By Elizabeth J. Normen
(c) Connecticut Explored Inc. Summer 2006
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I love it when a story idea surfaces that confirms the old adage, “Truth is stranger than fiction.” And this issue, dedicated to pastimes, pleasures, peculiarities, and prominent features of summers in “Olde” Connecticut, has a “beaut,” a marvelous tale that seemingly could only have happened during a certain time period, when a confluence of events aligned in just the right way. It’s the story of how, in the 1930s, the State of Connecticut decided to throw its considerable resources behind women’s growing interest in hunting and fishing, creating game and fishing preserves solely for women’s use and hiring Connecticut’s—among the nation’s—first female game warden, Edith Stoehr. I loved this story, which appears as our photo essay on page 14, from the minute state archivist Mark Jones, frequent HRJ contributor and member of our editorial team, suggested it, partly because I have a fondness for women’s history, because it so wonderfully evokes the Progressive Era, and because, well, you just can’t make this stuff up!
I was born and raised in Connecticut, and its lush, green, rolling landscape—in which one frequently (and literally) stumbles across evidence of our state and nation’s history—is both refuge and inspiration for me still. Mine was never the “go to the Cape and sit on the beach” kind of family. We were explorers: hikers, campers, and museum-goers. As the HRJ editorial board planned this issue—with snow on the ground—my thoughts returned to favorite Connecticut summer escapes of both my childhood and more recent seasons: pristine Lake Riga in northwest Connecticut with its centuries-old stone furnace harkening back to the state’s colonial-era iron-smelting industry; Mystic Seaport (to which my own children and I have made annual pilgrimages), which delivers on its premise as the museum of America and the sea; and the Beatrix Farrand-designed Sunken Garden of Hill-Stead Museum in Farmington, particularly on a transcendent summer evening, slunk low in a lawn chair, listening to spoken poetry–to name just three.
Happily, with this issue I’ve discovered new escapes to try, and you will, too. It’s perfect summer reading, so take it out to the patio or tuck it into your beach tote. Then, plan a day trip to one of the history-rich sites covered in these pages—including the Heritage Hot Spots (page 56) or visit one of the more than 100 cultural institutions offering free or discounted admission during Connecticut Open House Day on June 10. If you’d rather leave the planning to us, reserve July 11 on your calendar and join HRJ for an insider’s tour of Old Lyme’s artistic past and present (see page 10 for details). With so many summer diversions right here in Connecticut, you won’t have to travel far to make your own great escape. Enjoy!
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