Celebrating the Opening of the New Holcombe Education Center at WDS

The Webb-Deane-Stevens Museum will open the new Holcombe Education Center with a week-end long celebration beginning on Friday, June 4, 2021, with a ribbon-cutting ceremony commencing at 9:30 a.m. Opening-weekend activities include a lawn party, exhibit openings and free admission to the museum (schedule below). 

Webb-Deane-Stevens Museum Executive Director Joshua Campbell Torrance notes that the addition is the culmination of years of fundraising, planning, and construction. “The Holcombe Education Center will allow us to expand and enliven public programming and education,” he says. 

In addition to free admission to the Holcombe Education Center’s new exhibits, opening-weekend events include performances on Friday by the Col. John Chester Fife & Drum Corps—the oldest Junior Ancient Corps in Connecticut—and a lawn party featuring the band Eight to the Bar, food trucks, and a cash bar in the Webb Barn. The public may visit the museum free of charge on Friday, Saturday and Sunday. 

“The Webb-Deane-Stevens Museum is a national treasure and an informative teaching tool,” says Sally Kernan, president of The National Society of The Colonial Dames of America in the State of Connecticut (NSCDA-CT), which owns and operates the museum. “We are excited at the prospect of offering enriched and increased programming and greater access to Connecticut’s vibrant history.”  The museum plans new programs including musical and theatre performances, living-history programs and special exhibits.

The Holcombe Education Center will enable the museum to offer year-round programming for the public, school groups, and private-tour groups. In addition to providing much-needed exhibition and public-meeting spaces, facilities for research, and access to people with disabilities, the expansion boosts the museum’s economic impact on the surrounding community and bolsters Wethersfield’s heritage tourism.

The National Society of The Colonial Dames of America In The State of Connecticut which owns the museum, secured $6.1 million in private funding from individuals and foundations for the construction and an endowment. An award in 2017 of $1.7 million for construction from the Connecticut State Bond Commission ensured the project’s completion. 

The long-awaited addition brings four new exhibits on opening weekend. The exhibit, “Hidden in Plain View: Treasures from the Webb-Deane-Stevens Museum,” highlights unusual and noteworthy objects in the museum’s collection that visitors might overlook in the course of a visit. “These objects, including a stunning circa 1818 silkwork picture by a local schoolgirl and a spectacular 18th-century Wethersfield tea table, typically serve as components in room settings,” says Curator Rich Malley. “Though these items are bit players supporting the stories of the former occupants of the three houses, in the gallery setting they stand out and their own individual stories are illuminated.”

A small archaeological exhibit gives a glimpse of some of the artifacts excavated by Public Archeology Survey Team, Inc. in 2020, prior to construction in the front courtyard of the museum. The archeology exhibit features objects dating back to the 1752 construction of the Webb House and offers interesting glimpses of the Webb family’s lifestyle.

In “Places of Ease, Places of Solitude” Connecticut architectural photographer Peter R. Brown captures the essence of the museum’s extraordinary collection of privies. In a study of shape and texture, light and shadow, Brown invites viewers to connect with the structures in a new way. 

A fourth exhibit features a fascinating selection of miniature books from the extensive collection of Gay Ayers, a member of the NSCDA-CT. Adding a modern twist to this traditional publishing form, these contemporary pieces of art consist of both print and fine-art making, surprising the viewer with their ingenuity and beauty.  

Opening weekend includes free entrance to the Holcombe Education Center and tours of the Silas Deane House and Isaac Stevens House. The museum is open on Saturday, June 5, 2021, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. and Sunday, June 6, 2021, from 1- 4 p.m. 

Regular museum hours for the 2021 season will begin on June 8, 2021: Tuesday – Saturday, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. and Sunday 1- 4 p.m. Admission will be $15 for adults ($12 for seniors, AAA, students & active military, $6 for children, $30 per family) and include entrance to the Holcombe Education Center and tours of the museum’s historic houses. See the museum’s website for details.   

The Holcombe Education Center is named in recognition of Lucy Eaton Holcombe, whose bequest helped make the project possible. The Society will honor Mrs. Holcombe’s numerous contributions to the museum at the ribbon-cutting and opening ceremony for the Center on June 4, 2021, at 9:30 a.m.  

About the National Society of the Colonial Dames of America in the State of Connecticut 

The National Society of The Colonial Dames of America in the State of Connecticut was founded in 1893 for the purpose of increasing public knowledge and understanding of the colonial heritage in the United States of America, and inspiring pride in its traditions. Their participation in patriotic-service programs, historical activities, and stewardship of the Webb-Deane-Stevens Museum are the primary means through which they fulfill their purpose. The Connecticut Society acquired the Joseph Webb House in 1919, the Stevens House in 1957 and the Deane House in 1959.  Both the Webb and Deane houses are National Historic Landmarks, and the Stevens house is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.  

About the Webb-Deane-Stevens Museum

Located in the heart of Connecticut’s largest historic district, the Webb-Deane-Stevens Museum provides the quintessential New England experience – from the settling of Wethersfield to the early 20th century. Admission to the museum includes entrance to the galleries at the Holcombe Education Center and tours of the 1752 Joseph Webb House, where General George Washington met with French General Rochambeau and planned the military campaign leading to the end of the Revolutionary War; the 1770 Silas Deane House, built for America’s first diplomat to France; and the 1788 Isaac Stevens House, which depicts Connecticut life in the 18th and 19th centuries. For more information visit: www.webb-deane-stevens.org or social media at @webbdeanestevens, email [email protected] or call (860) 529-0612.