a good preacher.”
His sermons got people so worked up that they became hysterical, Key said. Eventually, he was asked to leave the church and took a position in Stockbridge, Mass. He ultimately ended up as the president of Princeton.
YE OLDE TYME OUTHOUSE
The Friends of the Eric Sloane Museum will sponsor a program Ye Olde Tyme Outhouse on Saturday, August 19th at 10:00 AM.
Historian Georg Papp will bring outhouse models representing separate eras in addition to display boards, photos and articles. This talk will be informative as well as entertaining with some American history mixed in. The lecture is free but donations on behalf of the Friends of the Eric Sloane Museum are welcome.
Papp says he became an OBPA (Outhouse, Backhouse and Privy Authority) when his daughter bought a 100-year old home in New Hampshire. She wanted an authentic outhouse to go with the home so dad felt obligated to help. Since building the first outhouse people started placing orders for outhouses and a new business was developed.
Papp says old abandoned outhouses are a treasure trove for those who love history and digging. Muskets, knives, coins, and wallets are among the valuable items found in colonial pits, but the most common items are whiskey bottles.
The Eric Sloane Museum was built as a collaborative effort between Eric Sloane and Stanley Works of New Britain to commemorate the tool company’s 125th anniversary. Sloane is known to lovers of Americana as an artist and author who brought to life many forgotten customs and skills of past generations. In all, Sloane authored and illustrated over 38 books.
The Eric Sloane Museum is located in Kent, Connecticut on Route 7 (31 Kent-Cornwall Rd.) just north of the village of Kent and the intersections of Route 7 and 341. The museum is open Thursday to Sunday from 10:00 AM to 4:00 PM. Regular admission: Adults $8.00, Senior Citizens, $6.00, Children 6 to 17 $5.00.
2017 Summer Art Enrichment: another success!
The Society enjoyed another successful Summer Art Enrichment program educating youngsters in June and July with a variety of professional artists as instructors.
The organizers expanded the program to a full four weeks this year and several new instructors contributed their talents, including Sam Alford, an illustrator and animation artist, Albert Coffill, retired Kent Center School art teacher, and Gabriella Martinez, an art student at the Hartford Art School. We also welcomed back Andy Richards, who is the head of the Visual Arts Department at The Gunnery school.
Some comments from parents: “The instructor was great and the projects were so creative.” “She enjoyed the group creation of comics. The creative interaction was fun for her.” “She enjoyed the chance to immerse herself in painting.”
There were a total of six different weekly sessions of instruction and 53 participants were involved. Many of the sessions also got a tour of the Seven Hearths Museum thanks to Curator Marge Smith.
At the end of each week, there was an art show presenting each child’s work and parents, grandparents and friends enjoyed seeing all the work on display.
“We continue to be awed by the high quality of art instruction that the Summer Art Enrichment students are receiving through this program,” said Melissa Roth Cherniske, one of the trustees that helped organize the program.
“It was so nice to see the Art Barn buzzing with artistic activity. We started this to pay homage to George Laurence Nelson. I’m sure that he and Helen would be so happy and proud to see the program we have developed ” said trustee Lynn Mellis Worthington, one of the volunteers who helped organize the program.
The Society is thrilled to have the Art Barn in use to allow children to develop their artistic skills. George Laurence Nelson gave art lessons in various forms over the years and so we believe our art instruction continues his legacy.
For a full description of the sessions, go here.
Interested in Summer Art Enrichment in 2018? Contact the Society’s organizers.
Images from the 2017 sessions:
Bridge Flight, or a Dreadful Example
By Brian Thomas
In devising the Kent Quiz, we strive to find little known facts to stump our readers, but in our February 2017 issue, we failed completely. We asked who flew a plane under the bridge in Kent in 1945, and everyone knew the answer. It was Andy Stirnweiss, the father of the Kent Historical Society’s own Lyn Stirnweiss.
After joining the Navy in 1942, Stirnweiss flew more than 50 different kinds of military aircraft and served as a test pilot during the 1950s. But his riskiest, most high-stakes flight took place in Kent in 1945, when he was 21 and already an expert pilot.
He wanted to wow a young lady who worked at N.M. Watson on Main Street. What would make a snappier impression than flying under the Route 341 bridge across the Housatonic River, next to Kent School? Answer — nothing!
Before the flight he measured the understructure: he had 14 feet of clearance with his Grumman F6F Hellcat fighter/bomber, which was just over 13 feet tall. Safety check out of the way, it was time to impress the ladies. First, he buzzed the town center then swooped over to the river, taking aim at the narrow gap under the bridge. Once through, he veered right to skirt the rocks in the shallow water underneath.
He then flew back to his base in Rhode Island undetected, although some party pooper filed a complaint with the State Police. Can you imagine the uproar if someone did that today? Stirnweiss rarely mentioned his “dumb stunt,” but it may have been the smartest dumb thing he ever did. Later that year the young lady from Watson’s Store became Mrs. Andrew Stirnweiss and the two were happily married for more than 55 years be-fore she passed away in 2000, raising five children, all with warm memories and rich tales. After he retired, the Navy captain volunteered for FISH in Kent and was a member of Sacred Heart Church. He often attended Navy reunions, about which he commented, “The older we get, the braver we were.” He died in 2005 at the age of 82.
In the Historical Society office, Lyn often remembers her father and talks about his jokes and wry observations. Stirnweiss was also the subject of a fond, perceptive portrait by Bob Deakin in the Kent Good Times Dispatch in 2005, from which this article is drawn — along with some kibitzing from Lyn Stirnweiss, who supervised my writing. You can find Deakin’s full article, which is very much worth reading at: http://www.bullsbridge.com/Andy_Stirnweiss.htm
Noah Blake’s Cabin in Context and
as a Symbol of the Early Settlement Process
A series of talks co-sponsored by the Friends of Eric Sloane and the Kent Historical Society
The Kent Historical Society and the Friends of the Eric Sloane Museum are co-sponsoring a series of talks by Michael Everett aimed at raising funds to aid the State of Connecticut in rebuilding Eric Sloane’s Noah Blake cabin in 2018. Suggested donation of $10 per class or purchase a Friends of the Eric Sloane Museum family level membership for $35 for the year and attend all four classes for free (and receive some additional benefits). This lecture includes admission to the museum. Those attending are urged to buy a copy of Sloane’s Diary of an Early American Boy. The talks will be held at the Eric Sloane Museum, 31 Kent Cornwall Road (Route 7), Kent, starting at 9:00 am on Saturday, May 6, May 20 and June 3.
Saturday May 6, 9:00 to 10:00 AM: “Howling Wilderness: Nature”
This talk will explore ideas about nature, conflicting attitudes toward farming, changing ecology. The actual location of the cabin will lead to a consideration of where a homestead should be sited. The session will end with a brief outline of the natural factors we look at in planning today.
Saturday May 20, 9:00 to 10:30 AM: “Geometry”
It’s hard to capture the colonial era without knowing the process of acquiring land, buying land and speculating in land, from 1740 on. The cabin focus will be on clearing in woods, the establishment of a farmstead, the types of structures needed, and the significance of proximity to town and meeting house. The session will end with a brief mention of how conventions and early regulations and the geometry of ownership we know.
Saturday June 3, 9:00 to 10:30 AM: “Built Form”
Building the initial cabin led to a bigger and more significant house. We’ll examine the difference between vernacular building and domestic architecture, and how houses and their siting are status symbols. The symbolic significance of Noah Blake’s cabin will provoke some reflection, too. The session ends with thoughts about how the first efforts on our frontier affected land use patterns that still persist, and the value we put on historical retention.