Eastford’s “Inn” the Club!
Eastford Google Maps location
July 22, 2018
For the first 11 years of CTMQ’s existence, Eastford did not have a museum. The sparsely populated, relatively unknown town in Windham County was never expected to have a museum, but even so, the relative few museumless Connecticut towns make me sad.
Then The Florence Warren Latham Museum of Eastford History happened in the fall of 2017 and the town was changed forever. For ever! For it now had The Florence Warren Latham Museum of Eastford History. Eastford now had its center of culture and history. It now had a centralized place for half the town (est. 13 people) to gather and socialize.
Let’s all take a moment to recognize the import of The Florence Warren Latham Museum of Eastford History and its profound effect on the people and town of Eastford.
Joking aside, when I came to learn of this place, I was more excited than you’d think. If only because the list of towns without museums was now one less. In fact, I was so excited that I drove all the way out to Eastford with Damian the weekend after I learned of its existence.
[Note: I actually drove halfway to Eastford in an attempt to go to the Daniel Benton Homestead Museum in Tolland, which was supposed to be open, but wasn’t. So I did what anyone would do and just kept driving to Eastford to find this place.]
As you’ve figured, I wasn’t too sore about the Benton thing. Because I had The Florence Warren Latham Museum of Eastford History ahead of me, and… okay. I’ll stop. This museum is postage stamp tiny and Eastford’s favorite son is the first Union general to be killed in the Civil War, so it’s sort of a weird place.
The museum is near the “center of town” which deserves the scare quotes. There really is no “center of Eastford.” There’s a library and a church and probably a municipal building and that’s about it. (Please know that I love towns like Eastford. I’m just painting a picture here for the 99% of people reading this who have never been there.)
This is a one room museum, about the size of an average living room maybe. And oddly, it is a stand-alone building. I loved this place immediately.
So what is this place and who is Florence Warren Latham? Good questions… As it turns out, Florence Warren Latham (1881-1952) just happens to be, like, the grandmother of the gentleman who is most active in the local historical society. And who donated the building for the museum, so why not name it after his beloved grandmother?
Okay, that’s not fair. FloWaLa was all about Eastford. Born and raised there, she returned to raise a family and participated in all sorts of civic duties there after some time away for schooling in New Haven, New Jersey, and New York.
She was big into physical fitness and my favorite part of her journey was the stint she did at a place called New Haven Normal School of Gymnastics in 1902. She was always fit and rode her bike all around Eastford (a fairly hilly town) until her death. She seemed like a wonderful woman, mother, teacher, and friend.
And now she has the centerpiece of Eastford named in her honor.
A centerpiece museum which opened with a bang in the fall of 2017 with an exhibit all about the General Lyon Inn/Tavern. General Lyon was the dead Civil War general I told you about. Oh, he’s got a whole memorial and state park dedicated to him here in Eastford.
I suppose I need to be more specific. The exhibit is of The General Lyon Inn during the ownership of Beatrice Kennedy from 1918-1975. Mrs. Kennedy first called it Eastford House, which was the Inn’s name from previous owners. A few years later, Mrs. Kennedy changed the name to The General Lyon Inn at the suggestion of Judge J. M. Tatem. The exhibit features the Inn’s furnishings arranged to look like a country inn from a bygone era.
There’s furniture, a lamp post, some signage, china… other stuff. There are also a few very pretty watercolors by local artist Ethel Gardner which were better than “noted artist” Stowell Sherman’s in my opinion.
Speaking of furniture, this desk here was “supposedly used by George Washington.”
Just had to get that out of the way.
Did you notice just above that Mrs. Kennedy ran the Inn for nearly 60 years?! That definitely deserves a museum exhibit. You can still see the Inn in town but “gone are the Yankee Pot Roast dinners, beans baked in her beehive oven, Indian Pudding and the British-born Mrs. Kennedy, who died in 1976 after selling to John and Dorothy Bowen in 1975.”
That quote is from the Eastford Historical Society and it struck me as a little weird. The historical society does a deep dive into the proprietor’s personal history, which we’ll skip here. She was an Englishwoman who married a guy from Connecticut and purchased the inn and named it for General Nathaniel Lyon. The inn, which was built in 1833 along the major stagecoach route between Hartford and Boston, served as the main gathering spot for dignitaries attending General Lyon’s funeral.
Mrs. Kennedy was pretty rad. She did things like donate a year’s salary to the town’s fire company. And dressed her staff in colonial garb to serve cake on George Washington’s birthday. And recreated Washington’s holiday meal at Christmastime.
And you thought this page would be super short since the museum is super tiny in the sparsely populated town of Eastford. But really, that’s all I’ve got. It’s a little museum with a bunch of old stuff from the town’s storied inn that lots of people stayed at over its lifetime. Oh, and here’s the last gas street lamp in Eastford which stood in front of the Inn.
I was able to “tour” the whole place – with an attentive guide, by the way. Yes, I was led around the joint by a kindly docent as if I couldn’t find my way from one corner to the next. I found that quite charming, actually.
There you have it; Eastford has a museum! Welcome to the “good” Connecticut town club!