The calendar link is below the Center Springs Park July Sunrise Slide Show.
“…other people walked among us…and their greatness maybe wasn’t known right away.”
– Lynn Sottile
On August 30, I sat down with Lynn Sottile in her graphic design office above Mulberry Street Pizza to talk about the Sculpture Project. Lynn is excited about the project’s success, whose idea first came to her in 2016 while visiting family in Naperville, IL. She was impressed with the statues along the Naperville Riverwalk. Lynn and a small group of civic-minded residents had been discussing making a permanent contribution to Manchester. The group who had worked on other projects together, like Imagine Main St, included Joyce Hodgson, Tana Parseliti, Susan Barlow, and Eileen Sweeney. Soon after, the Sculpture Project was born.
Each committee member makes a unique, significant contribution to the overall success of the project. Joyce Hodgson-Post ran Imagine Main St for a few years and has talent with social media. She has since married and moved to New Jersey, but she continues to participate. Tana Parseliti was downtown manager and is also excellent with social media. She manages the budget. Eileen Sweeney was a big help in acquiring the fiduciary, the Manchester Historical Society. She is no longer active with the group. Town Historian, Susan Barlow, a proficient researcher, depicts Elizabeth Bennet in the videos found here:
The Sculpture Project Committee continues to grow. Today, other members include Michele O’Neil, Catherine Wynn, Susan Wright, Claudia Keuhl, Ann Lucente, Donna Fitzgerald, and Ed Burzawa. The concept behind the Sculpture Project was to tell the story of the people from this community. The group considered sculptures for the Cheneys, but their legacy is well established with buildings, artwork, and magnificent homes.
People were invited to submit names, and each group member did some of their own research. The final list included twenty extraordinary people who had made a unique contribution to Manchester that would stand the test of time. The group set some parameters to narrow the list, including that the person must be deceased. With careful consideration, the decision was made to begin with three people, Joe McCluskey, Elisabeth Bennet, and Emily Cheney Neville.
Over the next three years, the committee raised money, found a sculptor, and erected the first statue of Joe McCluskey. Manchester-born Sculptor Michael Keropian works closely with the group by first creating a miniature clay model called a maquette. Props can be added, the tilt of the head can be changed, the pose can be modified. When all are happy with the maquette, Michael will use it to make the life-size bronze sculpture.
Joe McCluskey was a four-time winner of the Manchester Road Race. He was a 1932 Olympic bronze medalist in the 3000-meter steeplechase. Joe developed his skills jumping over hedges in Manchester while delivering morning and evening editions of local newspapers to Manchester residents. Money for this statue came from donations large and small, including the Manchester Road Race Foundation and the McCluskey family. The statue is located on the road race course across from Highland Park Market. Joe’s eight children, their spouses, his grandchildren, and other family members attended the dedication of the statue in November of 2019.
Elisabeth Bennet’s maquette has been created, and fundraising is well underway. Elisabeth was a teacher, principal, and supervisor of new teachers who brought art, music, physical exercise and dance, and audiovisual equipment to Manchester’s schools. She was dedicated and self-less, using her own time and money to raise funds for a Steinway piano and school libraries. In 1913 she led the evacuation of Barnard School before a fire destroyed the building. All 900 students were evacuated safely.
Props included in the sculpture will begin to tell her story and hopefully arouse the curiosity of adults and children alike. She will be holding an art palette and a music clef, and a hopscotch will lead up to the statue. The Elisabeth Bennet Sculpture will be placed in front of Bennet Academy.
Next up for the Sculpture Project will be 1964 Newbury Award Winner Emily Cheney Neville, author of many books, including It’s Like This, Cat”.
If you would like to make a contribution to the Sculpture Project follow this link:
A fundraising tour of the David Hayes Sculptor Field in Coventry will be held in the spring of 2022. The tour was initially scheduled for September 25, 2021, but has been postponed due to damage from a tornado.
This Union Pond Trail picture might get you in the mood for a hike. CT Trails Days are this weekend and there will be three hikes in Manchester.
Here is a link to the June calendar.
When times get tough, a return to nature is sure to lift your spirits. Nestled between busy I-384 and not quite as busy, Spring Street is a quiet little valley cut by Birch Mountain Brook. The Manchester Land Conservation Trust owns the land.
A short hike down the embankment from the Spring Street boulder will take you to the brook.
Upon reaching the brook, a right turn will take you to Wyllys Falls. However, the embankment on this side is too steep to walk along. You must find a way to cross the brook to get to the hiking trail on the other side.
If you feel nimble and brave, there are plenty of fallen trees you can balance on to get across the water.
If you have a dog on a leash, a camera, and backpack, and your sense of balance isn’t what it used to be, and your legs have been around for six decades or more, you might just take off your shoes and socks and wade through the brook to the other side. It isn’t too deep, but spoiler alert, it’s frigid.
Wyllys Falls is a short walk down the path. You will find a peaceful, joyful escape from hard times and be blissfully unaware of the highway nearby. Birds and moving water will be the only sounds! Aaaaahhhh!!!!
‘Tis the song, the sigh of the weary.
Hard times, hard times, come again no more.
Many days you have lingered too long around my door.
Oh, hard times, come again no more.
Ohhhhh, hard times, come again no more.Song by Stephen Foster, Sung by Joan Baez & Emmylou Harris
My good friend and neighbor, Lois, has accompanied me on a few treks through the woods up at the Nike Site. Earlier this week, before the snowmelt, we hiked from the pickleball court parking lot, past the water tower and the cairn, and down the hill to Manchester Country Club on snowshoes. We saw a herd of deer with at least twenty deer, some beautiful views into the distance and close by, and snow fleas. And, yes, snow fleas are really a thing. You just have to look for them.
Manchester Snow Fleas
Fun Facts About Snow Fleas
Not much has been happening in the Manchester area since the COVID Quarantine started in mid-March. Absent are the MCC Band Shell Concerts, Yard Goats Baseball Games, Senior Center classes, recreational opportunities, and TheaterWorks and LTM productions.
Even with a partial reopening in the state, we have felt the need to continue being cautious about social distancing and wearing a mask. We haven’t visited any indoor dining establishments or attended summer social gatherings. When we were out for our nightly walk around the block with Esther earlier this week, we were surprised by a sign advertising a concert at Center Memorial Park.
A quick look at the Beller’s Music website revealed this flyer.
We decided to check it out. Most people arrived wearing masks and kept them on until they were seated safely. There was a big sign letting us know how far apart to sit.
The weather was perfect. A socially distanced audience, relaxing music, and plenty of shady spots to sit created a joyful, soul-nourishing and much appreciated night out. The five-piece band, Autumn Mode, played selections made famous by Jackson Browne, Neil Young, Marvin Gaye, and Steely Dan, to name a few.
On Mother’s Day morning, with snow still coating some surfaces in Manchester, Esther and I took a walk on the White Trail at the Bush Hill Preserve. It was a cold, bright, crisp morning for a walk. The trails are well-marked and well cared for. I learned about something known as perambulating.
Yes, that is snow, and yes, it is May 10 in Connecticut.
I have never heard this expression, and I was born well before 1979.
I am grateful to the volunteers at the Manchester Land Trust for all of the work put in to purchasing, preserving, and caring for open space.
The Nike Site, off of Keeney St at the end of Garden Grove Rd., is a fascinating place to explore. From 1957-1961 the land was a U. S. Army anti-aircraft defense site. There were twelve of these Nike Sites in CT. The installation in Manchester protected this area (Hartford? Pratt & Whitney?) from military planes that entered our airspace. The army used radar and missiles to detect incoming enemy planes and was considered a last line of defense to protect the U.S. during the Cold War. The military decommissioned the site in 1961 as advances in technology made the missiles obsolete. I don’t think the deployment of any missiles ever happened from the Manchester Nike Site (or any of the sites for that matter).
When the army returned the land at the Nike Site installation to the town of Manchester, the recreation department found another purpose for the area. Today there is a pre-school, indoor shooting range, baseball field, the CT Concert Ballet, pickleball courts, hiking trails, and some buildings that look empty but (peeking in the windows) are obviously used for storage.
The trails are not well marked at Nike. The Recreation Department has this little booklet of town trails with maps, but the Nike Site did not make the final cut. Here is the link to the town’s little hiking booklet:
On the CTMQ website, I found this map of the trails (which I have altered slightly) . The CTMQ blog is one of my favorites, and when the CQ is over and you are looking for something to do in CT, you need to go to the website and check it out. You won’t be disappointed. Here is the link: http://www.ctmq.org
Hiking on the Nike Site trails and abandoned roads is an opportunity to look back at the land-use history of this area since 1957. There is an abandoned, (serious) double yellow line road that connected what is now Hercules Dr. to Faith Circle. Army officers and their families lived on Faith Circle.
A radar tripod was at one time attached to the three metal plates of this cement pad.
There is a cairn where you take another trail out to Manchester Country Club.
Other features at Nike include a well-built lean-to, cement pads, assorted buildings, metal objects, telephone poles, and water towers.
I found an abandoned ski slope and an abandoned baseball field, to be the most intriguing elements. Internet research reveals that the ski area was called Northview Ski Slope. It was open from 1969-1979. Vandalism, including cutting the ropes on the rope tow and driving a four-wheel vehicle into the rope tow building caused the town to shut it down.
Most of the poles from the rope tow are still standing with the pulleys attached. Only this one has fallen over.
Trees and brush now cover most of the ski slope, making it hard to visualize people skiing on that hill. But, there are a couple of clearings on the old trails where you can still picture people coming down on their skis.
One of the trails looks like it had a good view of Hartford.
Last but far from least, is the abandoned baseball field. The field is down in a valley closer to Hackmatack St.
I couldn’t find any mention of the field on any sites related to the U.S. Army use of the Nike Site or the Manchester Recreation Department. I think the soldiers working at the installation used the field. The only evidence of access to the grounds is a path from Faith Circle. It doesn’t look like there was ever a road or parking area down there.
Was the field used only for pick-up games between those stationed in Manchester? Maybe teams from some of the other Nike Sites in the region came up to play.
Here are some pictures of the old backstop and old cedar posts that held the player’s benches.
More photos of the area include home plate and the pitcher’s rubber.
This trail off of Faith Circle takes you down to the field.
Every time I walk around the Nike Site, I discover something new. I haven’t hiked the trail out to the golf course yet. I am grateful for the creative people who have used this land and the buildings for recreation rather than just abandoning it like some of the other Nike Sites.
Basketball rims at Manchester parks were removed, and the playgrounds fenced off to protect the community from the spread of COVID-19. But many trails are wide enough to allow 6 feet of physical distance while providing an opportunity for social connection if walking with a friend.
I am grateful for the green spaces in Manchester. The latest upgrades to our parks and trails have re-connected us with the beauty and tranquility of nature. Substantial revisions and the guidance of friendly recreational staff members provide opportunities for exhilarating play and creative expression. It is a pleasure to anticipate the joyful return to the full use of our parks in the not too distant future.
In the meantime, social distance walking in one of Manchester’s parks or on trails, considering the words of Rachel Carson, is nourishment for the soul during these days of uncertainty.