Revitilizating the Town Green
Each year at the town Memorial Day picnic, classic cars and folks in period garb gather at the Victorial Cottage.
Photo courtesy of Fairfield Museum and History Center
In Fairfield, what’s new is old. Thanks to the development of the “Museum Commons” on the historic town green, residents and visitors can experience additional chapters in the town’s rich past in the form of three recently restored buildings—Sun Tavern, the Victorian Cottage, and the Victorian Barn. Flanked by the Fairfield Museum and History Center, the Old Academy Schoolhouse, and both branches of Town Hall, these antique properties have been painstakingly renovated, requiring equal amounts of private funding and research.
What makes this historical village different from other re-creations such as Mystic Seaport and Sturbridge Village? “These buildings will not be frozen in time, but instead, used as interactive classroom and cultural space that will continue to evolve,” explains Fairfield Museum and History Center executive director Michael Jehle.
For example, Sun Tavern, famous for hosting the likes of George Washington and Abigail Adams, will provide interactive displays, featuring period newspapers, bar games, tableware, and travelers’ belongings in the tavern and chamber rooms. In the adjacent “Seeking Justice” exhibit, guests can re-enact famous legal cases (including witch trials and adultery) using vintage costumes and scripts. An archeological display will round out the offerings, revealing artifacts excavated from surrounding subterranean layers.
Across the green sits the green and pink-painted Victorian Cottage and Barn which focus on civic participation. The Cottage’s cleverly designed activity centers, funded in large part by Fairfield Rotary, will engage children during field trips, camps, and family outings. “We’re encouraging kids to see the threads of their community come together, and learn what it means to be an active member of their town,” shares Laurie Lamarre, Curator of Exhibitions at the Fairfield Museum and History Center. The “Be Water Wise” conservation station, the “Construction Zone” with replicas of town buildings, and the “Community Tree” with leaves visitors can personalize are just a few attractions.
Next door is the Barn, a tactile lesson in the town’s agricultural past and present, demonstrating the regional food cycle from seed to table, alongside a rotation of reproduction farm tools and vehicles.
On June 3, “Gala on the Green” marks the grand opening of the Museum Commons with a five-star farm-to-table dinner catered by Chef Tim LaBant of The Schoolhouse at Cannondale. “We are thrilled to be working with a chef of Tim’s caliber who not only showcases the best regional ingredients but also has the training and skill set to offer unique ideas and food experiences to our event,” shares event co-chair Denise Stone.
“Our decision to highlight local resources is more than just a nod to a dining trend—it connects directly with the museum’s focus on sustainability and the changing environment, as seen in the recent “Rising Tides” exhibit,” notes event co-chair and FMHC board member Gay Tice. While providing food for thought, the gala will also raise essential funds for future educational programming.
“The expansion of the Museum Commons will draw visitors to both curated exhibits and the open-air cultural space,” remarks director of Fairfield’s community and economic development Mark Barnhart. “The town, the museum, and local merchants will all benefit from an increased level of civic engagement.” In fact, Unquowa Repertory Theater will perform throughout this summer with other local groups lining up quickly to book performances and events.
This newly invigorated town center provides a unique lens to view Fairfield and the region’s history, while introducing a meaningful outdoor venue for the arts that will continue to educate and entertain future generations.