Preserving Historic Craftsmanship — Spring 2022

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By Elizabeth J. Normen

(c) Connecticut Explored Inc., Spring 2022

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Welcome to our latest issue about historic preservation. This is our eighth, nearly bi-annual, issue with this theme. (The first was our second issue: Winter 2003). We return to this rich topic time and again with support from the State Historic Preservation Office (DECD) with funds from the Community Investment Act of the State of Connecticut.

Assistant publisher Mary Donohue, who spent 30 years in the field of historic preservation before joining CTExplored in 2013, chaired the issue and drew on her depth of knowledge, wide network, and her favorite topics to select this issue’s stories. We always turn to our partners, too, including SHPO and Preservation Connecticut, for story ideas. One big anniversary that the field is commemorating nationwide this year is the 200th anniversary of landscape architect Frederick Law Olmsted Sr.’s birth. See our story about Beardsley Park in Bridgeport on page 50; it provides a link to our earlier stories about Olmsted in Connecticut, too.

Mary also organized this issue around the sub-theme of craftsmanship. Craftsmanship means skill in execution, but stories in this issue embody innovation, too—the meeting of the hand-made with the creative process of the mind. These stories remind us that there are always people behind the creation of a building or a landscape—designers and laborers alike. Some are celebrated, like Olmsted, Wallace K. Harrison (page 46), Donn Barber (page 32), and William Lanson (page 26), and some go unrecognized and their contributions lost to history. I’m reminded to look beyond the physical building or place and to think about the people behind it—from the architect to the skilled tradesman to the humble laborer.

20th Anniversary News

Planning for Connecticut Explored’s 20th anniversary, beginning in Fall 2022, is well underway! John Alves, our artistic director for every single issue, collaborated with us on a logo that is designed to celebrate the diversity of the people in Connecticut history who have made our state what it is today. In case you don’t recognize all of the faces, you’ll find a legend at HERE.

The idea is to take this moment to look ahead to the future of Connecticut history. With CT Humanities funding, we brought together an advisory team last fall chaired by UConn professor Fiona Vernal to help us select 20 projects and people who are innovating in the ways Connecticut history is collected, interpreted, and disseminated. Through social media and networking far and wide, we received 120 nominations from across Connecticut!

Starting next fall, we’re planning a year of commemorative public programs, CTExplored stories, and Grating the Nutmegpodcasts and will be applying for grants and asking for your support to help make it all happen. As we get ready to celebrate, please support CTExplored this spring with your gift to the Friends of Connecticut Explored

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