Brewster County in Texas is larger than the entire state of Connecticut, our 3rd smallest State. Most people don’t think of Connecticut as a thrilling destination, but I do. There are quite a number of surprises for The Constitution State traveler.
The National Audubon Society has about 500 chapters around the United States and tiny Connecticut has about 20 Sanctuaries and Nature Centers. Most welcome visitors. The Birdcraft Museum near Fairfield, the first private bird sanctuary in the United States, is currently closed for a re-do but will reopen later this year. Its Visitor Center, Nature Store, and Sanctuary are not affected.
The Yale University Art Gallery in New Haven is The United States’ oldest and, by far, most impressive private museum. It has, happy to say, just undergone a $135 million renovation and reopened in December, 2012. Expanded into 3 buildings by the 1950’s, YUAG still lacked gallery space to showcase its comprehensive collection including Degas, pre-Columbian Aztec gods, Seurat, etc.
Our first and oldest public art museum is also in Connecticut, Hartford’s Wadsworth Atheneum in a building that models an English castle at 600 Main Street just across the Connecticut River from downtown not too far from Mark Twain’s house. Among its Hudson River School painters and impressive Impressionists is a Caravaggio, “St. Francis in Ecstasy”. The Atheneum was the first U.S. museum, and still among the few, to have one.
The biggest casino in the United States isn’t in Nevada. It’s Foxwoods in the Land of Steady Habits southeast corner. It’s also the U.S.’s most profitable since this casino/resort complex takes in about $1,000,000,000 a year. Opened in 1992 by the Mashantucket Pequot tribe, Foxwoods welcomes about 40,000 visitors each day.
This State’s name derives from Quinnehtukqut, a native word meaning “Beside the Long Tidal River”. I learned this from A Guide to State Government, a booklet I picked up when Ruth & I visited the Provisions State’s capitol, an ornate building that looks like its designers were determined to incorporate every late 19th century architectural idea into one structure.
I also learned that Connecticut, being one of the originals, is like no other. For example, it has a State Fossil, the Eubrontes Giganteus. That Connecticut even has a State Fossil is because the Connecticut Valley is the foremost dinosaur track locality in the world according to another booklet. Although nutmegs grow only in tropical regions, Connecticut is The Nutmeg State thanks to its official State Cantata. However, the most vivid thing one hears during a visit to its Capitol, a 5 Compass experience, is about The Charter Oak.
In 1662, Governor John Winthrop wrested a liberty-granting charter from King Charles II. A generation later, James II sent an agent to seize it. During a fractious exchange, the candle-lit meeting room went dark suddenly and The Charter disappeared. The oak tree in which it had been hidden eventually became a chair that looks like a Webster Dictionary illustration of “royal throne”. It’s now used by the Lieutenant Governor. Noah Webster, a Hartford native, saw 25 million of his dictionaries in print before he died.