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Keeler Tavern Museum marks 300 years of history

The Keeler Tavern, around 1920, from a hand-colored postcard. —RidgefieldHistory.com

The Friday, Feb. 15 opening of “Three Centuries of History at Lott II,” a special exhibit at town hall, launches Keeler Tavern Museum’s year-long 300th anniversary celebration.

The general public is invited to the exhibit launch at 11:30 a.m., which will be officiated by First Selectman Rudy Marconi and other town dignitaries.

The exhibit is a collaborative effort between Keeler Tavern Museum and Ridgefield Historical Society. It will showcase the long history of the property, from its origins as the farmstead of Benjamin Hoyt, who survived the Deerfield Massacre, to its time as the early 20th century residence of architect Cass Gilbert, whose Woolworth Building in New York City celebrates its 100th anniversary this year.

“When Benjamin Hoyt purchased Lott II of Ridgefield in 1713, he could not have known the eventful history his home would witness,” says Joel Third, museum president. “The stories of the people who lived or visited here really illuminate Ridgefield’s as well as our nation’s evolution politically, economically and socially. That’s what makes Keeler Tavern Museum the most significant historic site in Ridgefield as well as the town’s oldest gathering place.”

The exhibit unfolds in four large display cases with a timeline that relates objects, documents and important Ridgefield moments to major events in the nation’s history.

Designed to engage all ages, the exhibit tells a sweeping story of Ridgefield’s growth.

It begins with Benjamin Hoyt’s farmhouse, built to withstand Native Americans’ arrows, and extends to British fire aimed at Timothy Keeler’s Inn.  The timeline continues with Anna Marie Resseguie reporting on Civil War deprivations and describes Cass and Julia Gilbert entertaining area artists and other notables in their elegant garden.

“Keeler Tavern Museum has always told the stories of our town’s and nation’s birth,” said Executive Director Hildi Grob. “This celebration introduces the museum’s emerging identity as a place to take note of the remarkable people who lived here and of the history they took part in more than 300 years.

“We’re marking the occasion with special events and programs throughout 2013 to which all are invited. It’s an exciting time for the museum as well as this community.”

The Town Hall  exhibit  will be open through mid-June during regular business hours (8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., Monday through Friday).

The Keeler Tavern Museum has many visitors from overseas. Here is a group of students from China and their teachers Jan. 29. The students from Beijing, China were visiting Ridgefield as part of an student exchange program with Ridgefield High School. Museum guide Terese Waite, in charge of Youth Services for the museum, showed the visitors around the most historic site in Ridgefield, attired in her 18th century costume. —Hildegard Grob photo

Keeler Tavern Museum, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit located at 132 Main Street, operates with no government funding. It regularly offers docent-led tours of its period-furnished rooms, and the Cass Gilbert garden is open to the public year ’round, except during private events. Additional information on the museum’s 300th Anniversary Year, including its Birthday Party on Saturday, June 15, may be found on KTM’s Facebook page or at keelertavernmuseum.org.

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