Historical Society elects officers, foresees active future

Scott House, at 4 Sunset Lane, is the headquarters of the Ridgefield Historical Society.

Scott House, at 4 Sunset Lane, is the headquarters of the Ridgefield Historical Society.

Tracy Seem

Tracy Seem was elected president of the Ridgefield Historical Society at the annual meeting on Tuesday, Oct. 20. Members at the Zoom meeting also endorsed a slate that includes Michele Mahland, first vice president; Geoff Harrington, second vice president; Molly McGeehin, treasurer; Laurie McGavin Bachmann, recording secretary; and Nancy Selander, corresponding secretary.

Elected to two-year board of directors terms were: Phil Esser, Architectural Archives Committee; Betsy Reid, Collections Management Committee; Sara Champion, Governance and Compliance Committee; Melanie Marks, Historic Resources Inventory Liaison; Sharon Dunphy, Special Projects Committee; and Curt Schibli, Strategic Planning Committee. Continuing board members are Kay Ables, Sue Law, Monica McMorran, Sally Sanders, and Gary Singer.

Outgoing president Sara Champion reported on the historical society’s very eventful year (July 1, 2019-June 30, 2020). Noting that she had taken office only in March 2020 when Sharon Dunphy resigned the presidency, she said her report was prepared with Dunphy’s assistance.

The discovery of skeletons in late 2019 near the major engagement site of the Battle of Ridgefield and First Selectman Rudy Marconi’s request that the society take the lead in representing the town with state and local officials was a major focus for the organizaation. It was “the most exciting event of our fiscal year (and arguably of RHS history),” said Champion. The skeletons are now at a laboratory at Yale, with study held up by the pandemic.

Meanwhile, the historical society has moved forward with a plan to deepen understanding of the battle and its locations, said Champion. “With the support of our First Selectman, the Connecticut State Archaeologist, the Connecticut State Historian, the Ridgefield Historic District Commission and other, RHS, together with the Connecticut State Preservation office (SHPO) applied for a grant from the National Park Service under its American Battlefield Protection Program. We were awarded a two-year $50,150 grant for battlefield research and consensus building.”

When the COVID-19 pandemic necessitated closure of the Scott House headquarters, the historical society formed a Crisis Committee and launched online programming to keep the public engaged and an archives organizational project that volunteers could work on remotely. The COVID-19 pandemic is a historic event that the Ridgefield Historical Society is documenting by collecting materials and actively soliciting accounts of townspeople’s experiences. Many videos have been posted to the website.

Among the many other activities, Champion included virtual programming from the Peter Parley Schoolhouse (also closed by the pandemic), establishment of the Warren Arthur Architectural Archives, and work with the Historic District Commission on passage of a Demolition Delay Ordinance.

The Scott House received a new cedar shingle roof this year and had to replace a failing compressor in the Archive room, under the guidance of Building and Grounds Chair Geoff Harrington.

Champion concluded, “We have stayed on course through exceptionally challenging times through the dedicated efforts of our Board members, staff and volunteers who continue to dedicate themselves to our mission of preserving Ridgefield’s historical, cultural and architectural heritage.”

For more information or to join the Ridgefield Historical Society, visit ridgefieldhistoricalsociety.org or call 203-438-5821.