The Friends & Neighbors (FANS) of Putnam Memorial State Park is a non-profit group whose mission is to help maintain and promote the historical, educational and recreational values of the park.
Comprised of people like you with an appreciation for the historical jewel in our midst, the FANS group was founded to ensure that Putnam Park is preserved for future generations. We soon expanded to offer educational programs that promote greater understanding of Connecticut’s role in the Revolutionary War.
Community involvement and support are what keeps us going! Join us at the Visitor’s Center on the first Monday of every month to get involved, sign up for our newsletter, or click here to find out more.
How the FANS Group Got Started
During significant budget cuts in the early 1990s, Putnam Memorial State Park was officially decommissioned & closed. Concerned by its deteriorating condition, a small group of neighbors and local supporters volunteered to physically maintain the park the best they could from 1991 to 1997. In 1997, the park was reopened, due in part to the persistent efforts of the Friends and Neighbors (FANS) who lobbied the Department of Energy & Environmental Protection (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 Visitor Center. The old structure was dismantled board by board, with each board being numbered to aid in reconstruction. A new foundation was excavated for a new walk-out cellar level. Then the building was reconstructed using the materials that were still sound. Today, the beautifully restored Visitor’s Center is a climate-controlled building with modern rest rooms. The project included a new and safer Rt. 107/Rt. 58 intersection, a new parking lot, and a new main entrance into the park. The Visitor Center grand opening was held on October 11, 2005.
FANS also succeeded in their goal of getting the park 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. 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 continue to work with DEEP by providing input and support for efforts to maintain the park. In addition, the FANS group hosts many learning programs throughout the year.
Meet the FANS
We are a small but growing organization with many ways to contribute! Here are just a few of our members. If you would like to be featured in this section, contact email@example.com.
Ellery Thomas Leary FANS President/Park Historian | Ellery is an archaeologist from Cupheag/Stratford. They began working at Putnam Park as an Interpretive Guide in 2018, and have been leading the annual Winter Walk since that time. 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 | Jim has both worked and volunteered at Putnam Park for decades. He is a long-time employee of the State Parks, and was the previous Park Supervisor at Sherwood Island State Park. A talented woodworker, he has assisted on many park projects.
Bill Hagan Director of Membership | Bill is a history teacher in the Bethel public school system, as well as 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. He also organizes the reenactment portion of the Winter Walk.
Nathan Hale Park Supervisor | Nate 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 been instrumental in coordinating the park’s many improvements during that time.
Barbara Wyton Director of School Days | Barbara is responsible for our Living History School Days event, which is held every year in May. During this wildly popular event, local students are educated on 18th century lifeways by several re-enactors. Barbara taught band in the Wilton Public Schools for over 30 years and is presently a Music Contractor.
Colette Griffin Director of Georgetown Days | Colette, a senior lawyer in a prestigious law firm, organizes our annual appearance at Georgetown Days. This event allows us to connect with the local community and raise money for park programs. She also assists with many other FANS events.
Joey Gonzalez Webmaster | Joey of SEO Repair Shop has developed and maintains this web site, with Ellery making updates as needed.
Previous Members Subscribe to our newsletter (link coming soon) for our upcoming monthly feature on the contributions of the many previous members of FANS. Email us with suggestions on whom to feature next!
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 Visitor’s Center. Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org if you have any questions.