About

The New Canaan Museum & Historical Society is a cultural institution that focuses on preservation, modernism, education and community. Through exhibits, programs, library services and events, we celebrate history and explore its role in shaping the future.
The New Canaan Museum & Historical Society is a cultural institution that focuses on preservation, modernism, education and community. Through exhibits, programs, library services and events, we celebrate history and explore its role in shaping the future.

Founded in 1889, the New Canaan Historical Society had as its mission “to bring together and arrange the historical events of the town of New Canaan, the genealogies of the families who have lived in the town, to form a library and to collect relics and curiosities, to form a museum.”

Although our mission has expanded and our name has changed, to this day we continue to promote historic preservation, aid researchers, maintain museums and historical sites, mount exhibitions, hold educational events and tours, and build an awareness and appreciation of our Town’s rich past.

Our founders included the descendants of some of New Canaan’s first families — among them Mr. & Mrs. Frederick Lockwood, Charles R. Abbott, Alexander Law, S.Y. St. John, James and Edwin Hoyt, Lucius Monroe Sr., Francis E. Weed, Mr. & Mrs. Henry B. Rogers, and Mr. & Mrs. Joseph Silliman. Today the Society welcomes members and visitors from around the country and abroad.

At our offices in the 1825 Town House (the original Town Hall), the New Canaan Museum & Historical Society maintains a research library of more than 3,500 volumes, along with scores of manuscripts, deeds, newspapers, photographs and other documents dating to the Colonial era.

The New Canaan Museum & Historical Society owns or operates eight museums and buildings, including the 1764 Hanford-Silliman House, the 1960 Gores Pavilion, and the Rogers Studio, which, with Philip Johnson’s Glass House, is one of only two National Historic Landmarks in New Canaan.

We are an open, inclusive, family organization. Open year-round, we offer a full schedule of events, gatherings, lectures, tours and exhibitions.

Our goal is to educate and enlighten the public in an atmosphere that is welcoming, friendly and fun.

Our Town's History

The area that is now New Canaan was originally settled around 1715 as part of the towns of Norwalk and Stamford. In 1731, the Connecticut legislature approved a new Congregational Parish and named it Canaan Parish. New Canaan was finally incorporated 70 years later in May 1801. “Canaan” means “promised land.”

Agriculture and milling were the town’s primary industries. Shoe manufacturing, first introduced in 1818, rapidly expanded to become the town’s dominant industry. Its growth shaped the downtown area. The height of the shoemaking boom was in 1850, but failure to install new automatic sewing machines right before the Civil War did not allow the shoemakers to keep up with the wartime demand. The last shoemaker closed in 1913.

To attract new businesses and new employment opportunities, local businessmen financed the construction of a railroad spur from Stamford in 1866. The New Canaan Railroad eventually became part of the New York, New Haven & Hartford Railroad in 1890. The increased accessibility made the town desirable as a vacation retreat. Large summer estates were constructed. Many of the summer people decided to become permanent residents and encouraged their friends and families to relocate.

By the end of World War II, the town had developed a vital downtown area with a bustling suburban community. Then in the late 1940s and early 50s, New Canaan attracted a group of modern architects who had studied at Harvard University’s School of Architecture under Walter Gropius, the founder of the Bauhaus School of Design. These young architects, Eliot Noyes, John Johansen, Landis Gores, Philip Johnson, and Marcel Breuer, became known as “The Harvard Five.” Throughout New Canaan, many of these ground-breaking Mid-Century Modern Houses designed by members of The Harvard Five and others still stand, including three in the National Register of Historic Places: The Glass House, The Gores Pavilion, and The Hodgson House.

New Canaan today is a vibrant town of approximately 20,000. Its walkable business district is filled with shops and restaurants that are open year-round. The active Chamber of Commerce publishes a full calendar of events. Visitors will find the locals friendly and welcoming.

The Museum's History

The New Canaan Historical Society was founded on August 31, 1889, making it the oldest (along with Westport) Historical Society in Fairfield County. Its purpose, as set forth in the original Articles of Incorporation, was “to bring together and arrange the historical events of the town, the genealogies of families who have lived in the town or who now live in the town, for preservation and for the easy examination of those interested. Specifically, to gather the political history and military records of the town, the history of the churches, the history of educational efforts public and private, to collect books, pamphlets and papers, to form a library; to collect specimens of minerals and natural history, and to collect relics and curiosities to form a museum; and by lectures and otherwise to promote proper social science and the intellectual and moral welfare of the members of the society and the people of the town.”

Since that time, the Society has expanded to a two-acre campus with five buildings, a full time staff, three exhibition spaces, more than 600 members and more than 5000 visitors a year. In 2018, its name changed to New Canaan Museum & Historical Society and its mission was updated to reflect its role as a museum.

Rock School exterior

Get Involved

The Museum relies on its volunteers to help in a variety of capacities. We especially need docents for school tours, researchers, and help with exhibitions. We have lots of different opportunities, and we will work with you to find something that suits your interests and skills.

For further information, please call Nancy Geary at 203-966-1776 ext. 1, or stop by the office.

Officers

President
Lawrence Caldwell

Treasurer
Tom Monahan

Vice President
Janet Lanaway

Secretary
Matthew H. Bloom

Board

Barb Achenbaum
Hugo Alves
Elizabeth DeMuth
Wesley C. Fredericks
Diane Jenkins
Janice Luddy
Thomas Nissley
Laura Pla
Brock Saxe
Jackie Shapiro
Frances Wilson
Whitney Williams
Nicholas Yanicelli
Allison Zinczenko

Honorary

Jim Bach
Susan Bishop
Sonia Macdonald

New Canaan Museum and Historical Society

Honorary

Jim Bach
Susan Bishop
Sonia Macdonald

Staff

Nancy Geary, Executive Director
ngeary@nchistory.org

Michael Murphy, Librarian Archivist mmurphy@nchistory.org

Staff

NANCY GEARY
Executive Director
ngeary@nchistory.org

Nancy Geary joined the New Canaan Museum & Historical Society as its Executive Director in the spring of 2017.  A graduate of Brown University and Harvard Law School, she has worked as a lawyer in both the public and private sectors, served on a number of not-for-profit boards, and acted as warden for a church in North Stamford.  She is the author of four novels, and has taught writing at writers’ workshops, schools, and arts centers.

Librarian

MICHAEL MURPHY
Librarian & Archivist
mmurphy@nchistory.org

A Stamford native, Michael Murphy began work at the NCM&HS in 2013 as an intern. A lifelong student of history, Mike gradated with a degree in History from Manhattan College.  In 2017, he became the Librarian and Archivist, and is responsible for cataloguing and maintaining the Museum’s extensive collections.  His favorite collection is the vintage photographs that document the changing New Canaan landscape over the decades.  

Sponsors

The New Canaan Museum & Historical Society is grateful for our corporate sponsors that help us in our mission every day!

Gold

BANKWELL
B Kind Foundation
DEANE, Inc
Franco’s Wine Merchant’s
Houlihan Lawrence
Keith E. Simpson Associates
Edgehill | Meadow Ridge

Platinum Sponsors

Silver

Camp Playland
Gerbert & Sons Landscaping
HTG Investment Advisors
Hutchinson Tree Care
New Canaan Pediatric Dentistry
Oneills Tree Service
RAND Insurance
Reynolds + Rowella

Sponsors

The New Canaan Museum & Historical Society is grateful for our corporate sponsors that help us in our mission every day!

Platinum Sponsors

Gold

BANKWELL
B Kind Foundation
DEANE, Inc
Franco’s Wine Merchant’s
Houlihan Lawrence
Keith E. Simpson Associates
Edgehill | Meadow Ridge

Silver

Camp Playland
Gerbert & Sons Landscaping
HTG Investment Advisors
Hutchinson Tree Care
New Canaan Pediatric Dentistry
Oneills Tree Service
RAND Insurance
Reynolds + Rowella

Interested in becoming a corporate sponsor?

Sponsorship Levels

Platinum
$2500
  • Logo on New Canaan Museum & Historical Society website 
  • Logo on October4design website
  • Logo on all printed materials for Modern House Day Tour + Symposium
  • Logo in Program at fall gala
  • Featured sponsor article in e-newsletter
  • Logo on sponsor listing in e-newsletter for 52 weeks
  • Featured sponsor on Instagram and Facebook (4x)
  • Invitation to market/meet and greet at Ice Cream Social and New Canaan History Day
  • Listed sponsor on all exhibitions in FY 2021
Gold
$1000
  • Listed sponsor on New Canaan Museum & Historical Society website
  • Logo in Program at fall gala
  • Featured sponsor article in e-newsletter
  • Logo on sponsor listing in e-newsletter for 52 weeks
  • Featured sponsor on Instagram and Facebook (2x)
  • Invitation to market/meet and greet at Ice Cream Social and New Canaan History Day
  • Listed sponsor on all exhibitions in FY 2021
Silver
$500
  • Listed sponsor on New Canaan Museum & Historical Society website
  • Listed in Program at fall gala
  • Listed as sponsor in e-newsletter for 52 weeks
  • Featured sponsor on Instagram and Facebook (1x)
  • Invitation to market/meet and greet at Ice Cream Social and New Canaan History Day
  • Listed sponsor on all exhibitions in FY 2021

Honorary

Jim Bach
Susan Bishop
Sonia Macdonald

Staff

NANCY GEARY
Executive Director

Nancy Geary joined the New Canaan Museum & Historical Society as its Executive Director in the spring of 2017.  A graduate of Brown University and Harvard Law School, she has worked as a lawyer in both the public and private sectors, served on a number of not-for-profit boards, and acted as warden for a church in North Stamford.  She is the author of four novels, and has taught writing at writers’ workshops, schools, and arts centers. She can be reached at ngeary@nchistory.org

MICHAEL MURPHY, Librarian Archivist mmurphy@nchistory.org

Officers

President
Lawrence Caldwell

Treasurer
Tom Monahan

Vice President
Janet Lanaway

Secretary
Matthew H. Bloom

Board

Barb Achenbaum
Hugo Alves
Elizabeth DeMuth
Wesley C. Fredericks
Diane Jenkins
Janice Luddy
Thomas Nissley
Laura Pla
Brock Saxe
Jackie Shapiro
Frances Wilson
Whitney Williams
Nicholas Yanicelli
Allison Zinczenko

New Canaan Museum and Historical Society

Honorary

Jim Bach
Susan Bishop
Sonia Macdonald

Staff

Nancy Geary, Executive Director
ngeary@nchistory.org

Michael Murphy, Librarian Archivist mmurphy@nchistory.org

Officers

President
Lawrence Caldwell

Treasurer
Tom Monahan

Vice President
Janet Lanaway

Secretary
Matthew H. Bloom

Board

Barb Achenbaum
Hugo Alves
Elizabeth DeMuth
Wesley C. Fredericks
Diane Jenkins
Janice Luddy
Thomas Nissley
Laura Pla
Brock Saxe
Jackie Shapiro
Frances Wilson
Whitney Williams
Nicholas Yanicelli
Allison Zinczenko

New Canaan Museum and Historical Society

Honorary

Jim Bach
Susan Bishop
Sonia Macdonald

Staff

Nancy Geary, Executive Director
ngeary@nchistory.org

Michael Murphy, Librarian Archivist mmurphy@nchistory.org

Staff

NANCY GEARY
Executive Director
ngeary@nchistory.org

Nancy Geary joined the New Canaan Museum & Historical Society as its Executive Director in the spring of 2017.  A graduate of Brown University and Harvard Law School, she has worked as a lawyer in both the public and private sectors, served on a number of not-for-profit boards, and acted as warden for a church in North Stamford.  She is the author of four novels, and has taught writing at writers’ workshops, schools, and arts centers.

Librarian

MICHAEL MURPHY
Librarian & Archivist
mmurphy@nchistory.org

A Stamford native, Michael Murphy began work at the NCM&HS in 2013 as an intern. A lifelong student of history, Mike gradated with a degree in History from Manhattan College.  In 2017, he became the Librarian and Archivist, and is responsible for cataloguing and maintaining the Museum’s extensive collections.  His favorite collection is the vintage photographs that document the changing New Canaan landscape over the decades.