Forty-eight years ago today, on October 20, 1963, Danbury citizens and dignitaries gathered at 43 Main Street for the dedication of Huntington Hall, a new and then-modern building that would be used ‘For Art, Service and Industry, in the Service of the People of Danbury.’
Miss Marian Anderson, Governor John Dempsey, State Representative William R. Ratchford, Mayor J. Thayer Bowman and members of the Danbury Scott-Fanton Museum & Historical Society, local Boy and Girl Scout Troops and The Community Chorus of The Danbury Music Centre participated in a program of activities that celebrated the opening of the new museum facility.
The sculptures of Anna Hyatt Huntington made up the first exhibit slated for this new building and in whose honor it was named. But who was Anna Hyatt Huntington? There were many greater Danbury organizations benefited from the generosity of Anna Hyatt Huntington and her husband, Archer M. Huntington, a noted philanthropist, poet and art patron.
International-known sculptor Anna Vaughn Hyatt Huntington was born in Cambridge, MA on March 10, 1876. She was educated in private schools and at the Art Students League in New York.
In 1912 she was one of twelve American women earning over $50,000 a year. She received many honors and awards for her work including the Grand Cross of Alfonso XII of Spain and an honorary degree of doctor of fine arts from Syracuse University in 1929. In 1960 was listed among the nations most outstanding women.
Some of her most famous sculptures include Joan of Arc on Riverside Drive and Joan of Arc in the Cathedral of St. John the Divine, both in New York City. Other works stand in New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art and in more than 200 museum, parks and public places around the world. Our area is home to her sculptures including Sybil Ludington in Danbury Library Plaza and a bronze of Major General Israel Putnam at the entrance to Putnam Memorial State Park in Redding.
The famed sculptor died in Redding on October 4, 1973 at the age of 97.
Much has changed since the dedication ceremony of 1963 including the name of the institution. Recent renovations to Huntington Hall have allowed a steady stream of visitors to view the museum’s collections, conduct research in the archives, host meetings, gatherings and community programs. This meaningful space has also welcomed thousands of Danbury school children over the years.
Every morning I notice the bronze plaque hanging at the entrance and find it somehow ironic that on October 20, 1963, I was a day-old newborn. Welcomed into the world by my parents and my new hometown at Danbury Hospital – yet another of the institutions helped by the Huntingtons. Forty-eight years later, as a Research Specialist, I find myself especially grateful to Mr. & Mrs. Huntington for this meaningful space where I spend most of my days at the Danbury Museum & Historical Society. It’s a place where I’m able to give something back to the Danbury community…just like they did!