Kent celebrates its 275th birthday

Town's historical society recognizes its own 60th anniversary

These days, Kent's village center is a blend of homes, shops and art galleries.

Sculptures grace the streetscape, and coffee houses and restaurants offer fine cuisine.

One hundred years ago, barnyard animals grazed where expansive homes now stand. Fields of corn, hay, rye and wheat flourished around farmhouses and barns, while miles of stone walls crisscrossed the hillsides.

That history will be remembered Saturday, Oct. 4 as the town and the Kent Historical Society share a double birthday celebration at the Seven Hearths Museum.

The event will pay homage to the town's 275th anniversary and the historical society's 60th.

A time capsule will be sealed as part of the celebration, containing essays predicting what life will be like in Kent 25 years from now.

"We've received some essays already from children," said Lynn Mellis Worthington, the Kent Historical Society president. "It's wonderful to hear what they think Kent's future will be."

Civic groups, churches and other organizations and businesses in the town are contributing.

The time capsule will remain sealed until Kent's tricentennial in 2039.

"There is discussion about burying the capsule in the parcel possibly being purchased by the town on North Main Street," said Suzanne Charity, the event's chairwoman. "A town green may be created there."

"Until that time," she said, "the Historical Society will hold onto the capsule for safekeeping."

The Oct. 4 event will offer birthday cake, champagne and cider. A panoramic photo of town residents will be taken and placed in the capsule.

"I give the historical society compliments for bringing this event about," said First Selectman Bruce Adams. "It has always played an important role in the town and, in recent years, it has become an integral part of our community."

The historical society took a timely stride forward recently with the hiring of Cornwall resident Brian Thomas as its executive director.

Marge Smith, who has served as director for the past 12 years, will remain on board as curator.

Kent was incorporated in 1739 and grew to 1,996 residents by 1774. Settlers came from Norwalk, Stratford, Canterbury and other towns as the state's "western wilderness" opened for settlement.

In 1826, the Kent Furnace was built just north of the village. Iron forging was a thriving industry, as was tobacco farming.

"When the hillsides were denuded of trees from charcoal production for the forges, Borden's Dairy, located just over the New York state border, encouraged dairy farming in Kent," Charity said.

Dairy farming became one of the town's principal occupations from the early 1800s until the 1950s.

With the arrival of the railroad in the 1800s, a Borden's creamery was built near the present South Kent post office. A daily milk train transported 10-gallon cans of milk until refrigerator trucks replaced the trains.

"Artists were attracted to the town by the farms and the scenic landscape," Charity said.

The rich history of the town has been preserved by the Kent Historical Society.

Founded in 1954 and meeting in the Kent Memorial Library, it began hosting exhibits at the Kent Art Association in 1960.

Skiff Mountain Schoolhouse was added to the society's holdings in 1970 through a donation by Pauline Skiff Gunn.

The Sloane-Stanley Museum was established on the old Kent Iron Furnace grounds.

By 1976, the Swift House was the society's home.

Seven Hearths, the home of the late George Laurence Nelson, was added to the properties in 1978.

An endowment from Emily Hopson in 2002 put the Kent Historical Society on solid ground financially.

For more information or to RSVP for the Oct. 4 event, visit