Regular hours allow glimpse back in time at Wallingford’s Johnson Mansion

Regular hours allow glimpse back in time at Wallingford’s Johnson Mansion


WALLINGFORD — People interested in seeing what it was like to live during the Victorian era and what kinds of silver products were made in the Wallingford area will soon be able to do so at the Johnson Mansion.

The mansion, at 153 S. Main St., was built in 1886 by farmers Franklin and Harriet Johnson. It was donated to the Wallingford Historic Preservation Trust in 1999.

The Johnson Museum will open on July 4 from noon to 2 p.m. After the Independence Day holiday, the museum will be open every Sunday from 2 to 4 p.m., from July 5 to Aug. 23, according to Jerry Farrell Jr., the president of the preservation trust.

The Wallingford Historical Society, at 180 S. Main St., will open from 2 to 4:30 p.m. every Sunday until Labor Day, according to Bob Beaumont, a town historian in charge of the historical society.

The society’s museum features furniture from the Victorian era and silver products, as well as the tools used to craft the items. Meriden and Wallingford were among the leading silver producers in the world from 1840 into the 1980s, Farrell said.

“During the ’90s, the impetus was to create a silver museum,” Farrell said. “There was one done in Meriden that was more of the traditional glass case silver museum. The thought was that part of the reason why it wasn’t successful was because it was silver in glass cases.”

Farrell added that people “wanted a sense of how this stuff was used in people’s homes.” The preservation trust acquired the silver collection from the Meriden museum and “we went looking for a Victorian building to show how people would be using silver in their home.”

After the Johnson Mansion underwent a $500,000 renovation in 2000, the organization began collecting furniture to fit the Victorian theme. Over time, the collection of silver also grew, Farrell added, but he said he wants to continue collecting the tools that were used to make the products.

“There are some we don’t have and many we’d like to get, too,” Farrell said. “It’s not only the product, but the people — the thousands of people that were gifted craftsmen making silver with these very fine tools to manipulate silver.”

As the preservation trust continues to grow its silver collection, Farrell said wants to create a small re-creation of a factory area to show how silver products were created.

Attendance at the Johnson Mansion varies, Farrell said.

“If it’s a really nice day, sometimes that means a lot of people and sometimes that means a little,” he said.

Beaumont agreed with Farrell, adding that the days you think people won’t show up are the days there is large attendance.

“It can be zero and it can be 20 — that’s definitely the high side,” Beaumont said. “It’s weather dependent.”

He added that having the hours of the Johnson Mansion and Historical Society coincide can increase attendance to both places. (203) 317-2235 Twitter: @EricVoRJ

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