June 1: America’s First Public Art Museum

  Today in 1842, Connecticut Governor Chauncey Cleveland signed an act formally incorporating the Wadsworth Atheneum, creating the first public art museum in the United States. Construction immediately began on the iconic, castle-like building in Hartford that remains the centerpiece and most recognizable feature of the Atheneum campus, and the institution officially opened two years…

May 18: One Summer Day, He Took the Greatest Generation on a “Sleigh Ride.”

    Today in 1975, American composer and longtime Connecticut resident Leroy Anderson passed away in his Woodbury home. Famous for whimsical and catchy orchestral pieces, such as the perennial Christmastime favorite”Sleigh Ride,” “The Syncopated Clock,” and “Blue Tango,” Anderson’s compositions helped define popular music of mid-20th century America. Fellow composer and Boston Pops conductor…

May 8: The Man Who Made “Happily Ever After” Get Real

  Today in 2012, longtime Connecticut resident Maurice Sendak died in Danbury from complications following a stroke. Sendak was a prolific children’s book creator who wrote and illustrated dozens of books during a more than half-century career. His path-breaking approach to reflecting the psychology of children in his work transformed the field of children’s literature….

May 4: Romanticizing Nature for an Industrializing America

  Today in 1826, iconic American landscape painter Frederic Edwin Church was born in Hartford. The internationally famed artist’s Connecticut roots ran deep: he was a direct descendant of one of the original English Puritans who settled Hartford with Rev. Thomas Hooker. His father, a prominent silversmith, also became a director of Hartford’s Aetna Insurance…

March 24: Joel Barlow, The Poet and Diplomat Who Died Far From Home

  Joel Barlow, American poet and one of Connecticut’s most ambitious — albeit not always successful — learned men of the late-18th century, was born today in 1754 in the western Connecticut town of Redding. As a member of the Yale class of 1778, the bright young man found himself surrounded by an impressive crowd…

February 12: England’s Most Famous Detective Was Born in Hartford

  A scion of one of Connecticut’s oldest and most prominent families, world-famous actor and playwright William Hooker Gillette was born in Hartford in 1853. Drawn early to the theater arts, he left the city at the age of 20 to seek his fortune as an actor and stage producer. He met with moderate success…

December 6: Florence Griswold and the Fine Art of Hospitality

  Today in 1937, Florence Griswold died, having made her lifelong hometown of Old Lyme synonymous with  art.  Miss Griswold was born into one of Old Lyme’s most prominent families, the youngest daughter of wealthy ship captain Robert Griswold. Not long after Florence was born, however, the family’s fortunes began to change, The start of…

November 30: Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz Marry in Greenwich

  Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz, two of the most famous entertainers in the history of American television, first met in 1940, over a decade before their mega-hit sitcom, I Love Lucy, first aired. Ball, already well known as a model and Broadway actress, and Arnaz, a popular Cuban bandleader, met on the set of…

November 29: Connecticut’s Presidential Portrait Painter

  Today in 1982, a very special delivery was received at the White House: a stunningly photo-realistic portrait of President Jimmy Carter, painted by Connecticut artist Herbert E. Abrams. The painting was President Carter’s official White House portrait, and after viewing it, White House curator Clement Conger declared Abrams the best contemporary artist he had…

November 15: The Unlikely Stardom of Rosa Ponselle

  Born to Italian immigrants living in Meriden, Connecticut in 1897, Rosa Ponselle (born Rosa Ponzillo) displayed a natural talent for both singing and instrumental music at an early age. To express that talent, she began her musical career as a teenager, singing ballads in local movie theaters to keep audiences entertained while the projectionist…

October 20: A Monument to the State’s Founding Minister

  On October 20, 1950, a crowd of several hundred Connecticans gathered in front of the Old State House in Hartford to observe the unveiling of a new, eight-foot-tall statue of Thomas Hooker, the Puritan minister and “founding father” of Connecticut who founded the settlement of Hartford in 1636. Born in England in 1586, Thomas…