History of the Society


Noyes Memorial Building
(Litchfield History Museum) c. 1905
FOUNDED IN 1856 by citizens interested in preserving the history of their families, town and region, the Litchfield Historical Society was an early example of the growing American desire to preserve the material aspects of what was already being seen as a glorious past.
Museum Gallery c. 1920


Museum Gallery c. 1920
In 1901 the Society found permanent headquarters to house its expanding collections of textiles, furniture, art and household objects in the Noyes Memorial Building, home of the town library. The collection of the Society grew with the acquisitions of the Litchfield Law School in 1911 and the Tapping Reeve House and its contents in 1930. Expansions of the Noyes Memorial Building in 1906 and 1989 gave the Society the space and opportunity to exhibit its ever developing collection.


Litchfield History Museum today
Society members were swept up by the enthusiasm for national history that was sparked by the Philadelphia Centennial Exposition. Led by local resident and amateur historian Emily Noyes Vanderpoel, the historical society fervently collected 18th and early 19th century objects and papers. This material remains the core of the Society’s collections. In 1962 the town library moved to larger quarters enabling the Society to expand its storage and gallery space to occupy the entire original building.


Tapping Reeve Law
School attached to home
on East Street c1900.

The Tapping Reeve House and
Law School today

In 1911, the Society added a building to its growing collection of local artifacts. A community member donated the country’s first law school, and the Society moved the building to its side yard. Nineteen years later, the Society bought the Tapping Reeve House, the home of the law school founder. Using a wooden cab truck with sleigh wheels, members of the Society moved the school down the street to its original home next to the Reeve house. Both buildings were restored and opened to the public in 1933. The Tapping Reeve House and Law School were declared National Historic Landmarks in 1966.


The Tapping Reeve Law School being moved to
its original location in 1930

Since 1989, all three of the Society’s buildings have been renovated. Today the museum collects objects—through bequests, gifts, and purchases—in order to preserve Litchfield’s rich past. Items that were created, produced or used in Litchfield, especially whose that reflect local attitudes, beliefs, customs, habits, collections, and occupations, teach us about the town’s residents. New exhibitions show Litchfield’s place in national history through artifacts, videos and hands-on areas.


The "Traveler's Tour" Exhibition

To Ornament Their Minds: Sarah Pierce’s Litchfield Female Academy, 1792-1833 exhibition 1993


 

Over the years, the Litchfield Historical Society has received much recognition for its building preservation, exhibitions, publications and educational programming. Listed below are the many awards that have been bestowed upon the historical society.

American Association of Museums (AAM) Accreditation in 1992

AAM Museum Publication Design Competition
Second Prize for Books
Litchfield: The Making of a New England Town, 2012


American Association of State and Local History
Award of Merit
Litchfield: The Making of a New England Town, 2013
The Ledger: On-line data base of students at the Litchfield Female Academy and Litchfield Law School,
2012
To Please Any Taste: Litchfield County Furniture and Furniture Makers, 1780-1830, 2009
To Ornament Their Minds, "Sarah Pierce's Litchfield Female Academy, 1792-1833,
1995
Development of Exhibits and Educational Programs, 1992

Association for the Study of Connecticut History
The Betty M Linsley Award for Litchfield: The Making of a New England Town, 2012

Connecticut Humanities Council
Wilbur Cross Award
"Outstanding Contribution to the Humanities" for the project The Noblest Study: The Legacy of America's First School of Law, 1999

Connecticut League of History Organizations
Award of Merit
To Please Any Taste: Litchfield County Furniture and Furniture Makers, 1780-1830, 2009
Litchfield: The Making of a New England Town, 2012

Litchfield County Bar Association
The Liberty Bell Award for the interpretation of early legal education at the Tapping Reeve House, 2009

New England Museum Association Publications Competition
Honorable Mention Website
The Ledger: On-line data base of students at the Litchfield Female Academy and Litchfield Law School, 2012

New England Book Show
Best in Category Award for Illustrated Trade Book
Litchfield: The Making of a New England Town, 2012