Stay tuned for more exciting, educational and interesting events sponsored by the Chester Historical Society
Recent Events & Activities
Chester “Food Schmooz” Crackerbarrel
Held March 2, 2014
Faith Middleton, move over. Let’s Talk about Chester Food
With the conversation led by longtime Chester folks who love to eat, we heard stories of the food sales that seemed like a weekly event in Chester during the late 1940s and throughout the ‘50s, when the churches and their respective groups, the political parties, the baseball teams, the American Legion Post and its Auxiliary, the drum corps, the garden club, the senior class, the Cedar Lake Neighbor Association – everybody hosted a food sale.
As one Chester native recalled, “Folks went to food sales no doubt filled with community spirit. They also went looking for specific items. Katie Carini’s lemon meringue pie or Helen Zanardi’s minestrone and Eulah Castelli’s baked beans are cases in point. It was not unusual for people to go to the cook’s house before the item got to the sale….Cheating? Perhaps, but all’s fair in love, war and good food.”
Chester was an interesting mix in the mid 20th century, a collection of old and ethnic families that, united, survived the Depression and a war. Food was a part of that and by the 1950s the good cooks were hardly a secret. It is fair to declare – the mention of a name was often followed by the image of some kind of foodstuff.
Those foodstuffs, and others, have accompanying stories. In the interest of telling Chester’s unique history, our Crackerbarrel program gave the attendees a sampling of some of the stories. And late in 2014, we hope to publish a cookbook with those stories and more, plus the recipes.
Unearthed In Chester – A Creative Challenge
March 22, 2014
Dipping back into Chester’s roots as a manufacturing town, we created our fourth annual challenge for area artisans and all those with a creative mind. This year’s creative challenge, titled “Unearthed in Chester,” used flat, rusted iron pieces found buried in an early Chester Center property – one of the oldest houses in town.
The rusty pieces measured 1 ¼ by 2 inches and looked like the capital letter E. We do not know their origin, but they were a great example of what one might find by digging in their own backyard!
Antique Appraisal Day – Saturday, November 9, 2013
Our 10th Annual Antiques Appraisal event was held on Saturday, Nov. 9 at St. Joseph’s Parish Center. This year we had twelve appraisers donate their time and expertise to the Historical Society. As always, it was well received and all the money raised goes toward new programs and helps with the upkeep of our Museum.
Chester-Hadlyme Ferry Book
The Historical Society has reprinted the children’s book, Ferryboat, written about the historic Chester-Hadlyme 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.
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.”
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 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.
Steam Navigation on the Connecticut River
Sunday, October 6, 2013
Brenda Milkofsky of the Connecticut River Museum addressed the checkered progress of steam navigation on the Connecticut in her illustrated talk on Sunday, Oct. 6 at Chester Meeting House. The talk was part of the lecture series in connection with the Chester Historical Society’s exhibit, Over the River and Through the Woods.
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.