Sheryl Hack encountered a problem after she took a job three years ago with one of the state's venerable cultural organizations. Whenever she introduced herself as executive director of the Antiquarian & Landmarks Society, she was frequently met with "blank stares."
The archaic name caused a lot of confusion about the organization's purpose. To end the confusion, the 72-year-old society voted last fall to change its name: it is now known simply as Connecticut Landmarks.
The new name, Hack said, better represents the organization's relevance and goal of exploring Connecticut history in new ways.
"The feedback has been fabulous," Hack said. "It's much clearer to people who we are and what we do.
"We're glad to have a name that serves as a gateway to the services and programs that we offer."
The name change is just one part of an ongoing makeover for the society, which hopes to double its membership of more than 300 by the end of the year.
A new and more comprehensive website is scheduled to be launched next month, Hack said.
Additionally, the society will embark on a five-month campaign to spotlight its core properties.
The first to be featured will be Hartford's Butler-McCook homestead, which is the oldest home in the capital city.
During May, the home's spotlight month, admission — typically $7 for adults and $4 for children older than 6 — will be free.
Hack called the home an "urban oasis" and said benches are being installed in the restored Victorian ornamental garden behind the home so visitors may stop by for lunch breaks, or simply to enjoy the tranquil setting.
There will also be a free History Celebration held at the house on May 15 at 5:30 p.m., featuring refreshments, tours, and musical performances from Judy Handler and Mark Levesque.
The society plans to spotlight its other core properties — the 1678 Hempsted Houses in New London, Coventry's Nathan Hale Homestead, the Phelps-Hatheway House & Garden in Suffield and the Bellamy-Ferriday House in Bethlehem — through similarly creative events in the coming months.
Rochelle Simon, director of communication at Connecticut Landmarks, said she's excited about the coming celebration planned to mark Nathan Hale's 253rd birthday on June 14.
"It's going to be a very big day," she said of the festivities, which will include birthday cake and a performance from the Nathan Hale Fife & Drum Corps.
In past months, Connecticut Landmarks has sponsored "Thanksgiving with the Hempsteds," a holiday dinner at the Hempsted House and "The Witching Hour," a play centering on Connecticut's 17th-century witch trials that premiered in Hartford's Charter Oak Cultural Center last September.
For more information on the Butler-McCook House & Garden, or Connecticut Landmarks, the group can be reached at 860-522-1806, or on their website at www.ctlandmarks.org.
Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant.
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