Our Museums

DANIEL BENTON HOMESTEAD
Built in 1720 and occupied by the Benton family for 212 years, this is the earliest house museum in Tolland County.

OLD TOLLAND COUNTY JAIL AND MUSEUM
The oldest cellblock dates from 1856, jailer's home from 1893. Thousand of items used in Tolland homes, farms and businesses.

OLD TOLLAND COUNTY COURT HOUSE
Beautiful 1822 courthouse in a transitional Colonial to Federal style with original Palladian window. Courtroom restored to 19th Century appearance. Exhibits.

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    BECOME A MEMBER OF THE TOLLAND HISTORICAL SOCIETY:
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    One or two hours of your time and talent can make a difference to our museums. Click here to view and print form.


Wednesday weekly update on the Court House Museum Project

Here’s our Wednesday update on the restoration project at the Old Tolland County Court House Museum:

Upper copper work continues this week. Rotted timbers were found in the belfry framing above the bell level as well as significant rotted wood throughout the columns. It’s believed a combination of dutchman and epoxy repair to the columns will be sufficient. A game plan for the upper framing will be presented at this week’s construction meeting. There will be a change event for this…that means more cost!

The Tolland Historical Society is still seeking donations to support this important project and to replenish its operating funds. Donations can be made online at www.tollandhistorical.org or by mail to Tolland Historical Society, P.O. Box 107, Tolland, CT 06084. Please note on your check if you are supporting the Court House project or making an unrestricted donation. Thank you in advance for a gift of any size.

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Update on the Cupola Restoration Project

After two full weeks, the restoration of the Old Tolland County Court House cupola and bell tower this week continues, with strikingly different images.

In the first, new copper is being returned to the wooden cupola dome, over a protective layer to keep out rain, snow and ice, as seen in the second photo.

However, the discovery of significant rot in the main center post of the cupola, previously hidden by the bell tower ceiling, is a setback. Ironically, the view of the dome without the louvres is original to the 1822 building.

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Announcing the 2021 Annual Meeting of the Tolland Historical Society

The Tolland Historical Society’s Governing Board will hold the Society’s 2021 annual meeting via Zoom on Sunday, June 27 at 4 p.m.

At the meeting, an update will be provided on the bell tower restoration project at the Old Tolland County Court House Museum and other Society initiatives and programs.

The annual meeting is open to all Society members and those interested in joining the society’s mission to keep and share Tolland’s story. Those who would like to attend should email Society President Kathy Bach at kwbach@gmail.com for the Zoom link.

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Wednesday Updates on the Court House Project

Each Wednesday this summer, the Tolland Historical Society will share updates on the restoration of the cupola and bell tower at the Old Tolland County Court House.

Work began on June 1 when carpenters removed the weathervane from the copper- domed cupola on the 1822 building. In the first photo, you can see the bead board structure that formed the dome, which signified that this was a civic building.

The society is still seeking donations to support this important project and to replenish its operating funds. Donations can be made online at www.tolland historical.org or by mail at Tolland Historical Society, P.O. Box 107, Tolland, CT 06084. Please note on your check if you would like to support the restoration project or make an unrestricted donation. Thank you in advance for a gift of any size.

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Great news: our two museums will be opening to the public on Sundays

The Tolland Historical Society is pleased to announce that after being closed for more than a year due to the coronavirus pandemic, two of its museums will be reopening to the public.

The Old Tolland County Jail and Museum be open Sundays from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. beginning on Sunday, June 6. Located at 52 Tolland Green, it will be open Sundays through the fall except on July 4 for Independence Day and on Sept. 5 for Labor Day.

Visitors will be required to wear masks while on the museum grounds and practice social distancing.

The Daniel Benton Homestead Museum at 154 Metcalf Road will be open on Sundays from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. beginning on Sunday, July 11. It will be open on Sundays through October, except for Sept. 5 for Labor Day.

Visitors to the Benton will be required to wear masks and practice social distancing. Only four people will be allowed inside the museum at a time, and restrooms are not available.

The museum openings are always subject to change if COVID-19 numbers rise again in Connecticut.

Admission to the museums is free, but donations are always appreciated. They can be made at the museum, through the website or by sending a check to the Tolland Historical Society, P.O. Box 107, Tolland, CT 06084.

The jail museum welcome visitors for the first time in more than a year on Sunday, May 30 to observe Memorial Day, and also featured members of the Connecticut Re-enactors Guild, who portrayed members of the military from different eras.

In photo 1, Historical Society President Kathy Bach, center, welcomed visitors with the help of members of the Board of Directors, Dr. Sharron Laplante and David Geissler.
In photo 2, members of the Connecticut Re-enactors Guild spoke with visitors.
In photo 3, Historical Society intern Jillian Freeto was one of several interns who led visitors on a tour Sunday, May 30.
In photo 4, Society Director Cathy Wilcox showed off examples of her weaving and demonstrated use of a loom.
In the final photo, more members of the guild spoke with a visitor about World War II uniforms and weaponry.

Photos by Kate Farrish

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In Flanders Fields

Here’s an appropriate poem for Memorial Day as we remember those who have made the ultimate sacrifice to protect all of us.

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The Old Tolland County Jail and Museum is open today, Sunday, May 30 from Noon to 3 p.m.

     The Tolland Historical Society is inviting the public to visit the Old Tolland County Jail and Museum from noon to 3 p.m. today, Sunday, May 30.
There will be ample ventilation, but visitors are asked to wear a mask.
The museum at 52 Tolland Green in Tolland will hold some demonstrations to coincide with the Memorial Day events being sponsored on the Green that day by the town’s Permanent Celebration Committee. Drop by and learn some Tolland history.
      Admission to the museum is free, but tax-deductible donations to support the Historical Society are always appreciated. They can be made in person or mailed to Tolland Historical Society, P.O. Box 107, Tolland, CT 06084.

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Sad news about the passing of our archivist, Barbara Cook

We are sorry to report that our beloved Tolland Historical Society archivist, Barbara Cook, passed away on Tuesday, March 23.She was an active member in the Society for decades, including spending 15 years as director the Old Tolland County Court House Museum. Barbara also served as the appointed town historian from 2007 until 2015 and was honored as the parade marshal at the town’s 300th Anniversary Celebration in 2015.

It was her wish that donations be made in her memory to support the “Let’s History Ring!” fundraising drive to restore the cupola atop the Court House Museum, and on Sunday, the Historical Society’s governing board decided to grant her personal wish to restore a fan window above the Court House door.Donations can be made out to the Tolland Historical Society and mailed to the Society at P.O. Box 107, Tolland, CT 06084. Please indicate on the memo line of the check if you wish to support the cupola fund and/or the window fund.

Here is Barbara’s obituary: Barbara F. Cook (87) died March 23, 2021 at home in Tolland surrounded by family. Born in Tolland, the daughter of the late George E. and Mabel (Luhrsen) Cook, she lived in the area all her life. Barbara retired from Northeast Utilities after 41 years of service. After retirement, she joined the Tolland Historical Society and became an active volunteer, serving as director of the museum in the Old Tolland County Court House for fifteen years and most recently as the historical society archivist. She also was the appointed town historian from 2007 until 2015, and in that year was marshal of Tolland’s 300th Anniversary Parade. Barbara was predeceased by a brother, Lucius J. Cook, and leaves a brother, David G. (Catherine) Cook of Ware, MA, and a sister-in-law Marjorie Cook of (FL, MA and VT). She also leaves nieces Lisa (Jim) Lamothe and Cindy (Jim) Donovan, of Brimfield, MA, and nephews David (Amy) Cook and Simeon (Jennifer) Cook of VT and Justin (Bonnie) Cook of MA, and many beloved grand and great-grand nieces and grandnephews, as well as two cousins and her kind and caring neighbors and friends Michelle and Jim Graham and their children. As she requested, there are no calling hours and burial will be private. Memorial contributions may be made to the Tolland Historical Society, Old Court House Cupola Fund, or a charity of choice.

Here are some photos of Barbara Cook at the 2015 Tolland 300th Anniversary parade in 2015, the dedication of the Tolland Founders Monument in 2015 and speaking to members of the public after a history talk at the Old Tolland County Jail Museum.

Parade and dedication photos by Perne Maynard

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We’ve launched a $100,000 capital campaign to restore the cupola on our Court House Museum

On Oct. 14, the Tolland Historical Society launched a capital campaign to repair and restore the cupola atop the Old Tolland County Court House Museum on the Tolland Green.

The Society is hoping to raise more than $100,000 toward this important project. When the project is completed, the bell in the tower will ring out across the green once again.

We are asking Society members, Tolland residents and supporters of local history to make a tax-deductible donation of any amount for the cupola project. Checks can be made out to the Tolland Historical Society, P.O. Box 107, Tolland, CT 06084. Thank you in advance for any gift you can make, and please tell your neighbors about the project, too.

Here’s a PowerPoint that details the project. We are asking Society members, Tolland residents and supporters of local history to make a tax-deductible donation of any amount for the cupola project. Checks can be made out to the Tolland Historical Society, P.O. Box 107, Tolland, CT 06084. Thank you in advance for any gift you can make, and please tell your neighbors about the project, too.

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Lafayette was here on Sept. 4, 1824!

The American Friends of Lafayette recently contacted the Tolland Historical Society to say its research shows that Marquis de Lafayette visited Tolland on Sept. 4, 1824 as part of his return trip to America, where he met with soldiers who had served with him during the Revolutionary War. 
Our archivist, Barbara Cook, and members of the Society found secondary sources that indicated the Lafayette stopped at Smith’s Tavern on the Tolland Green, near the Old Tolland County Court House, on his way to Hartford that September day.
With its primary sources, the organization decided to include Tolland on the Lafayette Trail and donated this marker to reflect our town’s part in Lafayette’s extraordinary journey. Thank you to Mary-Pat Soucy and Keith Soucy for installing the marker at the Court House.

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