Meriden high school’s namesake honored with refinished portrait

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MERIDEN — A portrait of Horace C. Wilcox now hangs in the lobby of the technical high school on Oregon Road named in his honor.

The original portrait — well over a century old — of Wilcox, the famed silversmith and one of the co-founders of Meriden Britannia Company, was discovered by staff in the school safe over the summer. 

It was significantly damaged, with holes in the original canvas. 

So restoring the portrait to its original form became a good project for Kathryn Volpacchio, Wilcox’s graphics instructor, to take on. 

Last fall, using a high resolution digital camera, Volpacchio extensively photographed the portrait. She uploaded those photos to her computer. Then, using Adobe Photoshop, Volpacchio digitally recreated the portrait to its original form. 

Volpacchio, herself a Wilcox alumna, said the school’s Student Council was able to use some of its student engagement funds toward the cost of reprinting the photo on a new canvas and consructing a new frame for it. 

The refinished portrait now has a protective coating to ensure its longevity.

On Jan. 24, which was dubbed Horace C. Wilcox Day in recognition of his birthday, the Wilcox school community unveiled the reprinted portrait. They were joined by Horace C. Wilcox III — great grandson of the famed silversmith — in attendance.

As part of that visit, Horace Wilcox III received a full tour of the school. He visited the building’s various trades and shops.

He told the Record-Journal the experience was “really surreal.” Everywhere he looked, he saw his name and he enjoyed interacting with students and staff.

Horace C. Wilcox III described his great grandfather as the “main driving force” in Meriden becoming the silver capital of the world — gathering the city’s silversmiths at the time.

He sounded thrilled to have that legacy continue within the walls of the Wilcox building on Oregon Road.

“What they have now is really state of the art. I was in awe of all of the classrooms,” Horace Wilcox III said. “... They really have a sense of community in the school. They’re proud of the name, proud of the school, proud of what they do.”

Staff and students say they enjoyed the experience as well — learning more about their school’s namesake and his legacy in the process. 

Wilcox Electronics Technology Department Head George Wruck also serves as Student Council advisor. It was the council that decided to fund the portrait’s restoration and determine where to display it in their school. 

They decided to do a little more than just hang the portrait. The council came up with another idea: a trivia contest to test their peers’ knowledge of Horace C. Wilcox.

Noah Martin, 17, researched those trivia questions. Horace C. Wilcox, he said, was a pioneer who helped Meriden become “the Silver City.”

“He was actually a silversmith,” Martin said. 

As part of Martin’s research, he traced the Wilcox family tree, going back to Elijah Wilcox, father of Horace C. Wilcox. His research uncovered other information, including that about patents Horace C. Wilcox held during his lifetime — from casket handles to furniture. 

Students who guessed correctly on the most answers in that trivia contest got to have a free lunch, joined by Horace C. Wilcox III, on Wilcox Day in the school’s bistro. 

Anaiza Palau, a Wilcox sophomore and vice president of its Student Council, described meeting a family member of her school’s namesake and learning some local history along the way as an overall fun experience.

“When you understand local history, you get to know more about where you’re from and what goes on around you,” Palau said, adding that local history applies to everyone.

Students’ discussions around the portrait led them to compare the appearance of their school’s namesake with other historic figures. The portrait shows Horace C. Wilcox in a tailored suit with a bowtie. His mustache drew comparisons to famed U.S. President Theodore Roosevelt.

Wilcox principal Stacy Butkusin in an email to the Record-Journal stated she is proud of the work the student council and staff did to honor their school’s namesake.

“All who enter our school will be reminded of who Mr. Wilcox was and why our school was named for him. Events like this strengthen our learning community and remind us of our identity. We were fortunate to have Horace C. Wilcox III join us for the celebration honoring his grandfather. We hope to continue the tradition of honoring H. C. Wilcox on his birthday each year,” Butkus wrote.



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