This week, we feature a photo of Country Trader, a toy store in downtown New Canaan from about 1955 to 1974. Launched by Richard Franco—brother of Aunt Lydia “Lee” Franco O’Neil and father of many Francos known to New Canaanites today (including Rick, Carl, Mike, Tom, Kelley and Katie), Country Trader started out a bit further south on Main Street, where Spiga restaurant currently is located, and then moved to the “Raymond Building” at 102 Main, according to Tom Franco. “Around 1960 he moved to Upper Elm where Consider the Cook is,” Tom Franco said. “He stayed at that location until maybe 1970 when he moved to the The Raymond building, where Greenwich Pharmacy was. He sold all the top toys, plastic models, bikes and was big on records. He always had the top 100 billboard 45s and albums.”
Tom Franco snapped the photo shown here while on leave from the U.S. Army around 1972.
New Canaan’s Arianne Faber Kolb, an art historian, came across the name Abastenia St. Leger Eberle by accident one day several years ago. The water had been drained out of the lily pond in heart of the formal gardens east of Waveny House for a full cleaning, exposing the Eberle’s name at the base of a 1918 bronze of a nymph—the sculpture, “Lotus Fountain,” is known to thousands of New Canaanites—and prompting Faber Kolb to start researching. What she and fellow town resident Micaela Porta went on to discover about Eberle—a highly accomplished sculptor whose work has been shown at the Metropolitan Museum of Art—and four other women whose unique contributions helped form and document Waveny House and park as we know it today, would lead them to co-curate a new exhibition that launched last month at the New Canaan Museum & Historical Society. “Women of Waveny—Artists, Patrons and the Lapham Legacy” is open through March 31, 2022.
Located in a second-floor gallery in the Historical Society’s main building (13 Oenoke Ridge), the exhibition features six sculptures from Eberle as well as many photographs from Frances Benjamin Johnston—an early American photographer and photojournalist who took pictures of Waveny—and paintings, prints, ephemera and other works and images that tell the story of how they and Antoinette Lapham, Ruth Lapham Lloyd and Elise Lapham contributed to Waveny and beyond—women whose lives spanned 1864 to 2011, according to the show’s 35-page program, written by Porta.
This week on 0684-Radi0, our free podcast (subscribe here in the iTunes Store), we talk to Nancy Geary, executive director of the New Canaan Museum & Historical Society, about a research project into the history of enslaved and free black people in New Canaan. Thanks to a grant from the New Canaan Community Foundation, the Historical Society will bring in a researcher and exhibition developer to help create a show for display this coming winter. We talk to Nancy about the research project’s origins, what has turned up so far and what you our listeners may do to help the Historical Society as it gathers up relevant information, photographs and artifacts.
Located at 13 Oenoke Ridge, the New Canaan Museum & Historical Society can be reached at 203-966-1776 and firstname.lastname@example.org.
The volunteer body that oversees New Canaan’s Historic District is poised to approve a request from an organization located on God’s Acre to replace cedar shingles on part of a building there with asphalt shingles. The New Canaan Museum and Historical Society is seeking to replace keep the shingles on its 1825 “Town House” building facing Oenoke Ridge as cedar, but to use asphalt shingles for the roof of a 2000 addition that houses the Lindstrom conference room, officials said. “We have a number of leaks,” the organization’s executive director, Nancy Geary, told members of the Historic District Commission at their July 23 meeting, held via videoconference.
“One of the problems that we have is under roof of Lindstrom Room as part of of the library roof is where we store our extensive clothing and textile collection,” she said. “So we are very worried about water damage in there. It’s already leaking in the attic extensively.
The New Canaan Museum & Historical Society will be reopening to the public on June 23rd. Tours of the house museums, including the Cody Pharmacy, the Hanford-Silliman House, the Rock School, the Tool Museum and the Little Red Schoolhouse, will be available to individuals or families that have been sheltering in place together by appointment. The research library will be open with limited capacity so reservations are recommended. Visitors will be asked to wear masks and have their temperatures taken; researchers will need to also wear gloves. Equipment will be provided.