96 Years of Preserving, Cherishing, Caring for History
Stratford Historical Society Celebrated 95th Anniversary in August
by David Wright
Board of Governors of the Stratford Historical Society
Home of the Stratford Historical Society, the Captain David Judson House (National Register of Historic Places) was built circa 1750 by Capt. David Judson on the site of his great-grandfather’s 1639 stone house, Judson House is an example of Georgian architecture, an furnished with period pieces of Stratford origin. There is an early piano which belonged to William Samuel Johnson, a Stratford resident, framer of the U.S. Constitution, and the second president of Columbia University.
Adjacent to the Judson House is the modern Catharine Bunnell Mitchell Museum with permanent exhibits of Stratford history and changing gallery exhibits which feature items from the collections of the Stratford Historical Society.
An extensive Genealogy library is located in the Office area of the Museum and is available to the public on Tuesdays and Thursdays from 9:00 am to 2:30 pm year round. Genealogical requests may be made by telephone, e-mail, U.S. mail and in person.
The Beach Family Carriage House: The carriage house, built approximately 1880-1885, was built by the prominent Beach family of 1812 Elm St. The carriage and horse were housed on the ground floor while the upper floor was used for storage of hay and grains.
Before 1909, when electricity came to Stratford, the Beach family owned a gasoline- powered electric generator which benefited several houses in the Elm St. area. The original green glass insulators on the building probably date to the turn of the 20th century. The upper level was used for many years for Halloween parties and other family and neighborhood gatherings.
In late February 2004, the Stratford Historical Society was given the opportunity to acquire and move the Carriage House which was in the way of development of the property at 1812 Elm St. The Society accepted the challenge, saved the building, and celebrated its re-birth in August 2005.
95 Years Preserving, Cherishing, Caring for History
The Stratford Historical Society celebrates its 95th birthday this year. On August 8th, 1925, the inaugural meeting of the Society was held to nominate officers for the Society. An organizational meeting had been held, earlier, on July 14, 1925.
There had been a desire on the part of many Stratfordites to form an historical society for three generations. However, with the death of Celia Curtis earlier in 1925, and her wish to donate her come to a town historical society, it became imperative that action be taken on forming a Society.
Additionally new residents moving to town were being asked to donate to the preservation of Celia’s former residence, the erstwhile Captain David Judson home. The new residents didn’t understand why they should donate.
It seems beneficial to re-read the purpose of the Society as detailed by the Society’s founders in 1925.
History of Stratford, 1939
by William Howard Wilcoxson
On January 17, 1925, Articles of Association were filed by Mrs. Adelaide Curtis Gunther, Miss Frances B. Russell, Mrs. Margaret Beardsley DeLacour, Rev. George W. Judson, Mr. John C. Wilcoxson and Mr. Charles H. Welles, associating them selves as a body politic and corporate, under the name of The Stratford Historical Society, Incorporated. The purposes of the society were state to be “to preserve, cherish and care for all historical material whether written matter or material objects relating to the history of the town of Stratford, Connecticut; to maintain a building for the preservation and exhibition of such material; to collect and expend money for such purposes and to hold funds and property in trust for such purposes.” How well the society as succeeded in its objects, is evident to all who visit the headquarters of the society in the historic Judson House.
It’s also interesting to review the details of the July 25th organizational meeting:
The Bridgeport Telegram
July 15, 1925
New Historical Society Stirs up Unfavorable Comment about “Who’s Who” in Old Stratford
The formation of a Stratford historical society which has been discussed for more than three generations reached the state of temporary organization last Friday night, and incidentally has brought about one of the biggest social and political mixups [sic.] that the town has ever witnessed.
Objection is made in many quarters as to the methods of calling the preliminary meeting to complete the temporary organization and now the argument has been reopened as to just whoa re the best people in Stratford rather than how many of the townspeople could be induced to interest themselves in the history of Stratford…