The Friends & Neighbors (FANS) of Putnam Park is a not for profit group whose mission is to help maintain and promote the historical, educational and recreational values of Putnam Memorial State Park. The FANS group is comprised of people, like you, who have an appreciation for “this historical jewel in our midst.” Our purpose is to help insure that Putnam Park is preserved for future generations as well as to promote its unique heritage to the community today.
How the FANS Group Got Started
When Putnam Park was officially decommissioned & closed when State Parks’ operating budgets were pared back in the early 1990’s, a small group of neighbors and local supporters volunteered to physically maintain the park the best they could from 1991 to 1997. 1997 was the year the park was reopened, due largely to the persistent efforts of these Friends and Neighbors (FANs) who lobbied the DEEP in Hartford for staffing and funding.
On the heels of their success in reopening the park, the Friends and Neighbors of Putnam Park hired a restoration consultant to offer an opinion of whether or not the park’s 1893 pavilion could be saved. The consultant said “Save the pavilion!”. Next the DEEP State Parks Division worked with architects to retrofit the Old 1893 Pavilion into a modern day visitor center. The old structure was dismantled piece by piece, beam by beam, and numbered. A new foundation was excavated for a new walk-out cellar level. Then the building was reconstructed using materials that were still sound. Today the new visitor center is a all climate-controlled building with rest rooms. The very expensive project included a new and safer Rt. 107/Rt. 58 intersection, new parking lot, and a new main entrance into the park. The visitor center grand opening was held on October 11, 2005.
Putnam Memorial State Park in Redding has been designated as Connecticut’s first State Archaeological Preserve. The designation, bestowed by the Connecticut Historical Commission, recognizes the archaeological importance of Putnam Memorial State Park and provides additional administrative measures for the park’s protection and professional management. The “Friends and Neighbors of Putnam Memorial State Park” (FANs) initially requested the designation. It was later endorsed by DEEP Commissioner Rocque and was officially designated a State Archaeological Preserve on January 3, 2001.
The FANS Group Today
Today the FANS of Putnam Memorial State Park continues to work with the DEEP by providing input and support for efforts to maintain the park. In addition, the FANS group hosts many great learning programs throughout the year (see event links to right).
On the first Monday of each month the FANS group meets in the Visitors Center to discuss the various programs and initiatives. All are welcome to attend and become active in the FANS group.
To become an active member or donate to support the FANS mission, click here.
Meet the FANS
Ellery Thomas Leary is the Park Historian and serves as FANS President. A Cupheag (Stratford) resident, Ellery’s first experience with archaeology was at a Late Archaic site in Redding. They received their B.A. in History from University of Saint Joseph in 2014, and their M.A. in Archaeology from University College London in 2016. Upon returning to the U.S., they served two AmeriCorps terms at Lake Champlain Maritime Museum and the Yale Peabody Museum of Natural History. They began working at Putnam Park as an Interpretive Guide in 2018, bringing spinning demonstrations back to the park, and are hoping to revive the Summer Craftsman series with their blacksmithing skills. They are currently researching the role of women in Revolutionary War winter encampments in conjunction with an ongoing NPS grant project.
Jim Beschle, Vice President, has worked and volunteered at Putnam Park for decades. He is a long-time employee of the State Parks, and also devotes much of his time to Sherwood Island State Park. A talented woodworker, he has assisted on many park projects.
Erik Paul, Treasurer, is from Weston and has been teaching music at the Weston Public School for over two decades. While his main instrument is voice, he is also an accomplished violinist and regularly performs 18th century music with his trio, The Ministers of Apollo. Erik is a Revolutionary War re-enactor with the 5th Connecticut Regiment, which was stationed at Putnam Park in the winter of 1778-9. He has presented 18th century joinery woodworking demonstrations all over New England, including national parks, historical museums such as the Keeler Tavern in Ridgefield, and local historical societies like Newtown’s.
Bill Hagan, Vice President/Secretary, is a history teacher in the Bethel public school system and a 38th Regiment of Foot re-enactor. He supervises all aspects of Membership for FANS. With David Solek and the Brigade of the American Revolution, he plans a special reenactment event every other November, coordinating dragoons, Revolutionary War soldiers, cannons, kids’ muster, and a mock battle.
Nathan Hale, Park Supervisor, is the official liaison between the Department of Energy and Environmental Protection (DEEP) and FANS. He has been supervising Putnam Memorial State Park since 2001, and has helped coordinate the park’s many improvements during that time.
Barb Wyton organizes our annual School Days. This program is held annually the week before Memorial Day. School children from all over Western Connecticut are educated on eighteenth century lifeways by several very talented re-enactors.
Joey Gonzalez has developed and maintains this web site. Scott Stetler and Ellery make updates as required.
Colette Griffin organizes our annual appearance at Georgetown Days.
Scott Stetler, now retired, was President and Secretary for ten years, and led the Ghost Walk, Winter Walk, and publicity.
T. G. Henderson, now retired, was Treasurer for many years, and also handled membership. A long-time Interpretive Guide, he has been a beloved fixture of the park for decades. He is frequently asked after by regular visitors, and is an excellent source of local history.
Interested in becoming a FAN? We could use your help. The only qualification is that you enjoy the park and appreciate its unique historical heritage- That’s more than enough to be a great committee member.
So how do you get started? Just come to a meeting held on the first Monday of the month at 7:00pm in the Visitors Center. Email us at email@example.com if you have any questions.