From Meeting House to Mill: Celebrating our 50th year

The Chester Historical Society is now it its 50th year.  To celebrate, our ground floor exhibit space underwent a near complete makeover this spring.  Contrasting colors now complement 8-foot-high wall murals that recall the Meeting House and the Griswold Mill, two buildings that were restored by the Society and bookend our past 50 years. 

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Five large colorful panels summarize by decade the numerous Historical Society activities, many of which contribute to current Chester life.

Overhead hang a series of historical posters created by the team of Jan and Peter Good—reminders of  events made possible by the Meeting House renovation.

Be sure to take in the video oral history of Sally Bibbiani recalling the summer of 1958, when Hollywood came to Chester for the filming of It Happened to Jane.  Footage from the actual film interspersed with Sally’s stories bring that year alive.   

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But wait, there’s more upstairs… While the second floor features our long-running, award-winning Streams of Change: Life & Industry Along the Pattaconk exhibit, it too is refreshed on a regular basis.  Four areas are new this year.  

Chester Schools:  Trustees Rob Miceli and Nancy Watkins created a story depicting the evolution of educating Chester students. From four district schools to the combined Union School (1906) to Valley Regional High School (1951) and Chester Elementary School (1960), the exhibit includes school accessories, desks and a slate tablet to write on.   

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Andy’s Beauty Shop was a fixture on Main Street for decades.  Donna Carlson and Cheri Habersang recaptured the fashion and styles of the time along with photos of Andy Kranyak at work.  The electric curling machine from his shop alone is worth a museum visit!  (See photo.)

Constance Baker Motley’s importance in Civil Rights and Women’s Rights are lessons that are as current today as they were for her beginning in the late 1950s.   Trustee Marta Daniels consolidated her prior exhibit of Judge Motley to appear on a panel featuring this notable former Chester resident.   

Vintage Films from Chester’s past are shown on the second floor monitor.  Selections include: the Town Center and storeowners from the 1930s, Chester Fair (1950s) and the Chester Centennial Parade and Town Picnic (1936).