Faces on the Wall: Personalities behind the Portraits
Thursday 6:00 pm to
The Stonington Historical Society presents:
Who Are These Faces on the Wall? Personalities Behind the Portraiture
Thursday, October 12, 2017 at 6 pm at the R.W. Woolworth Library & Research Center
40 Palmer Street Stonington, CT 06378
Join the Stonington Historical Society along with first selectman, Rob Simmons; Trustee, Bob Suppicich; and Executive Director, Elizabeth Wood as they explore the personalities behind the portraits in the R.W. Woolworth Library & Research Center.
The subjects will include Charles H. Phelps – a descendant of Dr. Charles Phelps of Stone Acres Farm. He inherited the estate in 1830 and added the stately portion of the manor house. A prosperous sea captain and merchant in New Orleans, Phelps is credited with paving the streets of New Orleans and Mobile, Alabama. He was tragically killed in 1840 while aboard the steamship Lexington, a paddlewheel steamboat that operated along the Atlantic coast. Commissioned by industrialist Cornelius Vanderbilt, the ship was considered one of the most luxurious steamers in operation, and began service on a route between New York City and Providence, Rhode Island. In 1837, the Lexington switched to the route between New York and Stonington, Connecticut, the terminus of the newly built railroad from Boston. On the night of 13 January 1840, midway through the ship's voyage, the casing around the ship's smokestack caught fire, igniting nearly 150 bales of cotton that were stored nearby. The resultant fire was impossible to be extinguished, and necessitated the evacuation of the ship. The ships' overcrowded lifeboats were sunk almost immediately after their launch, leaving almost all of the ship's passengers and crew to drown in the freezing water.
The second 19th century portrait to be explored is that of Andrew S. Mathews, a beloved community member and the Superintendent of the Stonington & Providence railroad line. Mathews was born in Maryland in 1814 to an Irish family. He was orphaned at the age of 7, and left school at age 12 to work on the railroad alongside his brother. Mathews moved to Stonington in 1836 in the service of the Stonington & Providence Railroad, living in a boarding house on Wadawanuck Square in the Borough. After his marriage he lived at 26 Pearl Street and later moved his family to the house that now serves as the Catholic Rectory on Main Street. The Mathews family included three sons. He was deeply respected and revered in the community, serving as Superintendent from 1837 until 1878, the longest serving railroad superintendent in the United States at that time. Mathews Park in Stonington Borough is named for him.
Mary Brewster, notable as the only the only woman included in this program and the only pastel portrait in our collection. But Mary’s life was notable for other reasons – She was among one of the first women to set sail alongside her husband’s on a whaling voyage and inspired many other women to do the same. Not only did she endure many unimaginable discomforts along the way, but Mary wrote a detailed journal during her time aboard the Tiger. These journals offer a frank and insightful look at whaling from an unusual perspective.
Free and Open to all
R.W. Woolworth Library & Research Center
40 Palmer Street, PO Box 103
Stonington, CT 06378
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