I love how new beginnings are often found in old endings and how that which itself was old can become new again. In this case, I’m thinking specifically of the 1783 Dr. Daniel Lathrop Schoolhouse at the Norwichtown Green, which is one of the oldest intact brick school buildings in all of Connecticut.
The dismissal bell for its last class rang decades if not centuries before any of us were born but it’s just days away from helping us teach and learn (again) new lessons about who we once were and, perhaps, who we may on the way to becoming.
This Friday afternoon at four the Lathrop Schoolhouse is the site of the Grand Opening and Ribbon Cutting for the Norwich Heritage and Regional Visitors’ Center and we’re all invited to look back at the way we were as well as peer into what could be our future as a tourist destination.
Talking about “historic tourism as an engine for economic development” is all well and good and if talking about it made it so, we’d be on to other topics around here but there’s a lot of moving parts and huge amounts of heavy lifting to get from a spirited conversation at a workshop to an actual brick and mortar visitor and history center that can effectively tell the story of who we once while helping us become whom we want the world to see.
The Center is the latest effort by The Norwich Heritage Group, an umbrella for the collaborative efforts of fifteen different heritage groups throughout the city, whose collective mission is to promote heritage tourism in Norwich and build awareness of the many rich cultural resources here in Norwich, Connecticut.
The Center hopes to educate residents and visitors about Norwich's rich past and to offer information about regional tourist attractions here in the present. It’s intended to be a gateway into Norwich for visitors to learn about our numerous important cultural sites as well as our various local businesses and services.
Friday’s ribbon-cutting offers a chance to check out the “Discover Norwich” exhibit which is a 10-panel exhibit on Norwich history from the 17th to the 20th century, from the founding to today. It’s intended to offer visitors and locals an overview of Norwich’s history and also deepen both the knowledge and appreciation of the City
The actual ribbon cutting is at 4:30 with light refreshments before and period music from the Nathan Hale Ancient Fife and Drum Corps afterward. So come fashionably early and stay historically late.
Considering it took Norwich 356 years to get to this point, I’d hope you’ll find fifteen minutes between four and six PM this Friday to come by and stop in.