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An ‘Armchair History Tour’ of West Hartford: Noah Webster Statue

Noah Webster House. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

Jennifer DiCola Matos, executive director of the Noah Webster House & West Hartford Historical Society, has been leading the community on an “Armchair History Tour” of West Hartford.

By Ronni Newton

A few weeks after the COVID-19 pandemic began, while most people were sheltering in place in their homes, Matos found a unique way to continue to keep the community engaged in local history.

“Until we can meet again, we will be bringing you some local history – at a safe distance,” she wrote in the organization’s newsletter to introduce the concept of the “armchair tour” series.

Since April 1, the tours have been held – via a Facebook Live video – every week, generally on a Wednesday. They can be viewed on the Noah Webster House & West Hartford Historical Society Facebook page.

“This week, learn more about Korzcak Ziolkowski’s sculpture of Noah Webster, currently located in front of the Noah WebsterLibrary at the top of Blue Back Square,” Matos said as she introduced the first tour.

“In the days before social distancing, up to 1,000 people at a time would gather in the summer of 1941 to watch Korzcak Ziolkowski sculpt the giant block of marble originally placed near the corner of South Main Street and Memorial Road. The artist’s defiance of the Blue Laws (he continued his work on Sundays) and his tendency to sculpt shirtless upset local sensibilities at the time.”

While the progress on the sculpture was clearly observed as the work was being done, Matos said that when it was unveiled, residents discovered this message engraved in the book at the bottom right of Noah’s robe: “For you I labored, not for my own day, that by the Word men should know brotherhood. My fellow men! You have not understood, since each of you would go his separate way.”

Watch the complete Armchair History Tour, edition No. 1, below.

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