History of the Torrington Historical Society
The Torrington Historical Society was incorporated on February 19, 1944. John H. Thompson, editor of the Torrington Register was elected its first president. Thompson used his daily newspaper article to solicit gifts for the collection and to write about Torrington’s history.
His “read it or not column” was published from 1936 until his death in 1949. The collections of the Society were first stored and displayed in two rooms at Dr. Pratt’s House on Daycoeton Place. The Historical Society quickly out grew their first home and moved to the Batters Building on Church Street.
When Mrs. Gertrude Hotchkiss died in 1956 she left her estate in trust to be used by the Historical Society as a museum and headquarters. Included in her gift was an endowment to help support the work of the Historical Society. When the library collection and archives were moved into the Hotchkiss-Fyler House in the late 1950’s they were dedicated as the John H. Thompson Memorial Library.
In 1962 the Historical Society renovated the first floor of the Carriage House into a meeting room. In 1976 the adjacent Carson House was rehabilitated as a climate controlled exhibit and storage facility. The renovation of the Carson house was made possible by a bequest from Ruby Parsons Wadhams. Mrs. Wadhams bequest also helped establish the Torrington Historical Society endowment fund. Since the 1970’s the Society has continued to build its collection and to professionalize its operations with new exhibits and educational programs. Additional bequests and gifts have made this growth possible.
Other notable bequests and financial donations have been received from Hayden Thompson, Maureen Shugrue, Robert E. Cron, Fred and Joyce Kirkwood Dino Casali, Jerome Stein, Guy Fifield, David and Esther Bennett, and the Weigold Family.
In the year 2000, the John Brown Association merged with the Torrington Historical Society. In the merger the Historical Society acquired the West Torrington property where John Brown was born and assumed the purpose of the John Brown Association which was “to perpetuate the history and memory of John Brown.”
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