What’s New at WDS – May 20, 2020

Below you’ll find three weekly columns to keep you informed and entertained.

Washington Returns to WDS, Part 2

Did you know that George Washington enjoyed a wide variety of “adult” libations? Some of his favorite tipples were rum, beer, hard cider, punch, champagne, brandy, and whisky. But his favorite was Madeira, a sweet, fortified wine from the Portuguese island of the same name.

Interestingly, Madeira was considered a patriotic drink—its provenance meant the British were unable to tax it! Perhaps George enjoyed a glass after making his way to Wethersfield in 1781? Cheers!

Collections A to Z – “F” is for Fire Bucket

Fire was perhaps the greatest threat to wood-framed dwellings in America from the 17th to 19th centuries! Open fires in multiple fireplaces were the most obvious source of ignition, but lightning could also pose a problem.

As early as the 17th century, well before the establishment of fire departments, local and colonial governments often required property owners to maintain a supply of fire buckets in the event of a fire in the town or village. “Bucket brigades” of townspeople would be formed to fight a blaze, with filled buckets being passed hand-to-hand from the closest water source. The distinctive convex-bottom shape found on many examples helped direct water more accurately. Water capacity was generally in the two to three-gallon range.

Many surviving examples, made by local cobblers or saddlers, were patterned after English buckets. Since owners would want to retrieve their buckets after the fire it became common to paint their names on the buckets.

The Stevens House parlor features a pair of elaborately decorated fire buckets with the name “Isaac Stevens” and the date 1816. The Latin phrase “semper fidelis,” meaning always faithful (best known as the motto of the Marine Corps), is painted above a pair of clasping hands. While research has been unable to definitively prove that these buckets belonged to Wethersfield leather-worker Isaac Stevens, he no doubt owned similar examples.

Around the Grounds

From the drawing board to construction! Our first photo shows the floor plan of our new Welcome Center/Gift Shop, designed by Mellowes & Paladino Architects. Note the registration desk in the center of the drawing, directly ahead as one heads enters from the front door.

The second and third photos show the Welcome Center/Gift Shop elevations, with a view of the registration desk and where the display monitor will be placed on the wall behind the desk. Note the bookshelves, and the door to the right which will be the new entrance to the Webb House.

The final photo shows a current view of the interior construction of the Welcome Center/Gift Shop. Note the stud work, insulation, and the entrance to the Webb House. The new window to the right overlooks the front courtyard.