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Historic downtown of Wethersfield becomes state's latest 'cultural district'

Wethersfield's Webb-Deane-Stevens Museum
The Webb-Deane-Stevens Museum
Part of Wethersfield's new cultural district includes the Webb-Deane-Stevens Museum on Main Street.

State officials recently approved an application from Wethersfield to designate part of the town as a "cultural district." The move comes as part of a relatively new program administered by the state Department of Economic and Community Development (DECD) to encourage towns and cities to coordinate their tourism efforts.

Wethersfield's application will cover its historic district, which features centuries of history memorialized in museums, homes and shops.

The location is now the state's fourth cultural district. Others are in Ridgefield, Torrington and New London.

The DECD defines cultural districts as walkable areas of a city or town with assets that would appeal to visitors – things like museums, art galleries, performance venues, retail shops and restaurants. The areas are managed by a local board of stakeholders, who make decisions about how to best market and promote those assets.

Joshua Campbell Torrance, executive director of the Webb-Deane-Stevens Museum in Old Wethersfield, said the town already had such a board, the Wethersfield Heritage Commission, which made that particular part of the application process easy. He said in recent years the town has become much more than just a historical destination, and the cultural district designation will help the commission get the word out.

“We have a great, vibrant cultural scene,” Campbell Torrance said. “From things happening at the Wethersfield Arts Academy, to Keeney Memorial Cultural Center, the Times Fool theater company, even Main Street Creamery and the heirloom market. There’s a rich tradition of culture and activity here.”

Flickr/Creative Commons
Wethersfield's Belden House

In a written statement, Liz Shapiro, DECD’s director of arts, preservation and museums, said Wethersfield is a town with “deep historic roots where visitors can step back 300 years in one breath and enjoy a latte, scone or ice cream sundae in the next.”

Wethersfield learned that its application to become the state’s newest cultural district was approved late last month.

Ray Hardman is Connecticut Public’s Arts and Culture Reporter. He is the host of CPTV’s Emmy-nominated original series “Where Art Thou?” Listeners to Connecticut Public Radio may know Ray as the local voice of “Morning Edition”, and later of “All Things Considered.”
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