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Local History

Library History

Wethersfield - A Literary Landmark

litery landmark

 

The Witch of Blackbird Pond

The Witch of Blackbird Pond brochure may also be downloaded as a pdf file. PDF


The Wethersfield Library Mural

The Wethersfield Library mural brochure may also be downloaded as a pdf file. PDF

Walking Tour of Historic Wethersfield


A guide to some of the events described in

The Witch of Blackbird Pond

by Elizabeth George Speare.

The 1958 Newbery Award-winning historical novel tells of the adventures of young Kit Tyler who, after leaving her priviliged life
in Barbados, arrives in Wethersfield to live with her only remaining relatives. But it doesn't feel like home.

Barbasos to Saybrook

Approximate 2000 mile route of the Dolphin from Barbados to Saybrook.

Kit struggles to adjust to the strict culture of 1687 Puritan Wethersfield. The Puritan community does not take kindly to her colorful clothing, her outspoken ways, her ideas or her friendship with the gentle Quaker widow who lives near blackbird Pond in the meadows by the Connecticut River.

Saybrook to Wethersfield

From Saybrook, the Dolphin sailed 43 miles upriver to Wethersfield.

When Kit rescues Hannah Tupper from the charge of witchcraft, the community then tries Kit as a witch.

Weaving through this brave teenager's struggle with her own loneliness and the town's bigotry is her budding romance with Nat, a young sailor from the Dolphin, the ship that brought her to Wethersfield.

Using these maps a visitor can find some sites described in the book and match them to approximate locations in modern day Wethersfield.

Dramatic changes happened when floods in the 1700s altered the river's course creating Wethersfield Cove and reshaping the meadows.

In the last century, construction of Interstate 91 and the Route 3/Putnam Bridge to Glastonbury snipped off early street connections to the river.

Wethersfield 1687

1. The Dolphin arrives from Saybrook. Kit disembarks at the mist-shrouded Wethersfield landing. 2. Ccaptain Eaton delivers Kit with her seven trunks to Mathew Wood's house on High Street. 3. The Meeting House at the town center across from the pillary, whipping post and stocks. 4. Widow Hannah Tupper's one room shack by Blackbird Pond in the meadows. 5. Governor Andros, the king's representative, crossed the river here on his way to Hartford to take back Connecticut's Charter. 6. The Constable's shed where Kit spent a miserable night before her trial for witchcraft.

Below is a map of Wethersfield today.

Wethersfield today

Literary Landmark The Town of Wethersfield has been named a Literary Landmark for its use as the setting for The Witch of Blackbird Pond. The Friendds of Libraries USA sponsors the Literary Landmark project which enables local librariews to call attention to literary significance of sites in their communities. The bronze plaque designating Wethersfield as a Literary Landmark and a more detailed map created by PHil Lohman are on display at the Wethersfield Library.


A Library Treasure

Library Mural

“Map of the towne of Wethersfield, one of the State’s earliest
settlements on the plain along the west bank of the Connecticut River.”

The Library has a treasure on its wall.

In 1959 noted muralist Henrik Martin Mayer worked with the town’s building commission and the architects of the new town hall/library complex to create a mural that would memorialize the importance of history to the community and celebrate the diverse knowledge that the Library provides to its residents.

The mural incorporates a map of Wethersfield in the olden days. To the left of the map are representations of the ten original settlers, and to the right is a multi-generational, multi-racial group of people representing various forms of culture and knowledge, literature, music, and science.

Many people wonder if ours is a WPA mural. It does look similar to many created under the Works Progress Administration, which provided employment to many out work artists during the Depression. Since our building dates from 1959 ours is not a WPA mural , but in fact Mayer was the first painter to receive a mural commission in Indiana under the WPA’s Federal Art Project.

About the Artist

Henrik Mayer took his art training at the Manchester Institute of Art in New Hampshire and the Yale School of Fine Art, from where he earned a B.F.A.  Among his teachers were Maud Briggs Knowlton and mural specialist Eugene Savage.  In 1931, he studied in Europe as a Winchester Fellow, and the following year he married Jessie Hull, whose birth place was New Haven and whom he met at Yale when they were both art students.

He accepted a teaching position in New York City, and also served as designer and decorator of the New York Cosmopolitan Club including an octagonal room, a job in which he was assisted by his wife.  In 1934 he moved with Jessie to Indianapolis where he became Assistant Director at the John Herron Art Institute. 

To supplement his income, Mayer filled mural commissions, becoming the first painter to receive a mural commission in
Indiana under the WPA's Federal Art Project.  One of his murals is at the post office building in Lafayette, Indiana, the result of
a competition in which his wife, entering as Jessie Hull Mayer, was the runner-up choice. 

In 1946 the Mayers moved to Essex, Connecticut where Henrik became Director of the Hartford Art School of the Wadsworth Athaneum.  In 1956, he became Dean of the Art School of the University of Hartford in Connecticut, a position he held until 1963.  He also served as Director of the Wadsworth Atheneum.

Henrik Mayer died in 1972. The artist’s widow Jessie Mayer said the library mural was one of many that her husband painted,
including three large outdoor mosaics at the University of Connecticut in Storrs and another mosaic at Southern Connecticut State University in New Haven. "He always did a great deal of research before he started, to find out about the historic interest," Jessie Mayer said.

AskART: the artists’ bluebook-WorldWide Edition. April 19, 2008. Sources include: Judith Vale Newton and Carol Ann Weiss, Skirting the Issue, 102-110
Peter Falk, Who Was Who in American Art. http://www.askart.com/
The Wethersfield
Library Mural
The Ten Original Settlers
Also known as “The Ten Adventurers”
515 Silas Deane Highway
Wethersfield, CT 06109

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