Steam Navigation on the Connecticut River
Sunday, October 6, 2013 at 4 PM
John Caldwell, merchant of Hartford, complained that it often took as long to sail from Saybrook to Hartford as it did to sail from Saybrook to the West Indies. The tidal nature of the Connecticut River, the narrow, winding channel, contrary winds, or low water made sail navigation challenging. The solution of this problem lay in the application of steam power to water transportation.
Brenda Milkofsky of the Connecticut River Museum will address the checkered progress of steam navigation on the Connecticut in an illustrated talk on Sunday, Oct. 6 at 4 p.m. at Chester Meeting House. The talk is part of the lecture series in connection with the Chester Historical Society’s exhibit, Over the River and Through the Woods.
The Connecticut Valley contributed more than its share of steamboat inventors but also developers of the commercial combinations that allowed this risky business to survive from 1823 until 1931. During that time, this important improvement in travel transformed American life by connecting people and places through easy, inexpensive and often elegant vessels that reflected constantly changing technology.
Brenda Milkofsky is currently Interim Director of the Connecticut River Museum, where she served as founding Director from 1979 until 1993 and retired as Senior Curator in 2008. She served as Guest Curator of Chester Historical Society’s award-winning exhibition, Streams of Change: Life & Industry Along the Pattaconk.
Chester-Hadlyme Ferry Book
This spring, as the State of Connecticut debated raising the fares for the historic Chester-Hadlyme Ferry, the Chester Historical Society focused on the history of the ferry as it opened its new transportation exhibit, “Over the River and Through the Woods.” After all, the ferry has been an integral part of Chester history since it began in the 1700s.
And now the Historical Society has reprinted the children’s book, Ferryboat, written about that historic ferry by Betsy Maestro and illustrated by Giulio Maestro and originally published by HarperCollins in 1986.
Ferryboat went out of print several years ago, but the Maestros have permitted the Chester Historical Society to reprint 1000 copies of the book.
“We couldn’t be happier to be bringing this wonderful and colorful book to a whole new generation of readers and their families,” said Society president Skip Hubbard. “Over the years we have had some requests, so I expect there will be plenty of interest. It’s a pleasure to read it with a child and it makes a great gift.’’
The Maestros, who lived for many years in Old Lyme, where they raised their son and daughter, said, “We created the book because we loved the Chester-Hadlyme Ferry and enjoyed riding on it with our children when they were small. The children in the book are loosely based on our own son and daughter. Over the years, it was fun to share the book with other children at schools all over the United States as an example of something unique and scenic near our home in Connecticut.”
The Maestros now live in Arizona, “not far from the red rocks of Sedona,” where they continue to write and illustrate children’s books.
Ferryboat, chosen by Yankee Magazine in 2000 for its list of Classic New England Children’s Books, has also been referenced in Southwest Airlines’ Travel Guide, where the Chester-Hadlyme Ferry is described as “a popular means of crossing the river during the summer months. It’s more than a tourist attraction – it’s an educational outing for children and adults into the workings of a modern-day ferry.” (Connecticut DOT, take note!)
Publishers Weekly wrote about Ferryboat, “Their words and pictures are so completely involving that it’s almost like being on the real thing. The author carefully explains the workings of the ferry and takes readers from shore to shore, lovingly describing the sights and sounds of the ride….The double-page spreads, with a deep blue river and lush tree-lined shores, are colorful and appealing.” School Library Journal called the book “a charming treat,” adding,” How the ferry operates (it never needs to turn around since the front is the same as the back!) is sure to fascinate young armchair mariners.”
The book is available for purchase in Chester at the Chester Museum at the Mill, open weekends 10-4, and also at Century 21 Heritage Real Estate office in Chester. Ferryboat can also be found at the Florence Griswold Museum in Old Lyme; Gillette Castle in East Haddam; and the Connecticut River Museum and the Valley Railroad in Essex. It is priced around $12. As an introductory offer, Historical Society members get the book at a discounted price – $10 each – when purchased at the Museum.
2013 Museum Closing – Sunday, October 27, 2013
However, the Museum will be open the two days following Thanksgiving Day. After that it will be closed until the Spring of 2014. The Thanksgiving hours will be 10 am – 4 pm both Friday and Saturday, November 22 and 23.
Antique Appraisal Day – Saturday, November 9, 2013
Yes, we’ve scheduled our 10th Annual Antiques Appraisal event, so you can learn what those “treasures” in your attic are worth.
It’ll be on Saturday, Nov. 9 at St. Joseph’s Parish Center, beginning at 8:30 a.m. and ending around noon. Returning this year are these appraisers, with still more expected. All of them donate their time and expertise to the Historical Society, so all money raised that day helps us with programs and upkeep of our Museum.
Norman & Linda Legassie, Stepping Stones Antiques & Collectibles
Peggy Maraschiello, River Wind Antiques
Tom Perry, One of a Kind Antiques
Orville Haberman, books & ephemera
Paul Indorf, jewelry & gems
Steve Lutar, coins & currency
Tom Medlin, paintings & furniture
John Newman, glass
Dave Passamano, stamps
Kevin Timme, silver
Gay Sherman Weintz, vintage jewelry
Please save the date and spread the word. More details to come!
Recent Events & Activities
2013 Museum Opening – May 25, 2013
Our new exhibit at Chester Museum at The Mill, “Over the River & Through the Woods: A Century of Transportation in Chester,” opened to Society members on Friday, May 24, with a reception from 5 to 7 pm. The Museum opened to the general public on May 25.
Side Doors and Dizzy River Bands
Benefit Concert – April 20, 2013
The concert featured two local bands as they made a live recording of their music in the historic Chester Meeting House. They played to a full house and everyone present had a memorable evening.
2013 Bone Art Challenge – March 23, 2013
The Society came up with another fun challenge linking Chester history and art. The 2013 Bone Art Challenge had 41 artists participate and a packed Meeting House for the auction and reception.
Stories of Chester’s Trolley – Feb. 24, 2013
This presentation was one of the most successful events the Society has ever had. Bruce Edgerton and Ted Mackenzie related stores on the building of the Old Saybrook to Chester segment of the Shoreline Electric Railway to a packed Meeting House.
Antique Appraisal Day – November 10, 2012
The 9th Chester Historical Society Antiques Appraisal was held November 10 at St. Joseph’s Parish Center. With the assistance of 13 professional appraisers 330 items were evaluated.
When the Trains Stopped at Chester – Nov. 4, 2012
Max Miller, who is well known around the state as the Connecticut Valley Railroad Historian, talked about the history of railroading in the lower Connecticut Valley, especially in Chester at the Chester Meeting House.
The Chester Historical Society sponsored this program as the initial step in its 2013 exhibit at the Chester Museum at The Mill. The exhibit, which will be called “Over the River and Through the Woods,” will focus on different modes of transportation in Chester over a 100-year period.
Laurel Hill Cemetery Walk – October 27, 2012
On Saturday, October 27, approximately 65 residents joined Chester Historian Rob Miceli and Chester native Cheri Ferrari Habersang, both of whom are longtime members of the Chester Historical Society Board of Trustees, on a walk through Laurel Hill Cemetery. They talked about the history of the cemetery, and how and when it got started. They also discussed different stones and what the symbols mean on many of them.
Square Roots Fundraiser – May 19, 2012
A Champagne Reception and Silent auction held at the Meetinghouse of 35 unique works created by local artists. Each creation was based on a simple aluminum square frame, a knitting gauge manufactured in the 1950s in Chester by the former C. J. Bates & Son.
3rd Grade Day at the Museum – April 2012
Chester Elementary School students visited Chester Museum at The Mill for a full day focusing on the town’s four pre-1905 school districts and experiencing a typical school day of that time. The day concluded with a bus tour of the sites of the four district schools.
Antiques Appraisal Day – March 2012
Nine area appraisers shared their expertise at this Society fundraiser held at St. Joseph’s Parish Center.
Characters of Chester – February 26, 2012
Six people prominent in Chester in the 1950-60s were featured in the newest edition of this continuing series held in te Chester Meetinghouse. The notables included Shirley Miceli, a pharmacist and owner of Chester Pharmacy; Harry Archambault, Archambault Insurance; Robbie Collomore, owner of Robbie’s; Johnny Dengler, owner of Dengler’s Service Station; Johnny Zanardi, original owner of John Zanardi Oil Co.; and Jim Grote, Chief and Fire Marshall of Chester Hose Co. Approximately 150 people gathered at the Meeting House to listen to and share their individual stories of these special men and woman.
Christmas Door Decorating Contest 2011
In this first-time event, residents were judged on the appearance and impact of their holiday decorations.
6th Grade Day at the Museum
Docents welcomed Chester Elementary School students who spent the full day viewing Chester Voices of the Civil War and the award-winning Steams of Change exhibit on the second floor. A scavenger hunt exercise highlighted the Civil War exhibit.
Antique Appraisal Day – November 2011
Six Experts viewed and appraised 300 items at this Society fundraiser held at Chester Village West.