A Silver Metal
Meriden (Google Maps location)
What do you think of when someone mentions Meriden? The Police Academy? The formerly bustling silver industry? Both? Well, then do I have a museum for you!
The Moses Andrews House is a historic house museum in Meriden. Built about 1760, it is one of a small number of surviving 18th-century houses in the small central Connecticut city. Amazingly, it has been operated by the local historical society as a museum property since about 1940. That’s one of those sentences that I write and you read and neither of us thinks about, but now I’m forcing us both to do so: By the time you read this, the little Moses Andrews Homestead may have been operating as a museum for nearly a century!
And now that we know that, it makes more sense that it’s located in what is basically a suburb. It shares a driveway with an elementary school. If you miss the turn into it, you’ll find yourself at a McDonalds. There’s a Walgreens across the busy West Main Street. In other words, Meriden somehow protected a little old house as the city grew up all around it.
Hats off to Meriden.
The house (a traditional New England salt-box) and the property on which it stands had remained in the Andrews family until 1864. Moses Andrews was a prominent figure in Meriden during the American Revolution and I guess was locally famous (infamous?) for hosting Anglican (Loyalist English scum!) services at the house.
Moses, being a Tory (Loyalist English scum!), was bound by its laws to pray for King George III and since this was not favorable with his neighbors and by the state law which forbade him from attending the Episcopal Church in Wallingford, Moses began church services in his home. The parlor was set up with wooden benches for worshipers, but when the situation became critical during the war, services were held secretly in the basement (Loyalist English scum!). In the years following the war through 1810, services continued here, with Moses acting as Lay Reader.
At some point Moses switched to Episcopalian and in fact the St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church in Meriden traces its beginnings to Moses.
Moses died and the house was owned by some heirs and random people until it was purchased by the city in 1926. It’s crazy that it survived intact until then. Meriden bought it for the land they were building the school on and again, amazingly didn’t raze the joint. Perhaps they were finally going to and that’s what prompted locals to form a committee to save it and turn it into a museum in 1940.
Between the Civil War and WWII, it was used as a school, rented as apartments, and as a day care center. It was rescued from total decay as a WPA project in the 1930’s. Man, this building is a survivor!
Which brings us to today. The building itself is impressive, as many of the interior finishes are original, including fireplace surrounds, flooring, and period door hardware. That’s incredible. Really.
The great fireplace with its deep Dutch ovens in the keeping room, the paneling surrounding the three remaining fireplaces, the huge exposed field stone chimney wall in the entrance hall, the hiding closet, as well as the wide floor boards, hardware, etc., are all original. (The furnishings are donations from local families.)
A visit to the Homestead can be taken in wholly separate pieces. There’s the house, which is impressive in its own right. Then there are the displays. When Damian and I popped in, there were two distinct exhibits: Meriden’s industrial history, with a focus on the silver industry and Meriden’s role in Connecticut policing. If I had to guess, I’d say the former is permanent and the latter was temporary. Additionally, a large doll and toy collection fills cases in an upstairs nursery.
I assume the state police academy is located here simply because of its centralized location and easy access to I-91. Meriden is home to the State Police Museum in case you want to make a day of law enforcement history or something.
The Andrews Homestead had a bunch of old police uniforms and weapons and badges. They typical stuff. I plopped Damian down in front of a little television playing old VCR tapes so I could wander unencumbered for a bit. Just as I did, I saw a KKK guy on the screen.
Interesting. Of course those clowns were all over the country over the years (and still are, though perhaps no longer wearing the dorky outfits), but I was struck by seeing it here on a little tv in an old Meriden house. Something about the sign above struck me too
Ah. This was their “1st” rally here. I take it there were more? As a non-native, I’ve always thought nearby Wallingford was the KKK Kapital of Konnecticut? Maybe because those incidents happened when I lived here. Anyway, Damian watched his KKK video and I poked around the ground floor.
Meriden, like all of our cities, was an industry hotbed. The Manning Bowman Company made enamelware and chrome ware things for the kitchen. Bradley & Hubbard made… stuff for the house. Lots of stuff. New Departure made ball bearings, Edward Miller Company, lamps… on and on.
But it was the silverware that drew my eye. Much of it on display here was decorative and beautiful. Since I tied Wallingford and Meriden together through the KKK, I’ll end this saying that the two town also both were the twin Silver Cities of Connecticut. Which is a much better thing to know them for. I’m not even sure why I bothered to say that. Because of course it is. I’m rambling.
The Moses Andrews Homestead is a pretty cool little historic house museum. It really is astonishing that it even exists, let alone that it exists intact from so long ago. It could have burned down, it could have been burned down during the American Revolution, it could have been vandalized beyond repair, it could have been razed ten times over for development, and yet… here it is. Full of silver and… microphones in the bathroom for some reason.
Andrews Homestead Museum
CTMQ’s Museum Visits
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