March 30 – September 4, 2016
With 36 miles of coastline, the sea has always played a significant role in the history of Greenwich. Since the town’s founding in 1640, boats plying Long Island Sound were a regular and reliable means of commercial trade and passenger transport. Yet by June 1896, the last market sloop sailed from the Lower Landing in Cos Cob to New York, signaling the end of an era.
With the rise of pleasure yachting, new maritime pursuits appeared on the horizon. Yachting soon became both a sport and a leisure activity associated with the grand lifestyle of the wealthy tycoons who built the great estates. Over time, as boating became more affordable, Greenwich once again witnessed a proliferation of boats of every size and description that resulted in the establishment of many organizations dedicated to boating.
Through paintings, photographs, maps, charts and instruments this exhibition will explore the rich history of maritime Greenwich and share the myriad stories that link us to our coastal roots.
September 30, 2015 – February 28, 2016
Every town has a story to tell, and Greenwich’s is 375 fascinating years old. Greenwich Choices: 50 Objects That Illustrate Our History explores defining moments in the town’s growth and development through objects drawn from the collections of the Greenwich Historical Society. A shirt worn by Obadiah Mead, shot by a loyalist “cowboy,” connects visitors with the American Revolution. A bill of sale for a three-year-old slave boy containing an emancipation clause speaks to changing attitudes toward slavery. Records from local manufacturing plants tell a tale of early entrepreneurs and opportunities for immigrant workers. A congresswoman’s scrapbooks on the construction of the Merritt Parkway reflect changes that altered both the landscape and the movements of town residents.
All 50 objects reflect transformational moments in Greenwich’s religious, social, economic, industrial, political or artistic lives and symbolize choices made by generations of residents that shaped today's community. Curated by Karen Frederick and Anna Greco, the exhibition also features responses to the objects by local high school students.
Co-curated by Karen Frederick, Christopher Shields and Anna Greco
April 22 – August 30, 2015
In celebration of the town’s 375th anniversary, Greenwich Voices was designed as an audio time capsule of life in Greenwich in 2015. Over the course of four months, guest curators Karina Aguilera Skvirsky and Liselot van der Heijden ranged throughout town to record the voices of residents who, in response to questions about life in Greenwich, discussed what the town represents to them and what it’s like to live here. Through their varied observations, these myriad anonymous voices captured a rich portrait of the community that was unexpected, personal and resonates with larger social issues. Visitors to the exhibition were able to pick up a receiver and listen to the recordings that created a multi-layered portrait of Greenwich and its denizens.
Quotes taken from past publications along with images drawn from the Greenwich Historical Society’s collections complemented contemporary voices throughout the exhibition space. A recording space was also available to the public for those who wished to respond to some of the questions.
All recordings (including those not used in the exhibition) were saved in the Greenwich Historical Society Library and Archives, and the project will serve as a unique gift to future residents when the town celebrates its 400th birthday in 2040!
Guest Curators Liselot van der Heijden and Karina Aguilera Skvirsky
Curated by Karen Frederick
This exhibition was generously supported by a gift from Russ and Debbie Reynolds.
October 1, 2014 to March 22, 2015
World War I marked the beginning of modern nation states, modern warfare technology and the emergence of the United States as an international power. Commemorating the centennial of the 1914 onset of that shattering event in Europe, the Greenwich Historical Society will launch a multi-faceted project beginning with an exhibition mounted in the Storehouse. Compelling images, artifacts and documents will illustrate the diverse experiences of military personnel, volunteers, and civilians alike. For the first time in the Storehouse Gallery, touch-screen technology will be used to enhance the visitor experience through supplementary shared audio and visual resources including personal remembrances, photographs, newspaper reports, wartime letters, popular songs and more.
The project will also include a special tour and temporary installation in Bush-Holley House demonstrating how Greenwich inhabitants supported the war effort at home, along with a World War I-period, patriotic home vegetable garden (on view during the 2014 growing season). Online resources for educators and students and a menu of public events featuring lectures, workshops, and performances will round out the program.
From the discourse preceding the war to the actions and influence of its citizens once engaged, Greenwich provides rich material and multiple perspectives on a conflict that to this day influences international politics and continues to shape history.
Visit Greenwich Faces the Great War online exhibition >
This project was supported by planning and implementation grants from
and gifts to the Greenwich Historical Society’s annual fund, the Greenwich Historic Trust, including special underwriting by Regina and Mario Gabelli, Jessica and Drew Guff, Davidde and Ron Strackbein and Reba and Dave Williams. Additional financial support was provided by members’ gifts to the World War I Exhibition Patrons Council and by the Yale Alumni Association of Greenwich.
During World War I the strategic importance of food was reinforced over and over again. Both enemy and Allied forces sought to control the other’s food supply, and the entrance of the United States into the war in 1917 required securing even greater amounts of food for U.S. troops and Allied forces alike. President Woodrow Wilson established the United States Food Administration in 1917 and appointed Herbert Hoover to head the new agency. A national campaign–the first of its kind–was launched to promote home gardening, canning and food rationing. Emphasis was placed on growing crops that could be canned and stored, such as tomatoes. Crops not consumed at the local level would be preserved and shipped to Europe for both military consumption and humanitarian aid.
The residents of Greenwich took “doing their bit” for the war seriously. They established “war gardens” in backyards, on estates and even in public spaces and set up a Canning Kitchen where produce was processed for personal use, as well as for civilians in need and for troops. In 1917, canning centers were started in various sections of town to teach people how to put up their own produce. In fact, Holley Boarding House proprietress Constant MacRae, having gardened and canned what she grew for many years, taught canning classes at the Cos Cob School on “Thursdays at 2:00 p.m.”
This WWI war garden has been re-created using the 1918 diary of resident and Cos Cob art colony artist Elmer MacRae, preserved in the Historical Society’s William E. Finch, Jr. Library & Archives. The garden represents the kinds of crops the MacRaes would have grown during the war years from 1914–1919 to feed themselves and the patrons of their boarding house.
By 1921 Greenwich, Connecticut had the highest per capita income in the country. How did what was once a quiet, rural, coastal community of farmers, shopkeepers and oystermen become an enclave for the rich and powerful that would rival Newport, Rhode Island in wealth? This exhibition draws on the Greenwich Historical Society’s collection of clothing, photographs and objects to explore the era between 1880 and 1930–a period marked by unbridled spending by America’s elite to build estates of staggering proportions–to examine how the transformation impacted the people and cultural landscape of the town to this day.
From October 9, 2013 to January 12, 2014
As the centenary for the monumental 1913 International Exhibition of Modern Art (the Armory Show) approaches, the Greenwich Historical Society will mark this momentous historic milestone in American art with an exhibition exploring the involvement of and the effect on the exhibiting artists of the Cos Cob art colony.
The Armory Show exposed the American art world, the public, and the press to the progressive innovators of European art for the first time. Works from Paul Cézanne to Pablo Picasso were presented alongside a wide range of works by American artists. The introduction of their radical new ideas heralded a new aesthetic and a wider acceptance of Modernism, yet no exhibition to date has explored the direct effect that the Armory Show had on artists and their artistic production.
The New Spirit and the Cos Cob Art Colony will follow the story of the Armory show—and the results of exhibiting European art, both historic and ultra-modern—alongside American art. By highlighting selected works by the Cos Cob artists from before and after the Armory Show, this exhibition will illustrate how modernism became more widely assimilated into the mainstream of American art. The show will be comprised of about 40 works of art, including a few that were shown in the 1913 Armory Show, along with archival materials and ephemera from the Greenwich Historical Society, major museums and private collections.
The exhibition will focus on Cos Cob artists D. Putnam Brinley, Childe Hassam, Ernest Lawson, Elmer MacRae, Carolyn C. Mase, Frank A. Nankivell, Henry Fitch Taylor, Allen Tucker, Alden Twachtman and J. Alden Weir, and will look at the impact that the Armory Show had on those who continued to work after the exhibition. The exhibition will also include influential pioneering artists, Theodore Robinson and John H. Twachtman, whose work was included in the Armory Show but who had died years earlier.
A number of Greenwich-area artists played important roles in the actual production of the Armory Show: MacRae and Taylor were two of the four artists who conceived the idea for the exhibition in 1911; Brinley, Lawson, Tucker, and Weir were charter members of the Association of American Painters and Sculptors (AAPS), the organizing body of the Armory Show; and Brinley, Lawson, MacRae, Nankivell, Taylor, and Tucker all served as members of various committees.*
It is especially fitting for the Greenwich Historical Society to organize and mount this anniversary exhibition. Cos Cob artist Elmer MacRae, who lived and painted at the Historical Society’s Bush-Holley House, served as treasurer for the Armory Show, and the Greenwich Historical Society is a major repository for archival material from the Armory show as well as a major holder of works by MacRae, many of which will be on display.
A catalogue will accompany the exhibition with an essay by guest curator Valerie Ann Leeds.
The exhibition will complement related projects celebrating the Armory Show centennial being organized by other area institutions, such as The New-York Historical Society, the Archives of American Art, and the Montclair Art Museum, the Heckscher Museum of Art and the Phillips Collection, each of which focuses on a different aspect of this watershed event in the history of American art.
July 17 – September 1, 2013
Greenwich: The Perspective of Time was a collaboration between the Greenwich Historical Society and The Stamford Photography Club. The show, comprised of juried images, was the result of an invitation by the Historical Society to members of The Stamford Photography Club to submit photographs that portrayed aspects of Greenwich history through the eye of the lens.
The varied and fascinating images represented a visual commentary on the ever-changing face of the community and how structures, landscapes and institutions of Greenwich as they appear today may not survive the next generation. Executive Director, Debra Mecky commenting on the concept, noted “Since its invention, photography has been an invaluable medium for chronicling historical events. But photography can also raise the understanding of history to another level by evoking a feeling of time and place on a more visceral level.”
The Stamford Photography Club (originally the Stamford Camera Club, founded in 1945) provides a meeting ground for photographers of all levels. The organization regularly holds classes and conducts competitions in a variety of categories, and offers support, advice and avenues for display to photographers.
March 1 to June 30, 2013
This show celebrated the rich cultural heritage of the Italian American community in Greenwich. It included historic images, objects, memorabilia and documents unearthed from the attics and family coffers of town residents, gathered through a series of events held throughout town at which the public was invited to share family stories and treasures.
The exhibition featured video interviews with local residents who recounted memories of the events, traditions and individuals (many whose relatives came as laborers to help build the town’s great estates) that shaped life in the early Italian American neighborhoods and that later came to influence the larger community. The video segments were produced by TimeStories, a video biography production company founded by Emmy Award-winning creative director Peter Savigny.
Also on view was a complementary exhibition of 26 black and white photographs by Anthony Riccio drawn from his show From Italy to America, originally organized by the Bellarmine Museum of Art (Fairfield University, Fairfield, Connecticut).
Learn more! To see interviews about the exhibition with photographer Anthony Riccio, curator Kathie Bennewitz and archivist Christopher Shields click here.
October 3, 2012 to January 6, 2013
To celebrate the restoration of the room in Bush-Holley House that served at various times as the studio of Childe Hassam, John Twachtman and Elmer MacRae, the Greenwich Historical Society presented an exhibition exploring the changing concept of the artist’s studio. Representations of an American art student’s Parisian garret, William Merritt Chase’s opulent Tenth Street studio in New York, Dorothy Ochtman’s view of her father in the studio they shared in their Cos Cob home and the repurposed farm sheds used by artists in Old Lyme: these and other paintings suggest the wide range of spaces in which turn-of-the-century artists worked and provide a cultural context for our own restored studio. The exhibition also presented the models for Childe Hassam’s work in Cos Cob and a sampling of work done outside the studio by Hassam, John H. Twachtman and Elmer MacRae.
A separate gallery was devoted to a travelling exhibition on loan from Chesterwood, (the home and studio of Daniel Chester French, sculptor of the Lincoln monument). Historic Artists’ Homes & Studios featured culturally and artistically diverse photographs of the “intimate living and work spaces” of famous American artists including (among others) the N.C. Wyeth House and Studio, the Pollock-Krasner House and Study Center, and the Saint-Gaudens National Historic Site.
Generously funded by Deborah and Chuck Royce and
October 24 through November 18, 2012
The Greenwich Art Society was established in 1912, and its first secretary was none other than former Bush-Holley House resident and artist Elmer MacRae. To celebrate this centennial anniversary, the Greenwich Historical Society is partnering with the Greenwich Art Society to host a special exhibition that looks at the “Old House” with new eyes.
The premise of this unique exhibit was to ask artists to create contemporary works inspired by Bush-Holley’s period rooms, gardens and artifacts–just as Elmer MacRae and his Cos Cob art colony contemporaries did a century ago. The fascinating results range widely in style and media and include works in paint, pastels, modeled clay and paper, as well as collage, fabric, embroidery thread, and digital imagery. The works will be displayed in the Vanderbilt Education Center and the Bush-Holley House from October 24 through November 18, 2012. The public is welcome to the opening reception on October 24, from 5:30 to 7:30 pm.
The juried show was coordinated by the Greenwich Historical Society and by Greenwich Art Society Board Members Michelle Rudolph and Carol Nipomnich Dixon along with by co-chairs Kathryn Shorts and Valerie O’Halpin. Award Judges were Leslee Asch, Executive Director Silvermine Arts Center; Angela Vecchio, artist and creative director, GNF Marketing; and Karen Frederick, Greenwich Historical Society curator and exhibitions coordinator.
September 14, 2011 through August 26, 2012
In today’s parlance, the term “first responder” is associated with trained emergency professionals, but originally it meant literally the first person to respond in a crisis. This exhibition chronicles the history of Greenwich’s Fire, Police and Emergency Medical Services beginning with General Putman, one of Greenwich’s “first” first responders who, in 1779, rode to warn of invading British troops and whose image now appears on the Town seal, as well as on Greenwich’s Fire and Police Department badges.
The show delves into headline-making Greenwich disasters from 1873 to 2010, such as the Greenwich Avenue conflagration of 1936 and the Mianus River Bridge collapse in 1983, looks at the way first responders worked together to respond to these incidents and at how first response protocols have evolved as a result of experience and technology. At the very heart of the exhibition is an exploration of values underlying civic service, collaboration and acts of heroism by ordinary men and women who face the prospect of being called upon to risk their lives each day. Visitors will be asked to decide in their own minds what qualities define a hero.
Everyday Heroes has been three years in the making. The idea was originally put forth by the Historical Society’s Collection Curator Karen Frederick and former Curator of Library and Archives Anne Young. The Historical Society worked with Greenwich Police, Fire and Emergency Medical Services representatives as well as town officials and community focus groups to further hone the show’s content. Along with objects, photos and ephemera from the Greenwich Historical Society collection and loans from the collections of the Fire, Police and GEMS Departments, Everyday Heroes features interactive elements including a revolving timeline and a hands-on gallery where kids can try on real equipment and learn what it takes to become a first responder. A simulated dispatch center punctuates how “sounding the alarm” has changed over time and includes an opportunity to “make” or “answer” a 911 call.
In the initial stages of the exhibition’s development, the Historical Society received planning and development grants from the Connecticut Humanities Council; a subsequent $50,000 grant was given in recognition of the exhibition’s educational and community outreach potential. An Exhibition Patrons Council also was established by the Historical Society to solicit funding, and Moffly Media will be the exclusive media sponsor for Everyday Heroes and its adult and family-related programs planned throughout the run of the exhibition.
From This Day Forward: Looking Back at Greenwich Weddings
September 29, 2010 to March 6, 2011
Stitch in Time: Quilts from the Collection
March 3 to June 13, 2010
Once Upon a Page: Illustrations by Cos Cob Artists
October 3, 2007 to January 6, 2008
Cherishing Our Past: Preserving Greenwich History
January 17 to June 30, 2007
John Twachtman (1853-1902): A Painter's Painter
July 13 to October 29, 2006
Greenwich By Design: Visionary Architecture and Landscapes
January 25 to May 21, 2006
Cos Cob's Surprising Modernist: Henry Fitch Taylor
September 30 to December 31, 2005
Flowers in Nature and Art: Constant Holley and Elmer MacRae
May 11 to September 4, 2005
Intimate Strangers: Slavery and Freedom in Fairfield County, 1700-1850
October 15, 2004 to April 17, 2005
Childe Hassam: Impressions of Cos Cob
June 1 to September 5, 2004
"No to UNOville!" Greenwich and the Origins of the United Nations
October 24, 2003 to March 28, 2004
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