Bristol museums open their doors for free as part of Connecticut Open House Day Saturday

Published on Sunday, 9 June 2019 20:18
Written by Michelle Jalbert


BRISTOL - Saturday saw local museums open their doors for free, as part of Connecticut Open House Day.

In Bristol, residents got a firsthand look at what places like the Bristol Historical Society have to offer.

“They’re learning a lot about Bristol that they didn’t know before,” said historian Robert Adamczyk.

One important part of Bristol’s history is its rich industrial heritage, said Adamczyk. The city has been a hub for manufacturing springs, ball bearings and wooden clocks. Bristol is also home to the oldest continuously running amusement park in the nation: Lake Compounce.

Lisa Doyle-Bell, hospitality chair of the historical society and part of the collection committee, showed visitors the many textiles the museum has, such as shirt waists from the 1900s. Visitors also had the opportunity to dress up in Victorian era clothing.

Doyle-Bell says she updates the displays monthly.

“Basically every time someone comes in it’s something different,” she said. “People are constantly making donations, which is a godsend.”

“If we don’t preserve what we’re wearing now, your descendents might not ever have that stuff,” she added.

In the same building, the Witch’s Dungeon Classic Movie Museum showed The Three Stooges and cartoons on an old fashioned projector. They also put a model of Yoda from the Star Wars movies on display.

The movie museum has had visitors from 27 countries and over 40 states, said owner Cortlandt Hull.

“It’s something that appeals to so many because people love the movies - especially fantasy movies,” said Hull.

The museum has a variety of movie memorabilia to show visitors, from props and posters, to makeup and costumes, to the only original surviving ET from the bicycle scene.

Earlier in the day the Memorial Military Museum showed the movie “Sgt. Stubby: An American Hero” to visitors. The movie is about a dog from Connecticut who saw combat, was wounded and was awarded a Purple Heart.

“To this day he’s the most decorated canine in the U.S. military,” said Carol Denehy, vice president of the Memorial Military Museum.

The military museum also featured an exhibit about two Bristol natives who fought on D-Day; Capt. Edward Wozenski and Private Ernest Blanchard. Treasurer of the historical society Tim Denehy later led a presentation about WWII pilot and POW Warren “Gus” Beach and about the crew of the B-17 “Invictus.”

At the American Clock & Watch Museum, people toured the museum and got to listen to how a clock repairer does his job.

“He talked about what literally makes the clocks tic,” said Patti Philippon, executive director of the museum.

“I really hope people get an understanding of what rich cultural treasures Bristol has and Connecticut has,” she added.

The free day was sponsored by Stanley Black & Decker.

“We like all the history of people who are clock makers. That was a big industry in Bristol,” said Tom Trudel, who went to the clock museum for the first time in 50 years with his wife.

The Trudels also visited the New England Carousel Museum that day.

“We have had so many people who are from outside Bristol,” said Morgan Urgo, executive director of the carousel museum. “It’s bringing a lot of interest into the city.”

The museum hosted tours, activities for kids and free carousel rides.

Those who wanted to get outside to enjoy the sunny weather stopped by the Harry C. Barnes Memorial Nature Center.

“We’ve had probably over 100 people. It’s been nonstop since we opened at 10,” said Fern Vaughn, program coordinator.

Volunteer Alex Laskowski took visitors on a pond study, where she showed them what kind of critters live in the water. She said the goal of the day was to inspire people to “be out in nature more.”

Volunteer John Correia escorted people on guided hikes. He pointed out plants and animals out in the woods.

“I hope they learned something and want to come back,” he said.

Connecticut Open House Day is organized by the Connecticut Office of Tourism.

Michelle Jalbert can be reached at

Posted in The Bristol Press, Bristol on Sunday, 9 June 2019 20:18. Updated: Sunday, 9 June 2019 20:21.