Saturday, April 18, 2015

David K. Leff to speak at Middlesex Land Trust’s Annual Meeting

The Middlesex Land Trust will hold its Annual Meeting on Saturday, April 25th, at 9:30AM at the deKoven House Community Center.

Poet and essayist David K. Leff will be the featured speaker and will discuss exploring the marvels of the Connecticut landscape that are hidden in plain sight. He'll be talking about ancient milestones, Quonset huts, roadside springs, ghost towns, big trees, abandoned cemeteries and much more

In honor of the 50th anniversary of the federal wilderness act, David will also speak about Connecticut ’s most remote place, finding wildness in our thickly settled state, and Connecticut ’s unique marriage of nature and culture.

David is the author of three nonfiction books, three volumes of poetry and a novel.  David is the town historian of Canton, served twenty-six years as a volunteer firefighter, and was deputy commissioner at the Connecticut Department of Environmental Protection for over a decade. After his talk, David will be available to answer questions and offer signed copies of his books, including Hidden in Plain Sight.

The annual meeting will begin with a short business meeting at 9:30am, with the presentation to start at 10:00am. Refreshments and conversation will follow. The deKoven House is located at 27 Washington Street.

Friday, April 17, 2015

This Weekend at The Buttonwood Tree

Welcome to the beginning of our favorite time here at The Buttonwood Tree-the weekend! On Friday night we will have a real good time with Ameranouche and their eclectic take on jazz. Finally, on Saturday, we have Terry Kitchen and Mara Levine with their mixture of the heartwarming, the thought-provoking, and the generally exceptional in the form of folk tunes. Be sure not to miss this amazing line-up here at the one and only Buttonwood Tree! 

For more, click below!

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Cat Tales ~ Cat of the Week ~ HEIDI 041615

Cat Tales
Cat of the Week!

~ H E I D I ~

Easy, Free Electronic Recycling Returns to MxCC Thursday April 23

Middlesex Community College’s Computer Club is celebrating Earth Week by offering another free e-cycling collection event. Anyone with old or unused electronics are invited to bring them to MxCC’s lower parking lot at 100 Training Hill Road on the Middletown campus for easy, safe, environmentally sensitive disposal on Thursday, April 23 from 10 a.m. – 3 p.m.
A wide variety of computers, iPods, televisions, radios and other electronics will be accepted for recycling.  Please note that air conditioners, washers, dryers, refrigerators, lightbulbs, or household batteries cannot be accepted.  At the end of the day, all items will be picked up by Green Monster e-Cycling of West Hartford, and will be fully recycled for parts and re-harvesting of precious metals (for computers, the company first destructs all data stored on hard drives). 

During the e-cycling event, MxCC’s Computer Club students will be accepting voluntary donations for its annual computer giveaway contest for needy MxCC students.

Green Monster e-Cycling ( has a strict zero-landfill policy, meaning all items it collects are broken down into basic components and passed on to refineries and smelters where precious metals are harvested.  By-products of all electronic components are eventually added to items such as concrete, fence posts, or glass. Green Monster partners only with EPA-compliant leaders in the downstream recycling industry that have been audited. 

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Planning Department Solicits Riverfront Inputs

The Planning Department has launched a visual preference survey to help guide the Planning and Zoning Commission as it considers changes to riverfront zoning.

The survey presents a series of photographs of buildings built on other waterfronts, and asks the viewer to rate it as "favorable" or "unfavorable".

Director of Planning, Conservation, and Development Michiel Wackers said that the data would be presented to the Planning and Zoning Commission at their meeting next week (Wednesday, 7PM).

The survey is available HERE, and should be completed by the end of this week.

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Governor Proposes New Middletown Area Bridge

Governor Malloy, as part of his budget presentation, included a proposal called, "Transforming Transportation - Let's Go CT." It suggests two significant changes to roads in our city.

The proposal followed a call in 2013 for citizen input (Eye article). These new proposals do not appear to be connected to the plans for a modest change to the Route 17 on-ramp to Route 9 at Harbor Park (Eye article).

The new proposals, though quite dramatic, have not received much press coverage, or any comments of support or opposition from local elected officials.

The governor calls for reconfiguration of the interchanges of Route 9/Route 66 and Route 9/Route 17, at a price of $390 million:
Reconfigure interchanges with Route 9 and Route 17 and 66 in Middletown to incorporate direct connections between the Arrigoni Bridge and Route 9, eliminating the existing at-grade signalized intersection on Route 9, which is currently the cause of significant congestion and a number of major accidents. These improvements will enhance operational safety and provide enhanced air quality resulting from the removal of the signalized intersections.
He also calls for a new bridge to cross the Connecticut River in our area, this has a guesstimated price tag of $2 billion:
In addition to the Arrigoni bridge, a new major bridge will be built over the Connecticut River in the Middletown area to alleviate congestion. This option will require a considerable amount of new road construction, including a new interchange at Route 9, reconfiguration of the existing interchanges on Route 9 in Middletown, and construction of connecting roads on the Portland side, and major right-ofway purchases. 
More reading:

Monday, April 13, 2015

An Evening of Jazz at MxCC

On Friday, May 1 at 7 p.m., join us for a FREE concert at Middletown Community College’s Chapman Hall and enjoy an evening of jazz, featuring Aja Wilson and Chris Casey. Concert is free and open to the public, but reservations are suggested. Seats can be reserved a t This concert is sponsored by Middletown Commission on the Arts and MxCC Student Senate.

Sunday, April 12, 2015

Wheel Man: Robert Keating And Middletown's Extraordinary Factory

By Gary Keating.
It happened here!!  Lost to history, forgotten and ignored up to now.  Finally, a vital piece of Middletown Connecticut history is bought back for all to share and enjoy.

A detailed, factual biography of the man, his ground breaking factory “The Keating Wheel Company” on Johnson Street in Middletown Ct, and his contributions and innovations in the early years of modern wheeled transportation in the USA.

A must read for those interested in early Middletown, bicycle, motorcycle, automobile, and transportation history.

The book is available at this time online.  A simple Google search of the title will easily find it.

A brief overview:

Robert M. Keating originally started the Keating Wheel Company in Westfield, Massachusetts on September 10,1890 after working as the superintendent at the Warwick Cycle Company in Springfield and before that with the Overman Wheel Company in Chicopee, Massachusetts. The first Keating Wheel Company factory was a leased space in an existing factory building formerly used by the Westfield Whip Company located on Elm Street in Westfield. The factory employed ten men and by the spring of 1891 the Keating Wheel Company turned out the first seventy-five Keating bicycles, called “The Superior.”

On July 2, 1891 the company was reorganized with a new board of directors and in January 1892, the Keating Wheel Company moved its operations into a new factory located at 30 Dwight Street in Holyoke, MA. By 1892 the company had 300 employees. Over the next five years the company produced some of the lightest, strongest and fastest bicycles made in the United States, along with introducing the innovative and unique Keating curved center brace design, celebrated by the tag line, “See That Curve” on all its advertising.

By 1895 the bicycle boom in America was in peak form.  It is difficult today to fully appreciate the impact the bicycle had on industry and society during the Gay ‘90s.  The bicycle was literally “the next big thing” in the 1890s.  At the time, the two-wheeled machine spawned the same level of technological awe in the minds of consumers as the television, desktop computer and smart phone did during their inaugurations; along with the same obsessive drive to own one. R.M. Keating and his Wheel Company were at the forefront of this new transportation revolution and the success of his bicycle lines required that the company expand. For that, he needed a new plant.  When word got out that the Keating was looking to move, cities and towns from far and wide began to court the company with vigor.

Following a fury of propositions, it was Middletown, CT that made the most attractive offer and on the evening of May 23, 1896, an official agreement to relocate the Keating Wheel Company to Middletown was signed.  As part of the deal it was agreed that a massive two-story, 1000-foot long factory would be constructed on two parcels of land purchased by the company on “the old race course near the Berlin branch road” which would later become Johnson Street.  On the last day of 1896, the new factory suddenly and dramatically came to life. On that wintery New Year’s Eve, smoke billowed out of the factory’s 135-foot chimney for the first time.  A new board of directors was formed to oversee the company’s success with Middletown’s most famous resident, ex-governor Owen Vincent Coffin, in the chairman’s seat.

When Keating made the decision to relocate to Middletown he was also determined to build a new factory like no other.  The two floors of the new factory were designed as great, open halls, supported by rows of pine pillars set 10 feet apart, allowing more efficient and better- integrated movement of stock and finished material between the various production operations arrayed along each floor.  With only two stories the ceilings could be raised higher than usual, in turn allowing the window frames to be made larger, which allowed additional light and ventilation into the factory.   But there was another innovation built into the design of the new Keating factory that was historically significant.

Unlike traditional 19th century factories and mills that operated using waterwheels, flumes or steam, Keating looked to one of the cutting-edge tech stars of the day, Thomas Alva Edison, for a brand new source of power – electricity.  The factory in Middletown was the first manufacturing plant in the country designed expressly for the use of electric power; power that would be generated on site in its own electric power plant using motors and generators designed by Edison’s new General Electric Company. Electric power allowed Keating to organize his bicycle production more efficiently.  He had six extensions constructed off the factory’s core structure to house specialized operations that would allow for what would later become known as assembly-line production.  But the Keating factory’s innovations were not confined to the production of bicycles.  As early as 1896 Keating already had other things in mind.  

In 1898 the Keating Wheel Company began manufacturing motor carriages, powered by electric batteries, for use as delivery vehicles. The following year the company changed its name to the Keating Wheel and Automobile Company and its first production model motorized delivery wagon was presented to the public on November 10, 1899.  The giant Siegel-Cooper department store in New York City made the first purchase. Over the next several years some of the finest bicycles ever to be manufactured in the United States were rolled out of the factory’s loading docks and shipped worldwide. By the turn of the century, the Middletown factory was also producing both electric and gasoline powered vehicles well before Detroit took the stage.  Keating reportedly had five vehicles represented in Middletown’s 250th birthday parade held in October 1900.

In June and July of 1900, Keating filed a series of patents for a motorized bicycle and by November the first Keating motor bicycle was tested on the company grounds using Keating’s patented designs – patents that would become the industry standard for motorcycle production in America.  In 1901, Oscar Hedstrom, under contract with the Hendee Manufacturing Company, leased space at the largely abandoned Worcester Bicycle Manufacturing Company, also in Middletown, to develop a motor bicycle of his own. The Keating Wheel Company released their motor bicycle onto the market in March of 1901. Hedstrom completed his prototype motor bicycle, which would become the iconic Indian “Motorcycle,” at the end of May.  Middletown was truly America’s “Motorcycle City” at the turn of the century.

Unfortunately, the Keating Wheel and Automobile Company ran into serious financial difficulties and went into receivership just as the Keating motor bicycle was put on the market.  On June 15, 1901, the Keating factory was sold to the Eisenhuth Horseless vehicle Company. Over the next year they continued to build and sell the Keating motor bicycle until it was abandoned to make way for production of the Eisenhuth automobile (which was limited).  Keating continued to develop engines for motor bicycles and marine use in Middletown under the name Keating Motor Company until going into bankruptcy in August of 1906. The Eisenhuth Horseless vehicle Company went bankrupt five months later.

On August 26, 1914, Keating sued the Hendee Manufacturing Company for patent infringement in their design of the Indian Motocycle, traditionally considered the first American motorcycle. On October 30, 1917, Keating sued the Harley-Davidson Motor Company for patent infringement. Keating won both suits. The Keating motor bicycle that was running around the Middletown factory in November of 1900 is the first original, commercially marketed motorcycle (that is, with the motor incorporated within the frame; not simply attached to) in the United States.

Over the course of his lifetime Keating filed 50 patents, including the patent for the rubber home plate used in baseball.

Saturday, April 11, 2015

Brainerd Quarry Preserve Now Protected

From David M. Brown, Executive Director, Middlesex Land Trust.
In February of this year the Middlesex Land Trust, in partnership with the Connecticut River Gateway Commission, purchased fifty acres of open space for permanent protection in Haddam Neck. This new preserve offers breathtaking views across the CT River to Haddam Meadows State Park from a rough path that runs along the base of dramatic cliffs created from the property’s historic use as a quarry. The Middlesex Land Trust now owns the preserve and is planning to develop a trail system for the public to enjoy for hiking, passive recreation and education. The tract lies along Injun Hollow Road just north of the 585 acres Connecticut Yankee property.

The land has been named the Brainerd Quarry Preserve to reflect the historic importance of the Brainerd Family in Haddam. Daniel Brainerd was one of the 28 founding settlers of Haddam in 1662, and a century later, in 1762, Deacon Esra Brainerd opened a quarry on the now preserved site. The quarry operated for more than 150 years, shipping stone down river to New York and as far south as Maryland, Virginia and New Orleans. A 2011 study of the history and archeology of the area describes the Brainerds as “a family of entrepreneurs in the forefront of early industry and commerce in the Connecticut River Valley” and recommends the quarry site as “an ideal candidate for use as an outdoor classroom for studies in local history, geology, mining, early American industry, the Industrial Revolution in Connecticut and other related topics for grammar school, high school and college students.”

This significant property along the Connecticut River is now owned and managed by the Middlesex Land Trust, a regional not-for-profit volunteer land conservation organization that, since 1987, has been dedicated to the preservation of open space in northern Middlesex County. The purchase was initiated by, and made possible through grant funding from the Connecticut River Gateway Commission, a state-local compact that protects the Lower Connecticut River Valley, one of the “most important ecological landscapes in the United States” according to the Secretary of the U.S. Department of the Interior.

A dedication ceremony for the new Brainerd Quarry Preserve and the opening of the preserve to the public is anticipated this summer.

Friday, April 10, 2015

This Weekend at The Buttonwood Tree

Welcome back! We're excited to have you here. This weekend, we have Jacob Smullyan bringing a touch of elegance and sophistication to The Buttonwood Tree, with a classical piano concert. Then, we have the NS4GK4strings continuing the classical vibe, but with violins! Be sure not to miss this exciting assembly of classic melodies!

For our event info, click below.

Thursday, April 9, 2015

Cat Tales presents... Cat of the Week! ~ L A R R Y ~

Cat Tales
Cat of the Week!

~ L A R R Y ~

Name:   Larry

Breed:Domestic Short Hair

Color:Black & White

Age:5 years old

I'm a very sweet, affectionate boy who loves attention!  I'll gently paw you to keep petting me if you stop!  I am a bit skittish until I know you, and would need a quiet home with a patient, cat experienced person who will give me time to adjust to my new environment. Once I'm comfortable, I'd love to curl up with you on the couch or in bed to keep you warm and close to me.  I'm FIV+ but it's not contagious to humans and is very difficult for other cats to catch. I can live just as long as any other cat if taken to my 6 month vet appointments. I want a forever home where I can get all of the love and attention I'm craving!  I do have lots of love to give, so please come meet me and see for yourself!

No DogsNo ChildrenFIV  
To learn more about FIV, visit

On the Web:

Legendary Songwriters Of Our City, Sunday

The bust of Henry Clay Work
graces Union Green
Local singer and songwriter Joe Flood has organized a concert of the songs of three songwriters and poets who were in their day some of the most famous songwriters in the country. All of them hailed from Middletown.
Below are two posts about Sunday's concert, taken from the Joe Flood News and Gigs blog.
SUNDAY, APRIL 12TH, 2015 AT 3 P.M.
Middletown, CT 
to Middletown's Famous 19th Century Songwriters
featuring (in alphabetical order)
Rani Arbo (vocals)
Tom Callinan (vocals)
Michael Cleary (guitar and voclas)
Vince De Laria (keyboards)
Jerry Dugger (vocals)
Mark Ettinger (accordion, piano, bouzouki)
Joe Flood (guitar, mandolin, banjo, vocals, etc.)
Joe Fonda (bass)
John Kalinowski (fife, accordion, concertina)
Scott Kessel (drums and percussion)
Fred Moses (percussion, vocals)
Edmund Peart (drums)
As the promo says, "Joe Flood has organized some of Middletown's brightest musical lights to interpret the songs of Middletown's own Henry Clay Work (1832-1884), Reginald de Koven (1859-1920) and broadside poet Edward Barrett (1817-1914)."
And as you can read below (a couple of posts back), I got two grants from the Middletown Commission on the Arts and the Connecticut Humanities Council to create this piece, and I am really excited to be bringing all of these great musicians together along with several of our favorite local radio hosts to read period texts about these songwriters' lives and times. Please come!

Tickets are available from the Greater Middletown Concert Association here.
I have spent the better part of the last year researching the lives, careers, and songs of Henry Clay Work (1832-1884), Reginald de Koven (1859-1920), and Edward Barrett (1817-1914).  The first two were born, as was I, in Middletown, Connecticut.  Barrett was born in Ireland and emigrated to Middletown in the 1850s, as did my great, great grandfather.  Work was known as a composer of Civil War songs ("Marching Through Georgia") but also contributed to the minstrel show and parlor song repertory. De Koven was the  composer of comic opera in America at the turn of the last century.  Between 1885 and 1914, Barrett wrote over 250 poems that were published in The Penny Press, the local paper of the day, many of them meant to be sung to traditional Irish airs. The Middletown Commission on the Arts and the Connecticut Department of Culture and Tourism have each awarded me a grant to continue my research and develop a performance piece based on the three men, their lives and times, and their relevance to our own.  On July 5th, 2013, I will be previewing some of the work I have done so far with a group of stellar local musicians: world renowned bassist Joe Fonda; drummer extraordinaire and author of "Connecticut's Fife and Drum Tradition" (the definitive book on the subject), Jim Clark; master of the accordion, concertina, and fife, John Kalinowski; and local rhythm and bluesman Fred Moses. The project has been and continues to be an exciting exploration of America's musical history as well as that of Middletown's and my own personal history.  I hope to see many friends old and new at the Buttonwood Tree on the 5th, and many more when we mount the final production in the months to come.