Travel to Connecticut-Related Destinations
Connecticut’s “Still Revolutionary” tourism branding campaign has reminded us of the pivotal role our state has played in shaping American history and culture. Connecticut ties and influence can be found throughout the country and around the world, and there are plenty of stops that will interest Connecticut history buffs who may be traveling out of state this winter.
Let’s start before the state was born. Throughout England, Connecticut residents will run into familiar names. More than two dozen Connecticut cities and towns are named after places in England: Greenwich, Glastonbury, Cornwall, Coventry, Kent, Derby and Windsor, to name just a few.
To understand Connecticut’s impact on the Civil War, start by visiting the New England Civil War Museum in Rockville (newenglandcivilwarmuseum.com). From there, you can make your way to Gettysburg, Pa., (gettysburg.stonesentinels.com/CT.php), and Antietam National Battlefield in Sharpsburg, Md., (antietam.stonesentinels.com/CT.php), to view numerous monuments honoring the contribution and sacrifice of soldiers from our state. More than 35,000 Connecticut men fought with the Union Army. The state sent 1,300 soldiers to Gettysburg, more than a quarter of whom were killed or wounded. More than 200 state soldiers died on the battlefield at Antietam.
Two big names in Connecticut history had significant attachment to and impact on other parts of the country. If you are a fan of Mark Twain and love visiting the Mark Twain House in Hartford (marktwainhouse.org), a must-see is his boyhood home in Hannibal, Mo., which has similarly been turned into a museum (marktwainmuseum.org). In fact, Cindy Lovell, the former director there, is now the director of the Hartford Twain museum.
In the case of John Brown, the famous abolitionist born in Torrington, there is far more to see and learn about him outside the state than inside it. To start, a visit to the Torrington Historical Society museum (torringtonhistoricalsociety.org) is a must. Then, of course, head to Harpers Ferry, W. Va., where John Brown was captured and put to death while attempting to lead an armed revolt by slaves. An entire village of historic replica buildings and shops is situated at the beautiful junction of the Potomac and Shenandoah rivers (historicharpersferry.com).
For a quirky Connecticut connection on the West Coast, check out the Winchester Mystery House in San Jose, Calif. (winchestermysteryhouse.com). It explores the odd tale of Sarah Lockwood Pardee Winchester, the “Belle of New Haven” who married into the Winchester rifle fortune in 1862 and then moved west on the advice of a medium. Once there, she inexplicably built a bizarre seven-story mansion chock-full of architectural oddities, secret passages and staircases to nowhere. She also chose to wear a dark veil at all times after the tragic deaths of her child and husband, which further added to her mystique.
Finally, Connecticut will have a presence in two new national museums yet to open. The National Museum of African American History and Culture (nmaahc.si.edu), set to open next year in Washington, D.C., will feature letters that John Brown wrote back to his wife in Connecticut and to fellow abolitionist Frederick Douglass while a fugitive. And among the items on display at the new College Football Hall of Fame (cfbhall.com), set to open this August in Atlanta, will be memorabilia from an 1873 football game between Yale and Elon, a university in London.
(This article was originally published on a different platform. Some formatting changes may have occurred.)
This article appeared in the February 2014 issue of Connecticut Magazine
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