Streams of Change

Discover how the Chester community lived and prospered through changing economic conditions by utilizing natural resources, evolving technologies and ingenuity in this award-winning permanent exhibit on the second floor of the museum. 

With a winding series of colorful panels acting as a self-guide, Streams of Change: Life & Industry Along the Pattaconk takes visitors through the native American settlement to the importance of Chester’s geography playing an important part in the town we recognize today.  The important natural resources of water and wood, a topography that sent water rushing down hillsides and made them too steep to farm, helped create the early pre-industrial industries.

The intrusion of the Connecticut River into the center of town known as the Cove gives definition to the town center of today.  The former homes and country stores of merchants and shipbuilders surround us today in a thriving community.

The year 1836, the year of Chester’s incorporation, was one of profound change in the Connecticut Valley as capital formation moved from the wharf to the waterfall. Chester was well on its way to becoming a center for small manufacturing, inspired by notable local patents.   A number of these family-owned manufacturers continued well into the mid-20th century.

In addition to looking at changes in industrial development, Streams of Change looks at the town center businesses, schools, churches and community organizations that resulted from population growth and changes in the nature of work.  Once residents were freed from full-time farming through their daily or weekly wage, they had time to form communities for mutual support, such as the Italian Mutual Aid Society; for mutual interest, such as the Chester Drum Corps; and for civic pride, such as the Chester Fair. 

Some highlights of the exhibit include: a Chester voter list from Lincoln’s 1860 election; a large selection of antique S. Silliman & Co. inkstands; L’Hommedieu auger patent; a recreated, longtime Chester barbershop as well as a soda fountain; and a tribute to a Chester native who, in his first major league appearance, gave up a historic home run to Babe Ruth.