When the Brooklyn Historical Society Museum opened for the 2007season, it occupied the entire first floor of the building immediately behind the equestrian statue of General Israel Putnam at 25 Canterbury Road. This marked an important expansion. The exhibit space at the rear of the building which had housed the museum since 2000 became the General Putnam Gallery with two permanent exhibits dedicated to Brooklyn’s Revolutionary War hero: “Israel Putnam: Facets of a Hero” which tells about Putnam’s life as farmer, soldier, tavern owner, and folk hero and “General Israel Putnam Remembered” which tells the story of the creation of his imposing monument. The larger gallery at the front has become the Special Exhibit Gallery which this year features “More Vintage Views of Brooklyn,” an exhibit of 19th and 20th century postcard and album photographs which take visitors on a journey to Brooklyn’s past, a time of tree-shaded, unpaved roads, an imposing country inn that became a summer residence for a President’s widow, and a stately church destroyed by the hurricane of 1938.
The Brooklyn Historical Society Museum building and the Daniel Putnam Tyler Law Office have been owned by the society since 1972, just two years after its founding. It was in 1972 that Rainsford and Ruth Sherman donated the Daniel Putnam Law Office to the society to use as a museum and offered the present-day museum building for purchase. Although a daunting challenge for a newly-formed group, whose stated mission was to preserve and showcase local history, they purchased the land and buildings (There was a 20th century two-car garage on the property which was removed in 2011.) for $18,000. House tours such as “Three Centuries of Brooklyn” which was held on June 3, 1972, an auction, a flea market and other fund-raising activities, and a grant from the Department of Economic Development of Connecticut allowed the society to not only move the Daniel Putnam Tyler Law Office to its present site and restore it but also to retire the mortgage on the museum building in just two years. Although the minutes clearly show that the original intention of the society was that the purchased building become a museum where exhibits could tell Brooklyn’s stories, the creation of the museum had to be postponed while the energies of the group were devoted to readying the law office for its June 18, 1983 official opening. In order to have the funds to maintain both buildings, the two-story museum building was rented out to businesses for first-floor occupancy and individuals for occupancy of the second-floor apartment. Our use of the space at the rear of the building at 25 Canterbury Road came about because the Town of Brooklyn needed the room at the former Recreation Building, which had been used from 1991 through 1999 for the exhibits of the Brooklyn Historical Society Mini Museum, for use by the second Resident State Trooper. After exploring other possible museum sites, the membership voted to renovate the smaller rear portion of our own building, a space no longer needed by our tenant, for use as our museum. In accordance with ADA mandates, the renovation included the creation of handicapped access to the building and a handicapped-accessible bathroom. While larger than the 9' x 13' museum room at the Recreation Building, it was still a small space for the permanent “General Israel Putnam Remembered” exhibit and temporary exhibits. Now with the advent of the 2007 expansion, our museum fills the entire first floor at 25 Canterbury Road. We welcome you to join us any Wednesday or Sunday, from 1 to 5 p.m., beginning on Wednesday, May 25th through Sunday, October 9th, to view the exhibits of the General Putnam Gallery, which this year will display the 1888 Karl Gerhardt designed bronze wolf heads stolen from the General Putnam equestrian statue in 1984 and 1985 and returned to the society in 2015, as well as the Vintage Views exhibit. The Brooklyn Historical Society Museum and the Daniel Putnam Tyler Law Office will also be open by appointment through Walktober and thereafter. To make an appointment contact Curator Elaine Knowlton at 860-774-7728. There is no admission charge to either museum. Remember that the Brooklyn Historical Society Museum is air conditioned as well as handicapped accessible.
In addition to our museums and their exhibits, the Brooklyn Historical Society sponsors four history programs each year as well as other special events. We are pleased to welcome new members. Membership forms are available at the museum or by calling 860-774-7728.