Rods and Chains

Sunday Series focused on “Rods and Chains”
and the unsung hero who surveyed Litchfield County

Who gave the landscape of Kent and the Litchfield Hills its current outline?  According to New Milford historian Michael John Cavallaro, the towns we inhabit today were shaped by one of Connecticut’s unsung heroes — Edmund Lewis, a surveyor who laid out Kent, New Milford, Canaan, and a number of other towns.  Cavallaro spoke at our Sunday Series event on Sunday March 19, 2017.

A rod is 16.5 feet, and a chain is four rods. With these units, brave surveyors like Lewis mapped almost all of Litchfield County. In a highly visual, dramatic presentation, Cavallaro showed how and why the land was carved into its current shapes and boundaries, and explored the implications of decisions made so long ago.

Cavallaro also painted a vivid picture of the circumstances that Lewis and other surveyors endured as they traveled the undeveloped land with their equipment, keeping the records and identifying the likeliest spots for settlement. He presented maps and books for the audience to examine as he brought little-known aspects of the past to life.

The lecture, as well as future Sunday Series events in 2017, helped give context to the Kent Historical Society’s upcoming exhibit in the summer of 2017, “The Founders of Kent,” on the emergence of one New England town in the 18th century. The 2017 Sunday Series events are sponsored by the Kent Barns and the Kent Lions Club.

The Kent Historical Society sponsors the Sunday Series every other month September through May. Free admission for members; $5 suggested donation for non-members.

For more information please call 860.927.4587 or email

A Trio of Grants

A Trio of  Grants Upgrades the
Kent Historical Society’s Archives and Art Storage

The Kent Historical Society recently completed a renovation project that more than doubles the storage available for its art collection and its archives. According to KHS President Mike Everett, “The upgraded Art and Archives Area provides excellent storage space on the society’s property. It will also prevent deterioration and damage to the artwork as well as make far better use of our whole campus. We’re grateful to the three organizations who gave us grants for this project: Northwest Connecticut Community Foundation, the Daughters of the American Revolution and the Institute of Museum and Library Services.”

Like many nonprofits, the Kent Historical Society puzzles over finding more space. The need had become acute since they discovered that the second floor of Seven Hearths, where they had been storing the artwork of George Laurence Nelson, was a Colonial-era fur trading operation. That meant we needed to move the paintings…. But where?

A timely visit from Richard L. Kerschner, Conservation Consultant on Museum Environments, suggested a way forward. Kerschner pointed out that the largely unused space in the Tallman House basement was in fact dry, tight, and structurally just fine for art and archival storage.

This opened up some possibilities. The Society realized that they could move George Laurence Nelson’s paintings there, and have a better environment for the works on paper, which had been suffering at Seven Hearths. With the proper outfitting,the same space in Tallman’s basement could also house the Society’s archives, which would free up space on the first floor of Tallman.

To address these issues, the KHS applied for three grants aimed at renovating the Tallman lower floor for storage of paintings and archives. The grants were carefully structured to cover different phases of this renovation.

The Society was awarded $4,000 from the Northwest Connecticut Community Foundation from the Edwin M. Stone and Edith H. Stone Fund, aimed at the basic reconditioning of the basement — removing an unnecessary oil tank and a furnace, and preparing the walls and floor.

The Daughters of the American Revolution supplied $5,000 for Historic Preservation. Once the KHS explained the relation of the Tallman basement renovation to the fur trading post, they agreed to support us, too. The DAR money covered additional outfitting to make the space suitable for archival work.

More ambitiously, we applied for $17,394 from the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS) to custom-build a storage module for the paintings and artwork. The IMLS grant is the Society’s first federal grant ever we’ve ever received. The Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS) grant to KHS was one of 206 museum projects awarded that totaled $21 million. The museums were selected from a pool of 548 applications to the highly competitive Museums for America grant program.

The Institute of Museum and Library Services is celebrating its 20th Anniversary. IMLS is the primary source of federal support for the nation’s 123,000 libraries (link is external) and 35,000 museums. Their mission has been to inspire libraries and museums to advance innovation, lifelong learning, and cultural and civic engagement. For the past 20 years, their grant making, policy development, and research has helped libraries and museums deliver valuable services that make it possible for communities and individuals to thrive. To learn more, visit and follow the IMLS on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.