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Cuba's Faded Glory



Waves crash, smoke wafts, people hustle. A motley sea of vintage cars and tattered buildings surround me. Spanish—soft and round—blends seamlessly with the insistent pulse of son, mambo, and rumba. The air is an unmistakable blend of sea, tobacco, and diesel. 

Yes, Cuba is a place that assaults the senses, that embodies paradox and defies logic. It is also a place where I was fortunate to take 23 travelers in February as part of a Fairfield University Bellarmine Museum of Art new program to promote cultural exchange. Our group, comprised of alumni and faculty as well as members of the general public, noticed that things were definitely different in Cuba from the moment we arrived. Upon entering the small baggage hall, my husband Victor (a Cuban-American architect) and I were approached by a somber young man in a khaki uniform. “Luis” was very interested in the literature we had in our carry-on bag—Bellarmine exhibition catalogs. For ten rather tense minutes he recorded, in long-hand, our answers to his many questions together with the title of each publication. 

Once released, we stepped out of the airport into a parking lot filled with vintage American cars—living relics of Havana’s pre-Revolutionary days. Equally eye-catching is the propagandistic imagery, which proclaims the rectitude of revolution and the righteousness of socialism from murals and billboards. A broad billboard near the airport, for instance, apotheosizes Che Guevara: “We see you each day, pure like a child or an honest man, Che, Commander, friend.”

Also remarkable are the holdings of the Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes, now divided into two separate collections: Cuban Art (housed in the Palacio de Bellas Artes) and “Universal” Art (in the Palacio del Centro Asturiano). Another collection worth visiting is the Museo Nacional de Artes Decorativas. Housed in a villa once owned by a wealthy Countess, the museum—and the treasures it contains—give modern-day visitors a clear sense of how Havana’s élite lived before 1959. One such person was Ernest Hemingway. His island residence, FincaVigía, can be visited by tourists, as can his room (#511) at the Hotel Ambos Mundos in Old Havana.

Old Havana offers evidence of Cuba’s efforts to preserve its architectural patrimony. The city’s five civic squares are bounded by colonial structures that are, generally speaking, far better maintained than the city’s other crumbling edifices. This dichotomy reveals itself on the outskirts of town as well; perhaps nowhere more so than at the sprawling arts complex known as “ISA” (Instituto Superiore des Artes). This project was spearheaded by Castro’s Revolutionary government in 1961, when a golf club was nationalized to create a vast campus comprising five separate art schools. By 1965, however, the regime’s once-utopian project was abandoned. We visited the best of what remains: Ricardo Porro’s School of the Plastic Arts; notable for its organic design and “Catalan” masonry vaults. Here we were wowed by the architect’s evocative spaces and by the opportunity to meet young painters and graphic artists at work. It is their creative energy that gives one hope for renewal in the midst of chaos and privation.

We also visited the Taller Experimental de Gráfica de La Habana, a co-operative of some 120 graphic artists. Visitors can engage directly with artists at this studio just off of Cathedral Square in Old Havana, in addition to buying their works. Classified as “informational material,” artworks are among the few things Americans can bring home from Cuba.

A state-trained guide accompanied our group, contextualizing the “Triumph of the Revolution” along the way and steering us toward state-owned restaurants. The food tries hard, though unsuccessfully, to emulate Continental cuisine—white fish in white sauce abounds. Though meals in Havana may disappoint, the rum does not. This amber elixir, like the omnipresent cigars, does not qualify as “informational material,” and therefore must be enjoyed in situ. 

Cuba is inherently beautiful, despite its current state of decrepitude. There is a real risk, however, that change—if it comes—will be accompanied by a charmless brand of global capitalism. And here’s the rub: achieving prosperity without the destruction of all that makes Cuba unique. If the balance is not right, you may find yourself ordering your cortadito at a Starbucks on Revolutionary Square, your mojito at a Cheesecake Factory in Habana Vieja.

 

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Cost: $5, $3 Students & Seniors; Free for Members.

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Sponsor: The New Canaan Historical Socoiety
Telephone: 203-966-1776
Contact Name: Janet Lindstrom
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Cost: Free

Where:
The New Canaan Historical Society
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Sponsor: The New Canaan Historical Socoiety
Telephone: 203-966-1776
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Cost: Members: Free; Non-Members: $5

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370 Beach Road
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View map »


Telephone: 203-259-1598
Contact Name: Visitor Services Manager
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Cost: free

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720 Pequot Avenue
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Sponsor: Pequot Library
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Sponsor: Bellarmine Museum of Art
Telephone: 203-254-4046
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Cost: $5, $3 Students & Seniors; Free for members

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370 Beach Road
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Sponsor: Fairfield Museum and History Center
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Cost: Members: Free; Non-Members: $5

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370 Beach Road
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Telephone: 203-259-1598
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More information

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Cost: $50, $40, $30

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Telephone: 203 227 4177
Website »

More information

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Cost: Free

Where:
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13 Oenoke Ridge
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View map »


Sponsor: The New Canaan Historical Socoiety
Telephone: 203-966-1776
Contact Name: Janet Lindstrom
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More information

The Society’s newest exhibit honors the men and women from New Canaan who served in World War II.  Lt. Henry Maitland’s Navy White Dress Jumper and hats, Sgt. Benjamin Charles...

Cost: Free

Where:
The New Canaan Historical Society
13 Oenoke Ridge
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View map »


Sponsor: The New Canaan Historical Socoiety
Telephone: 203-966-1776
Contact Name: Janet Lindstrom
Website »

More information

In 1940 and ‘41, photographer Jack Delano (1914–1997) documented farm and city life in CT for the Farm Security Administration. In rare early color photographs and black & white,...

Cost: Members: Free; Non-Members: $5

Where:
Fairfield Museum and History Center
370 Beach Road
Fairfield, CT  06824
View map »


Telephone: 203-259-1598
Contact Name: Visitor Services Manager
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More information

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Cost: free

Where:
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720 Pequot Avenue
Southport, CT  06890
View map »


Sponsor: Pequot Library
Telephone: 203_259-0346
Contact Name: Front Desk
Website »

More information

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Cost: $22.00

Where:
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Sponsor: Norwalk Seaport Association
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Cost: $5, $3 Students & Seniors; Free for members

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Fairfield Museum and History Center
370 Beach Road
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View map »


Sponsor: Fairfield Museum and History Center
Telephone: 203-259-1598
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Cost: Members: Free; Non-Members: $5

Where:
Fairfield Museum and History Center
370 Beach Road
Fairfield, CT  06824
View map »


Telephone: 203-259-1598
Contact Name: Visitor Services Manager
Website »

More information

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View map »


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Telephone: (203) 869-0376
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Telephone: 203-557-4400
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Cost: $50, $40, $30

Where:
Westport Playhouse
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View map »


Telephone: 203 227 4177
Website »

More information

The Society’s newest exhibit honors the men and women from New Canaan who served in World War II.  Lt. Henry Maitland’s Navy White Dress Jumper and hats, Sgt. Benjamin Charles...

Cost: Free

Where:
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View map »


Sponsor: The New Canaan Historical Socoiety
Telephone: 203-966-1776
Contact Name: Janet Lindstrom
Website »

More information

The Society’s newest exhibit honors the men and women from New Canaan who served in World War II.  Lt. Henry Maitland’s Navy White Dress Jumper and hats, Sgt. Benjamin Charles...

Cost: Free

Where:
The New Canaan Historical Society
13 Oenoke Ridge
New Canaan, CT  06840
View map »


Sponsor: The New Canaan Historical Socoiety
Telephone: 203-966-1776
Contact Name: Janet Lindstrom
Website »

More information

In 1940 and ‘41, photographer Jack Delano (1914–1997) documented farm and city life in CT for the Farm Security Administration. In rare early color photographs and black & white,...

Cost: Members: Free; Non-Members: $5

Where:
Fairfield Museum and History Center
370 Beach Road
Fairfield, CT  06824
View map »


Telephone: 203-259-1598
Contact Name: Visitor Services Manager
Website »

More information

Sheffield Island with its historic 148-year-old lighthouse, beaches and wildlife refuge offers abundant summer fun for visitors.  From May through September, visitors can board the Seaport...

Cost: $22.00

Where:
Norwalk Seaport Association Dock
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View map »


Sponsor: Norwalk Seaport Association
Telephone: 203-838-9444
Contact Name: Ray A. Cooke
Website »

More information

The splendor of Byzantine sacred art, preserved in early Christian churches in both Constantinople, the capital of the Byzantine Empire, and the Cappadocia region of Turkey, is the subject of this...

Cost: Free and open to the public

Where:
Bellarmine Museum of Art
200 Barlow Road
Fairfield, CT  06824
View map »


Sponsor: Bellarmine Museum of Art
Telephone: 203-254-4046
Contact Name: Tiffany Davidson
Website »

More information

Step inside the Ogden House to experience life in 18th century Fairfield. David and Jane Sturges Ogden began their marriage here, settling into farm life and establishing a family legacy that...

Cost: $5, $3 Students & Seniors; Free for members

Where:
Fairfield Museum and History Center
370 Beach Road
Fairfield, CT  06824
View map »


Sponsor: Fairfield Museum and History Center
Telephone: 203-259-1598
Contact Name: Visitor Services Manager
Website »

More information

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Cost: $29 - $79

Where:
The Goodspeed
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View map »

More information

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Cost: Members: Free; Non-Members: $5

Where:
Fairfield Museum and History Center
370 Beach Road
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View map »


Telephone: 203-259-1598
Contact Name: Visitor Services Manager
Website »

More information

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Cost: free

Where:
Pequot Library
720 Pequot Avenue
Southport, CT  06890
View map »


Sponsor: Pequot Library
Telephone: 203_259-0346
Contact Name: Front Desk
Website »

More information

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This sale features a huge and varied selection (botanicals, sporting, Audubon, contemporary, architectural, landscapes, sculpture) containing over 1,700 pieces. A collection of 19 - 20th century...

Cost: Free

Where:
Pequot Library
720 Pequot Avenue
Southport, CT  06890
View map »


Sponsor: Pequot Library
Telephone: 203-259-0346
Contact Name: Pequot Library
Website »

More information

Robert Lawson (1892–1957) had a long and distinguished career as an artist and children’s book illustrator and author. Perhaps best known for illustrations of Ferdinand the Bull and Mr....

Cost: Members: Free; Non-Members: $5

Where:
Fairfield Museum and History Center
370 Beach Road
Fairfield, CT  06824
View map »


Telephone: 203-259-1598
Contact Name: Visitor Services Manager
Website »

More information

The exhibition Electric Paris is on view at the Bruce Museum from May 14 through September 4, 2016.  Nearly 50 paintings, drawings and photographs explore the use of artificial...

Cost: $7 adult, $6 student, member and under 5 free. Free to all on Tuesdays

Where:
Bruce Museum
1 Museum Drive
Greenwich, CT  06830
View map »


Sponsor: Bruce Museum
Telephone: (203) 869-0376
Website »

More information

Enjoy a fun relaxing boat tour out to the Norwalk Islands, perfectly timed to include the setting sun. Aquarium educators will point out sights and wildlife. Fun for All Ages. Cruise is 2.5...

Cost: $29.95

Where:
The Maritime Aquarium
10 North Water St
Norwalk, CT
View map »


Website »

More information

His ransom is set at ten million dollars. When Nick Bright, an American futures trader, finds himself kidnapped and held hostage in Pakistan, he knows the only way to get home is to do what he does...

Cost: $50, $40, $30

Where:
Westport Playhouse
25 Powers Ct
, CT
View map »


Telephone: 203 227 4177
Website »

More information

“The Best Book Sale in New England.” Over 140,000 books, plus CDs, DVDs, records, etc., and unique specials. Admission is free and open to the public. Proceeds help fund Pequot...

Cost: free admission

Where:
Pequot Library
720 Pequot Avenue
Southport, CT  06890
View map »


Sponsor: Pequot Library
Telephone: 203-259-0346
Contact Name: Front Desk
Website »

More information

The Society’s newest exhibit honors the men and women from New Canaan who served in World War II.  Lt. Henry Maitland’s Navy White Dress Jumper and hats, Sgt. Benjamin Charles...

Cost: Free

Where:
The New Canaan Historical Society
13 Oenoke Ridge
New Canaan, CT  06840
View map »


Sponsor: The New Canaan Historical Socoiety
Telephone: 203-966-1776
Contact Name: Janet Lindstrom
Website »

More information

The Society’s newest exhibit honors the men and women from New Canaan who served in World War II.  Lt. Henry Maitland’s Navy White Dress Jumper and hats, Sgt. Benjamin Charles...

Cost: Free

Where:
The New Canaan Historical Society
13 Oenoke Ridge
New Canaan, CT  06840
View map »


Sponsor: The New Canaan Historical Socoiety
Telephone: 203-966-1776
Contact Name: Janet Lindstrom
Website »

More information

In 1940 and ‘41, photographer Jack Delano (1914–1997) documented farm and city life in CT for the Farm Security Administration. In rare early color photographs and black & white,...

Cost: Members: Free; Non-Members: $5

Where:
Fairfield Museum and History Center
370 Beach Road
Fairfield, CT  06824
View map »


Telephone: 203-259-1598
Contact Name: Visitor Services Manager
Website »

More information

Features items from Pequot Library's Special Collections. The exhibition will run from June 4 - August 8, 2016. It is open during normal library hours, admission is free. Opening Reception:...

Cost: free

Where:
Pequot Library
720 Pequot Avenue
Southport, CT  06890
View map »


Sponsor: Pequot Library
Telephone: 203_259-0346
Contact Name: Front Desk
Website »

More information

Sheffield Island with its historic 148-year-old lighthouse, beaches and wildlife refuge offers abundant summer fun for visitors.  From May through September, visitors can board the Seaport...

Cost: $22.00

Where:
Norwalk Seaport Association Dock
4 N Water Street
Norwalk, CT  06854
View map »


Sponsor: Norwalk Seaport Association
Telephone: 203-838-9444
Contact Name: Ray A. Cooke
Website »

More information

The splendor of Byzantine sacred art, preserved in early Christian churches in both Constantinople, the capital of the Byzantine Empire, and the Cappadocia region of Turkey, is the subject of this...

Cost: Free and open to the public

Where:
Bellarmine Museum of Art
200 Barlow Road
Fairfield, CT  06824
View map »


Sponsor: Bellarmine Museum of Art
Telephone: 203-254-4046
Contact Name: Tiffany Davidson
Website »

More information

New Photography Exhibit Opens at the Gores Pavilion It’s in the Details, a photography exhibit by Matthew Blaine, opened Sunday, July 17 and runs through the end of October.  The...

Cost: $5 per person

Where:
Gores Pavilion
Irwin Park
848 Weed Street
New Canaan, CT  06840
View map »


Sponsor: The New Canaan Historical Socoiety
Telephone: 203-966-1776
Contact Name: Janet Lindstrom
Website »

More information

Step inside the Ogden House to experience life in 18th century Fairfield. David and Jane Sturges Ogden began their marriage here, settling into farm life and establishing a family legacy that...

Cost: $5, $3 Students & Seniors; Free for members

Where:
Fairfield Museum and History Center
370 Beach Road
Fairfield, CT  06824
View map »


Sponsor: Fairfield Museum and History Center
Telephone: 203-259-1598
Contact Name: Visitor Services Manager
Website »

More information

Put on a happy face! Army-bound rock star Conrad Birdie's farewell appearance in Sweet Apple, Ohio is the talk of the town. But it's a teenage crisis for new "steadies" Hugo and...

Cost: $29 - $79

Where:
The Goodspeed
6 Main St
East Haddam, CT  06423
View map »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...

This sale features a huge and varied selection (botanicals, sporting, Audubon, contemporary, architectural, landscapes, sculpture) containing over 1,700 pieces. A collection of 19 - 20th century...

Cost: Free

Where:
Pequot Library
720 Pequot Avenue
Southport, CT  06890
View map »


Sponsor: Pequot Library
Telephone: 203-259-0346
Contact Name: Pequot Library
Website »

More information

Robert Lawson (1892–1957) had a long and distinguished career as an artist and children’s book illustrator and author. Perhaps best known for illustrations of Ferdinand the Bull and Mr....

Cost: Members: Free; Non-Members: $5

Where:
Fairfield Museum and History Center
370 Beach Road
Fairfield, CT  06824
View map »


Telephone: 203-259-1598
Contact Name: Visitor Services Manager
Website »

More information

The exhibition Electric Paris is on view at the Bruce Museum from May 14 through September 4, 2016.  Nearly 50 paintings, drawings and photographs explore the use of artificial...

Cost: $7 adult, $6 student, member and under 5 free. Free to all on Tuesdays

Where:
Bruce Museum
1 Museum Drive
Greenwich, CT  06830
View map »


Sponsor: Bruce Museum
Telephone: (203) 869-0376
Website »

More information

Do you have a burning question about the history of Fairfield? Enjoy a guided tour of the historic Green and learn about the people, places, and events that shaped Fairfield’s 375 years of...

Cost: Members: $5; Non-members: $8

Where:
Fairfield Museum and History Center
370 Beach Road
Fairfield, CT  06824
View map »


Telephone: 203-259-1598
Contact Name: Visitor Services Manager
Website »

More information

His ransom is set at ten million dollars. When Nick Bright, an American futures trader, finds himself kidnapped and held hostage in Pakistan, he knows the only way to get home is to do what he does...

Cost: $50, $40, $30

Where:
Westport Playhouse
25 Powers Ct
, CT
View map »


Telephone: 203 227 4177
Website »

More information

“The Best Book Sale in New England.” Over 140,000 books, plus CDs, DVDs, records, etc., and unique specials. Admission is free and open to the public. Proceeds help fund Pequot...

Cost: free admission

Where:
Pequot Library
720 Pequot Avenue
Southport, CT  06890
View map »


Sponsor: Pequot Library
Telephone: 203-259-0346
Contact Name: Front Desk
Website »

More information

The Society’s newest exhibit honors the men and women from New Canaan who served in World War II.  Lt. Henry Maitland’s Navy White Dress Jumper and hats, Sgt. Benjamin Charles...

Cost: Free

Where:
The New Canaan Historical Society
13 Oenoke Ridge
New Canaan, CT  06840
View map »


Sponsor: The New Canaan Historical Socoiety
Telephone: 203-966-1776
Contact Name: Janet Lindstrom
Website »

More information

The Society’s newest exhibit honors the men and women from New Canaan who served in World War II.  Lt. Henry Maitland’s Navy White Dress Jumper and hats, Sgt. Benjamin Charles...

Cost: Free

Where:
The New Canaan Historical Society
13 Oenoke Ridge
New Canaan, CT  06840
View map »


Sponsor: The New Canaan Historical Socoiety
Telephone: 203-966-1776
Contact Name: Janet Lindstrom
Website »

More information

In 1940 and ‘41, photographer Jack Delano (1914–1997) documented farm and city life in CT for the Farm Security Administration. In rare early color photographs and black & white,...

Cost: Members: Free; Non-Members: $5

Where:
Fairfield Museum and History Center
370 Beach Road
Fairfield, CT  06824
View map »


Telephone: 203-259-1598
Contact Name: Visitor Services Manager
Website »

More information

Features items from Pequot Library's Special Collections. The exhibition will run from June 4 - August 8, 2016. It is open during normal library hours, admission is free. Opening Reception:...

Cost: free

Where:
Pequot Library
720 Pequot Avenue
Southport, CT  06890
View map »


Sponsor: Pequot Library
Telephone: 203_259-0346
Contact Name: Front Desk
Website »

More information

Sheffield Island with its historic 148-year-old lighthouse, beaches and wildlife refuge offers abundant summer fun for visitors.  From May through September, visitors can board the Seaport...

Cost: $22.00

Where:
Norwalk Seaport Association Dock
4 N Water Street
Norwalk, CT  06854
View map »


Sponsor: Norwalk Seaport Association
Telephone: 203-838-9444
Contact Name: Ray A. Cooke
Website »

More information

New Photography Exhibit Opens at the Gores Pavilion It’s in the Details, a photography exhibit by Matthew Blaine, opened Sunday, July 17 and runs through the end of October.  The...

Cost: $5 per person

Where:
Gores Pavilion
Irwin Park
848 Weed Street
New Canaan, CT  06840
View map »


Sponsor: The New Canaan Historical Socoiety
Telephone: 203-966-1776
Contact Name: Janet Lindstrom
Website »

More information

Step inside the Ogden House to experience life in 18th century Fairfield. David and Jane Sturges Ogden began their marriage here, settling into farm life and establishing a family legacy that...

Cost: $5, $3 Students & Seniors; Free for members

Where:
Fairfield Museum and History Center
370 Beach Road
Fairfield, CT  06824
View map »


Sponsor: Fairfield Museum and History Center
Telephone: 203-259-1598
Contact Name: Visitor Services Manager
Website »

More information

Put on a happy face! Army-bound rock star Conrad Birdie's farewell appearance in Sweet Apple, Ohio is the talk of the town. But it's a teenage crisis for new "steadies" Hugo and...

Cost: $29 - $79

Where:
The Goodspeed
6 Main St
East Haddam, CT  06423
View map »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...
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