Over There: Washington and The Great War at the Gunn Historical Society

The Gunn Memorial Museum, on 5 Wykehem Rd in Washington Connecticut has organized a new exhibition that commemorates the 100th anniversary of World War One, one of the largest and bloodiest conflicts in history, where over 70 million military personnel were mobilized around the world and more than 10 million combatants and 7 million civilians were killed, including several from Washington, CT. Over 100 men and women from Washington, and more than 150 alumni and faculty from The Gunnery served in The Great War.


Letters, pictures, and an interesting array of period artifacts from the museum, local families, and collectors, including Peter Tragni and Dr. Robert Jacobs, among others, are used to explore the dramatic experiences of Washington’s soldiers, along with the extensive support efforts that were happening on the home front in Washington through such organizations as the Sister Susie Society, the Red Cross, the Women’s Land Army, and the Home Guard. All of their fascinating stories will be shared in this exhibit and a diverse series of public programs (see below) through the year, sponsored in part by the Connecticut Community Foundation.

Art director Chris Zaima, designer Sandy Booth, and painter Keith Templeton, along with a team of other volunteers and staff, have created another visual masterpiece. Local history will come alive as visitors step back in time and explore the lives of Washington’s residents during World War One, through their own words, and the impact this war had on our small town.

Admission to the exhibit is free, and this exhibit will be on display through January 18, 2015. For more information, call the Museum at 860-868-7756 or view www.gunnlibrary.org for more information or email gunnmuseum@sbcglobal.net.

On June 28 at 11 a.m. at the Gunn Library, there will be a lecture, The Beginning of the End: The Origins of World War I. Dr. Michael Nolan, a professor of European History at Western Connecticut State University, will present a lecture to mark the 100th anniversary of the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand of the Austrian Empire, the spark that ignited World War One. On June 28, 1914 Archduke Franz Ferdinand and his wife Sophie were assassinated by a Serbian nationalist who was a Black Hand Terrorist as they visited the city of Sarajevo. This assassination was the catalyst of World War One, a four-year event that claimed the lives of over 10 million soldiers and 7 million civilians around the globe.


Dr. Nolan will discuss the contentious years leading up to the assassination, how the events of that day unfolded, the impact the resulting war had on the 20th century, and who was really to blame for the origins of the war, the answer to which is not as clear cut as many might think and has vexed historians for the past century. Dr. Nolan is a 2001 graduate of Brandeis University and is the author of The Inverted Mirror: Mythologizing the Enemy in France and Germany, 1898-1914 (New York, Berghahn Books, 2005).

On Tuesday, July 14 & 28 and August 11 & 25 at 1:00 p.m. at the Gunn Library and Museum there will be a WWI Film Series featuring: The African Queen, A Farewell to Arms, Fly Boys, and War Horse.

Native American Quill and Beadwork in Litchfield Hills

In northwest Connecticut’s Litchfield Hills, the Institute for American Indian Studies on 38 Curtis Road in Washington is presenting a quill and bead work exhibition of Chris Bullock who is of Wampanoag descent.


Since childhood, Chris has participated in Native American cultural events and has been crafting his own work for 47 years. He also provides educational programming on eighteenth century Native culture.

Chris oversees the daily operation of The Wandering Bull, LLC, a family business his parents began in 1969 that is located in Washington, New Hampshire. The Wandering Bull sells Native craft supplies, as well as vintage and antique Native art with a focus on the Northeast Woodlands.

The exhibit runs through November 30, 2013. There is no charge for this exhibition. Museum Hours: Monday through Saturday 10am to 5pm Sunday from 12 Noon to 5pm Last admission at 4:30pm. For more information www.iaismuseum.org and for information on Litchfield Hills Connecticut www.litchfieldhills.com

Hollister House Garden Fair

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The Hollister House located in beautiful Washington Connecticut on 300 Nettleton Rd. is one of only 16 exceptional gardens currently designated a Preservation Project by the Garden Conservancy. In 2010, Hollister House achieved its listing on the National Register of Historic Places and was also named a Town Landmark Site by the Town of Washington. Hollister House Garden is beautifully situated on a gently sloping hillside behind a rambling 18th century farmhouse. The intimate outdoor spaces, bordered by dramatic hedges and the natural landscape, are lavishly planted with both familiar and exotic species and open onto stunning vistas.

The Hollister House is hosting a late summer garden fair featuring rare plants not usually available in the trade and one of a kind garden artifacts and containers will be held in the beautiful historic barn at Hollister House Garden on Saturday, September 7 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., rain or shine.

Unusual plants such as specialty peonies, hard-to-find shrubs and trees, and herbaceous perennials that are traditionally planted in the fall will be on offer from four outstanding nurseries: Broken Arrow Nursery (Hamden, CT), Cricket Hill Garden (Thomaston, CT), Falls Village (CT) Flower Farm and Opus (Little Compton, RI). Each of the knowledgeable vendors will present an informative show and tell with timely tips on late season gardening and autumn to-do’s such as dividing peonies, a task best done in September.

In addition to plants, playfully eccentric garden ornaments salvaged, restored and created by Kent, CT-based RT Facts and simply elegant Ben Wolff pots, each hand made in Goshen, CT and signed by the artist will also be available for sale.

Admission to the garden fair is $10 and includes entrance to Hollister House Garden. The $10 donation supports educational programs for the non-profit Hollister House Garden.
Hollister House Garden is also open to visitors every Saturday through September. August hours are 8 to 10 am and 3 to 6 pm; September hours are 10 am to noon and 2 to 5 pm. Information and directions to the garden’s 300 Nettleton Hollow Road location are available on the website at www.hollisterhousegarden.org or by calling 860-868-2200.

For area information www.litchfieldhills.com

Coming to America: Washington’s Swedish Immigrants

Swedish Culture at the Gunn Museum in Washington CT

Swedish Culture at the Gunn Museum in Washington CT

The Gunn Memorial Museum on 5 Wykeham Road in Washington Connecticut is exploring its’ European roots with a new exhibit that runs through January 12, 2014 called Coming to America: Washington’s Swedish Immigrants. This exhibition shares the little-known story of Swedish immigration to this small New England town.

Known for their superior agricultural skills, 1.3 million Swedes immigrated to America during the 19th and 20th centuries, escaping conscription, famine, and poverty. Washington, Connecticut became one of their new homes, where many found employment as laborers and servants on local farms and estates owned by wealthy New Yorkers.


Beginning in 1870, over one hundred Swedish families settled in Washington and built two churches across the street from each other. One, the Salem Covenant Church, is celebrating its 125th anniversary this year. Swedes made up 22% of Washington’s population in 1910, and many of their descendants still reside in town today. This exhibit tells their story.

Ellis Island Room

Ellis Island Room

The Gunn Museum is located at 5 Wykeham Road, at the intersection of Wykeham Road and Rt. 47, on Washington Green. The Museum is open to the public Thursday through Saturday 10am-4pm and Sunday from 12pm-4pm. Call the Museum at 860-868-7756 or view http://www.gunnlibrary.org for more information.

Twined Art at the Institute for American Indian Studies

The exhibition Woven from Milk Weed by Wabanaki Artist Vera Longtoe Sheehan opens at the Institute for American Indian Studies in Washington Connecticut runs through May 31, 2013. There is no charge for this exhibition. The Museum is open Monday through Saturday 10 am to 5 pm and Sunday 12 noon to 5pm. The last admission is at 4:30 pm.


Vera Longtoe Sheehan is a fiber artist who follows in the footsteps of her ancestors. When she was young, her father started teaching her how to harvest and process plants to make cordage. He also taught her the various techniques that she uses to make twined bags, baskets and textiles.

Vera combines her tribal and family knowledge with many years of researching Wabanaki history, culture and tradition to create her one of a kind twined woven items. She uses both hand-rolled and commercially rolled plant fiber cordage. Each of the hand items can take hours, days, weeks or even months to complete.


Her twined art is environmentally friendly because it is made from plants, which are quick growing, renewable resources. She is currently teaching her children to twine, so that this endangered art form is not lost. Some of her twined bags, baskets and textiles have appeared in films and literature.

The artist and her family reside in Vermont. She offers a variety of programs for schools, museums and historic sites.


“Meet the Artist” Reception is Sunday, April 7th from 1pm -3pm. The reception includes refreshments at 2pm.

For more information about the Institute for American Indian Studies located on 38 Curtis Rd. in Washington CT call 860-868-0518 or visit www.iaismuseum.org. For area information www.litchfieldhills.com.

Native American Drum Making Workshop at The Institute for American Indian Studies

The most important Native American instrument was and still is the drum. Most Native Americans prefer to use drums made from traditional materials made by a master drum maker or make their own. This is because of the strong spiritual associations of the drum….it is the heartbeat of Mother Earth.


Indigenous peoples made several kinds of drums; log drum, water drum and the most common, the hand drum. Hand drums could be single or double-headed. In the northeast region they were traditionally made using a wooden base and an animal hide; typically deer or elk.

The drum is considered to be the first musical instrument used by humans; historians believe the drum has been virtually every culture known to mankind. The original purpose was for communicating over long distances as a type of signal.

On Saturday, February 23 from 11 a.m. – 2 p.m. Allan Madahbee, Ojibway artist and musician, will instruct participants in making their own single-face drum while sharing the importance of the drum in Native American culture. This workshop is recommended for cildren ages 12 and up. The workshop fee is $150; $125 IAIS Members. Reservations and a $50 nonrefundable deposit is required by calling 860-868-0518. The museum is located on 38 Curtis Rd. in Washington Connecticut. For additional information www.iaismuseum.org. For area information www.litchfieldhills.com

About The Institute for American Indian Studies

IAIS is a Not-For-Profit organization. We do not receive monies from the State, Town of Washington nor any other museum or gaming facility. We reply on membership, programs and contributions for support.

Holiday in Washington Depot Dec. 14

Washington Parks & Recreation and the Washington Business Association is hosting an evening of fun and good cheer in this bucolic village in the heart of the Litchifeld Hills.

There will be food, music, raffles, and hay rides throughout the town. The evening will begin at 6:00pm with the lighting of the tree by a very special guest. Outside the town hall after the tree has been lit, children from Washington Montessori School will be singing Christmas carols . Shortly after the tree lighting, Santa will arrive by way of hay wagon and listen to children’s wishes in the town hall until 8:30 p.m. Pictures will be taken with one photo per child provided.

The Troubadours from the Gunnery School will be caroling throughout the Depot during the evening. Clifford the Big Red Dog will be visiting businesses to offer holiday paw shakes to his fans. Inside the Town Hall, The Ladies Auxiliary of the Washington Volunteer Fire Department will have a special mailbox for letters to Santa, and will be selling their annual Christmas Ornament.

The Gunn Memorial Library and Gunn Museum will have a craft project for the children while they patiently wait for their turn with Santa. Washington Primary School PTO will be selling baked goods outside the Town Hall from 6:00 – 8:30 p.m.

The Senior Center will be selling gift items and raffling off a wreath and poinsettia donated by Painter Ridge Farm. The Washington Business Association will be sponsoring a drawing for a Mini I Pad and a gift basket of goodies. Tickets for the drawing will be available at member businesses from 6-8 and should be dropped off at Washington Supply for the drawing at 8:30.

The Hickory Stick Bookshop will be hosting a book signing from 7- 8 with Florence and Wendell Minor featuring My Bookstore for which they wrote an essay on the shop. Mo the Magician will be showing his tricks at Washington Supply and Outdoor Living from 6:30-8;30.

Other activities will be featured throughout the Depot to delight visitors to open businesses. Whether you stroll the streets of the Depot or ride on the hay wagon you’ll find a warm welcome inside the beautifully decorated shops which have kept their doors open welcoming friends with refreshments and other surprises. It is an evening not to be missed in Litchfield Hills.