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For the historical society: Karin Gianniti chronicles Weston’s past

There are many historical oddities in Weston that most residents would not know. Fortunately, the town has Karin Gianniti of the Weston Historical Society, a woman who is dedicated to preserving and sharing Weston’s history.

A lifelong resident of 67 years, Ms. Gianniti says her passion for Weston’s history has grown stronger as she has surrounded herself with it during her 25 years at the historical society. Ms. Giannitti serves as the society’s collection manager, and displays Weston’s artifacts and mysteries in her exhibits.

The Weston Historical Society is geared to be a visit back in time, and Ms. Giannitti ensures that visitors’ experiences are highly authentic and educational.

Open to the public at the society’s headquarters is an antique barn filled with old farm tools dating from when Weston was a booming agrarian town.

Also open to visitors of the Coley Homestead is the fully furnished Coley house, an authentic farmhouse of the mid-19th Century.

There is a rumor that humans aren’t the only visitors to the Coley house. Many have felt upon visiting that they were not alone in the house, and even Ms. Gianitti admits to a time when there may have been a spiritual presence in one of its rooms.

“I attempted to close the drawer of a cabinet containing old maps of Weston, and it would just fly back open. This happened four times in a row until I shouted at what I jokingly thought to be a ghost, and it stopped,” said Ms. Gianitti.

The Chronicle

Since 1982, the Weston Historical Society has published The Chronicle, a historical pamphlet released tri-annually, uncovering much of Weston’s fascinating past. As editor of The Chronicle, Ms. Gianniti is dedicated to digging through Weston’s historical archives to find timely or captivating pieces of Weston’s history.

The goal of the pamphlet, according to Ms. Giannitti, is “to give historical insight and keep people aware of what is going on at the Weston Historical Society. Today, The Chronicle continues to feature aspects of the town as it once was, reaching back as far as its inception in 1787. It is what she discovers rummaging through the archives that inspires her writing and presentation of old photographs and artifacts in the newsletter, Ms. Gianniti said.

“My ideas for The Chronicle often fall into my lap as I find or learn something truly interesting about Weston,” Ms. Gianitti said. “Finding new artifacts, and sharing them with the public is one of my favorite parts about working at the historical society.”

Timely

Articles in The Chronicle are often timely, corresponding with anniversaries of historical events or a certain holiday or time of year.

Next year, Ms. Giannitti plans to commemorate the 60th anniversary of the Hurlbutt fire. In 1953, Weston’s original Hurlbutt School building burnt down, a devastating loss for the town.

A Chronicle was released in honor of the 30-year anniversary of the fire, and Ms. Gianniti plans to continue the tradition of including landmark historical events in future issues.

The spring 2012 issue includes the history of the Saugatuck Reservoir, and the sunken village of Valley Forge beneath.

In 1938, the community of families, businesses and working forges in Valley Forge was dismantled and relocated by the Bridgeport Hydraulic Company in its effort to provide a water source for towns south of Weston.

Many Westonites rallied against the construction of the reservoir, and the Saugatuck Valley Association was created, taking the case to court — where they lost.

Another issue of The Chronicle from summer 2011 highlights what school life was like in Weston decades ago. Excerpts from the “Hurlbutt Review,” a student publication from 1935, were featured, providing a younger generation’s perspective of the time period.

In a poem written by a seventh grade girl at the time, she expresses her love of listening to the radio, saying that doing so is “better than reading books or playing table pool.”

Additionally, this issue includes an eighth grade final exam from 1895 — which is far more difficult than one might expect. Split into four sections (arithmetic, orthography, U.S history and geography), the exam includes questions such as, “How do you account for the extremes of climate in Kansas?” and “Show the territorial growth of the United States.”

As Ms. Giannitti humorously commented in this issue, “No wonder they dropped out after eighth grade.”

Benefits of membership

Receiving the unique historical information that The Chronicle provides is one of the benefits of becoming a member of the Weston Historical Society.

The society is looking forward to several upcoming events, including its quilt show this weekend and “A Country Afternoon” with live music on Saturday, June 2.

Ms. Gianniti and the historical society encourage those with an interest in Weston’s history to become members. To do so, call 203-226-1804 or visit westonhistoricalsociety.org for more information.

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