For Educators

Wethersfield Historical Society is a 501(c)3 non-profit committed to preserving and promoting Wethersfield’s shared cultural heritage and history in order to foster an informed sense of community for today and tomorrow’s citizens. We are dedicated to partnering with students and educators both in and outside of Wethersfield in order to champion the importance of local history through sharing roughly 400 years of content with the leaders of tomorrow. If your school cannot visit us please note that we do offer outreach programming, we can bring our resources to you. While we pride ourselves on the existing rich diversity of our programming, the Society can design new experiences to meet the needs of any visiting organization on demand.

In order to book a school group, discuss our pricing options, or ask a question regarding our Education Department, please contact our Education and Exhibitions Coordinator, Kaitlyn Oberndorfer, by email at kaitlyn.oberndorfer@wethersfieldhistory.org.

Our Programs

Wethersfield Historical Society has the capacity to bring our programs and resources to students both Pre K-12 and at the post-secondary level. Our existing programs are primarily for social studies students, aligned with Connecticut’s College, Career, and Civic Life social studies standards, however we additionally offer both STEM and English opportunities. Many of our programs are on site, as Wethersfield Historical Society owns three house museums, the Wethersfield Museum proper, and a research library in addition to being situated in the largest historic district in the state. All of our programs can additionally be restructured as outreach efforts where our educators can visit your classroom. While many of our trademark experiences cover Colonial America, our lessons span American history outside of this hallmark period.

Wethersfield Public Schools

Programming for Wethersfield Public Schools is free in order to show our commitment to our larger community and the leaders of tomorrow.

Field Trip Opportunities

Keeney Memorial Cultural Center Wethersfield Museum:

The Kenney Memorial Cultural Center functions as the museum space of Wethersfield Historical Society. The Wethersfield Museum houses anywhere between two and three concurrent exhibits at a time. Our permanent exhibit, Legendary People, Ordinary Lives, intends to function as an interactive way for students to engage in a survey of Wethersfield history. As this gallery currently stands, there is a heavy focus on capturing the memory of colonial Wethersfield with supporting content on the realities behind the development of Colonial Revivalism. Contact the Education and Exhibitions Coordinator to discuss scheduling a supporting gallery tour to explore these topics. These tours can be tailored to the needs of each group.

Our secondary longer term gallery space currently houses our exhibit Castle on the Cove, referring to the Connecticut State Prison’s presence in Wethersfield from 1827 to 1963. This exhibit covers the evolution of the state’s prison system, contextualized through the development of the nation’s prison system through the 19th and 20th centuries. Castle on the Cove primarily focuses on the way the presence of this prison shaped the community of Wethersfield. Due to the diversity of the collection housed in Castle on the Cove, students can additionally learn a great deal on the science behind analyzing material culture. Tours are available for the Castle on the Cove exhibit and can be paired with a tour of the former prison and warden home grounds at what today is known as Cove Park. Contact the Education and Exhibitions Coordinator for details.

Our third gallery space, the Watson Gallery, plays host to a number of temporary exhibits throughout the year. Contact the Society to learn more about current or upcoming exhibits or even leave a suggestion on what our next exhibit should hold. Many Watson Gallery exhibits are community collaborative efforts with the Greater Hartford area so we are always looking for concepts!

In addition to our exhibits, the Keeney Memorial Cultural Center contains classroom spaces for in house lessons or a space for a field trip lunch. Students may also browse our gift shop to commemorate their experience.

Ancient Burying Ground:

Wethersfield’s Ancient Burying Ground is located behind the First Church of Christ in the heart of Old Wethersfield. The burying ground dates back to the 17th century and captures an excellent sense of early American graven art and its development through the 19th century. A tour of the grounds provides an exciting snapshot of Puritanism over time as well as a visual grasp of the town’s growth through four centuries. This cemetery is considered a premier example of 17th century Americana in New England by a range of colonial and antebellum historians. Contact the Education and Exhibitions Coordinator for information on a guided tour of this heritage site.

Cove Warehouse Maritime Museum and the Wethersfield Cove:

The Cove Warehouse is located on the waterfront of the Wethersfield Cove and used to interpret Wethersfield’s maritime trade with the West Indies that flourished between 1650 and 1830. Visit the Cove to learn the significance of the Red Onion trade, shipbuilding, privateers, fisheries and early yachts. Contact the Education and Exhibitions Coordinator for information on a guided tour of this museum.

Captain James Francis House:

Located at 120 Hartford Avenue, across from the Board of Education, the Captain James Francis house was in the possession of the Francis descendants from 1793 until 1969. Due to the generous donation of Mr. Chauncey D. Stillman and his daughters, Elizabeth Stillman Shafer and Theodora Stillman Budnik, direct descendants of the original owner, this property is open as a historic house for the public to experience the daily life of a middle-class working family in the early Republic. James Francis was a master-builder and custom built the home to his family’s needs. This 18th century house is interpreted in different time periods depending on the room – enter the Victorian Parlor to reflect on Christmas past all the way up through Mary Strong’s Summer Bedchamber from early twentieth century living. Contact the Education and Exhibitions Coordinator for information on a guided tour of this house museum.

Hurlbut-Dunham House:

Built in 1790’s in the Georgian style, the house was occupied in 1804 by Captain John Hurlbut, a successful mariner who circumnavigated the globe on the ship Neptune. In the 1860’s, the house was remodeled by Levi Goodwin to reflect the Italianate style popular at that time. An ell containing kitchens, servants’ quarters and a large copper cistern to hold rainwater was added.

In 1875 the house was purchased by Silas Robbins, a prominent Wethersfield merchant, for his son Elisha. Elisha married Ida Adams in 1879. They had one child, a daughter named Jane. Elisha died in 1894, and Ida and her daughter Jane lived alone in the house until Jane married Howard Dunham in 1907. At that time he joined them in the home. Mrs. Robbins and the Dunhams were prominent in Hartford social circles; Howard Dunham was Insurance Commissioner of Connecticut from 1923 to 1935. The Dunhams were enthusiastic antiques collectors and avid supporters of historic preservation, and their home reflects these interests.

Jane Dunham bequeathed the home to the Historical Society which received it in 1970. After an extensive restoration, the house was opened as a museum in 1995, reflecting the residency of the Dunhams between 1907 – 1935. It is rich in early 20th century features including original Rococo Revival wallpapers, painted ceilings and cornices, and furnishings and accessories. Wethersfield Historical Society received the Connecticut League of Historical Societies’ Award of Merit for the restoration of the house in June of 1996. Contact the Education and Exhibitions Coordinator for information on a guided tour of this house museum.

Historic District Walk:

Wethersfield Historical Society is situated in the heart of the largest historic district in the state of Connecticut, home to structures dating back to the 17th century. Students who embark on a historic district walk however are not just restricted to learning about Colonial America. Historic District tours can cover the development of Wethersfield through the 21st century, the rise of suburbanization in Connecticut, architectural studies, and a myriad of other Wethersfield specific content. These tours can be styled to meet the demands of your content needs.

Subject Specific Programs

The Witch of Blackbird Pond

Wethersfield, Connecticut happens to be the setting of Newberry Medalist’s Elizabeth George Speare’s work of historical fiction, The Witch of Blackbird Pond. We pride ourselves on the diversity of our WOBP programming and can tailor our experiences to meet your vision for student connections with this text. Our current programs include:

  • Cove Warehouse Exploration: An interactive experience at the Wethersfield Cove Warehouse which allows students a better understanding of 17th century maritime history compared to content in The Witch of Blackbird Pond.
  • Wethersfield Cove Walking Tour: Embark on a nature hike of the Wethersfield Cove to learn more about the connection between local flora, fauna and our community in order to get a better sense of what the town would have been like in the 17th century.
  • Social Class and the Meeting House: A lesson on social order in 17th century Wethersfield and how it affected The Witch of Blackbird Pond.
  • Witch of Blackbird Pond Walking Tour: Travel to the locations where Speare based her settings from The Witch of Blackbird Pond and compare and contrast how they have changed over time in reality.
  • Ancient Burying Ground Tour: Visit the grave of Reverend Gershom Bulkeley and learn more about the realities behind his role in religious life in Wethersfield. The burying ground is an excellent source for additionally gleaning a better sense of puritanism in Ancient Wethersfield.
  • Charter Oak: An exploration on the development of Connecticut’s system of government through the 19th century as compared to the role of the Charter Oak in The Witch of Blackbird Pond.
  • Colonial Revivalism: Learn more about the rise of Colonial Americana in American popular culture and how Colonial Revivalism spurred the success of books like The Witch of Blackbird Pond.

Colonial America Through 1800

Being that Wethersfield was settled in 1634, our town and collections are rich in history pertaining to Colonial America. Our programming is constantly developing on this subject but currently we can offer experiences on:

  • The Pequot War and Wethersfield
  • Wethersfield Native Americans and Native Americans of New England
  • The Murder of the Beadle Family: A study of religion and the aftermath of the Revolution in Wethersfield
  • The Great Awakening and a Study of Wethersfield Ecclesiastical Writings Over Time
  • The Development and Settlement of Connecticut’s Founding Three Towns
  • Wethersfield and the Revolutionary War
  • Wethersfield and Puritanism
  • Wethersfield and the Development of Colonial Government

For more information regarding these program possibilities, booking an experience, or tailoring an experience to your content needs, please contact the Education and Exhibitions Coordinator.

19th Century America

Our programming extends into the 19th century and can readily accommodate the following topics, supported by content from our collections and archival material:

  • Wethersfield and Western Expansion
  • Wethersfield and Temperance
  • Wethersfield and the Connecticut State Prison
  • Market Economy vs Jeffersonian Agrarianism in Wethersfield
  • Wethersfield and the Civil War
  • Wethersfield and the Gilded Age
  • Wethersfield and the Second Great Awakening

For more information regarding these programs, booking an experience, or tailoring an experience to your content needs, please contact the Education and Exhibitions Coordinator.

20th Century America

Wethersfield Historical Society is committed to extending its programming into the 20th century in order to acknowledge the contributions of its more recent citizens. We can offer programming on the following topics below:

  • Wethersfield and Immigration
  • Wethersfield and the Roaring 20s vs Great Depression
  • Wethersfield and the Cold War
  • Wethersfield and Suburbanization
  • Wethersfield and the Great Wars
  • Wethersfield and Vietnam
  • Wethersfield and Technology
  • Wethersfield and Historic Preservation

For more information regarding these program possibilities, booking an experience, or tailoring an experience to your content needs, please contact the Education and Exhibitions Coordinator.

Historical Methods

Wethersfield Historical Society is dedicated to teaching the next generation of historians and lovers of history the value and purpose of historical societies and the methodology behind our discipline. As a result, we offer the following range of programming concepts to meet the vision of the Connecticut C3 Social Studies Frameworks:

  • How to Conduct Archival Research
  • Why and How We Preserve Our Archival and Collections Materials
  • Why are Historical Societies Important
  • Jobs in History
  • What is Historic Preservation

For more information regarding these program possibilities, booking an experience, or tailoring an experience to your content needs, please contact the Education and Exhibitions Coordinator.