SOUTHINGTON – Town Councilor Dawn Miceli, chair of the town’s new Heritage Identity Study Committee, aims to catalog and preserve Southington historic sites – including a previously unregistered stop on the Underground Railroad.
The Heritage Identity Study Committee was established at a Town Council meeting Monday. In addition to Miceli, the committee includes Jennifer Clock from the Planning and Zoning Commission, Bonnie Plourde from The Barnes Museum and Christine Volpe, who serves on the town’s Fire Commission and is also a member of SHPO, the State Historic Preservation Office. There is currently one open slot on the committee.
Miceli said that the committee formed after a recommendation from the Historic Resource Inventory Report. The idea was to put together an inventory of town land and ensure the preservation of historic sites, which she said is “critical.” The decision was also fueled by a recent discovery that an open space parcel, once belonging to the Curtis Family, was a stop on the Underground Railroad not currently listed on “The Freedom Trail.”
“The historic Cutis homestead, which was built in the 1700s, contains a cellar where the slaves hid,” said Miceli. “This part of the land is private property owned by the Curtis Family. There is also an adjacent property, owned by Developer Mark Lovely, which contains the remaining foundation of the original family barn. Mark wants to build a subdivision on that property, but he has agreed to cordon off the section of the property containing the foundation and give it back to the town as open space.”
Miceli said it is her goal to get the Curtis property included as part of the Freedom Trail. She also hopes to get other historic places in town, such as First Congregational Church and the Town Green, recognized.
“What I can’t get over is how many people have since called me saying that there are different sites in town that were part of the Underground Railroad,” said Miceli. “There are so many houses in town that were built between the 1700s and 1800s and which have a historic component that people just aren’t aware of. We want to get all of our ducks in a row and make sure that we are not unknowingly losing history.”
Miceli said that the Heritage Identity Study Committee’s meetings will be publically posted and residents are welcome to attend.
“Our first meeting will be to establish goals and objectives and then we will go from there,” said Miceli. “I’m very excited.”
Miceli said that the town may also seek to create a “tourism app” for mobile devices which would tell people about historic sites in town. This idea was conceived when the Historical Society organized a tour of historic open space parcels last year.
This would include the Jonathan Root House, built in 1720, which is not only the oldest building in town but was also a place where General George Washington stopped on his way to Wethersfield to meet with leaders of the American independence movement.
Another site which could be featured on the app is the Levi B. Frost House, which was once a tavern that The Comte de Rochambeau stopped at in 1781 when his French troops marched through Connecticut.
“This would not only be valuable for the preservation of our history, but it could also be an economic driver,” said Miceli. “People could come to town to check out these sites and then stop at our local businesses.”
Miceli encouraged those with information about historic sites in town to call her at 860-479-9199 or email her at DMiceli@southington.org.