Not Leaving the Light on for You
It is evident to me, as I visit these defunct museums, that those with a singular passion – dare I say obsession – are the ones fallen by the wayside. And I can’t think of a better example than a museum located in a very far flung place, in a town half the state has never heard of, dedicated to old kerosene lamps. Awesome.
Oh how I wish the proprietor hadn’t passed away five (or so) years ago. I have a huge gap in my understanding of the history of kerosene lamps that I need to have filled. Sigh.
This museum was located in Winchester Center which, despite the name, is far from the hub of Winchester activity. Winsted is actually part of Winchester and while Winsted is hardly an urban center, it does have a rather bustling street and a community college. Winchester Center has a tiny green, a couple old farmhouses, an old church, two historical signs, and five roads converging. In the middle of nowhere.
But I found it and checked out the scene. The old museum no longer has the sign painted across its front and there is really nothing much left of the old flavor. Thankfully, we have the Internet and the New York Times to help us out a little bit:
By ELEANOR CHARLES
Published: December 25, 1983
LIGHT OF EARLIER AGE
Two years ago George Sherwood, a retired airport planner for the Connecticut Department of Transportation, and his wife, Ruth, a retired schoolteacher, bought an old farmhouse in Winchester Center, a few miles north of Torrington, off Route 8.
In attempting to enhance the Victorian flavor of the house, they began buying kerosene lamps.
”There wasn’t too much electricity anyway,” said Mrs. Sherwood. ”Pretty soon the lamps outgrew the house, so we moved them into another building on the property and started a museum.”
The Winchester Center Kerosene Lamp Museum at 100 Old Waterbury Turnpike on the Green now has almost 500 lamps on exhibition. Its guest register, begun last Christmas, contains the names of visitors from as far away as Texas, California, England and Alaska.
”Ours is not what you’d call an elaborate display, it’s more homestyle, and it is far from complete,” Mrs. Sherwood said. Most of the lamps date from 1850 to 1885. Some are hanging lamps, some are wall brackets, some glass; others are metal, and they came from homes, churches and commercial establishments.
Mr. Sherwood specializes in collecting different kinds of burners – the little inserts that contain the wick and provide the light – and the Sherwoods keep up with what’s new in old lamps through membership in the Rushlight Club, a worldwide network of nonelectric-lamp collectors.
I can only imagine how cool this place was.