Historical society adds signs to complex

In a continuing effort to improve the Wilton Historical Society’s visitor experience, discreet “wayfinding” signs and a map of the site have been added to the museum complex at 224 Danbury Road. Among the signs lacking: an entrance sign at the Betts House, and identification of the primary buildings.

The signs were paid for in part by a $5,000 matching grant from CT Humanities. They were designed by Wilton designers Pamela Hovland and Gini Frank Fischer. The project was begun in 2017, and the last signs were installed in February.  

The grant helps the historical society make that “all-important first impression,” co-director Allison Gray Sanders said in a press release. The opportunity to “get it right in making a visitor feel welcome and informed on arrival, was lost every time a guest parked,” she said. “It is so off-putting to arrive at your destination and be unsure what to do next.”

The grant permitted the society to add the word “Entrance” over the appropriate door of the Betts House, and a sitemap to orient visitors. The building signs, which match the paint color and are very low key, are designed to resemble museum object labels, and provide information as to the date the structure was built, as well as when it was moved there.

When 224 Danbury Road was acquired by the historical society, only the c. 1740 Betts House was original to the site. The other structures were saved and relocated from other areas in Wilton.

The museum complex resembles a New England village, complete with a 19th-century barn, working 19th-century blacksmith’s shop, a privy, Colonial herb garden, fire pit, water pump and Victory garden. Two 18th-century houses, the Betts House and the Fitch House (c. 1770) containing period rooms are connected by the Burt Barn Gallery, a c. 1840 barn structure which houses a gallery.

To use the site effectively, and to emphasize the historic character of the complex, parking was relegated to the back of the lot, as far as possible from the houses, to minimize the visual impact of vehicles. Only handicap parking spots are close to the entrance. In fact, the first door most visitors would see on arrival was the door to the office area, at the rear of the Betts House, which was marked with a small sign “Visitors, Please Use Front Door.” With the exception of the required blue and white handicapped parking signs, it was the only permanent wayfinding sign in the complex.

Both Hovland and Fischer have previously worked with the society. Hovland designed the roadside identification signage which can be seen on each of the society’s campuses (224 Danbury Road, Lambert Corner and Cannon Corner), while Fisher created an illustration of the site for a map which now stands in the Colonial Herb Garden.  

Over the past four years, the Wilton Historical Society has been engaged in a series of projects to improve the visitor’s experience at the 224 Danbury Road campus. From a complete renovation of the Colonial Herb Garden, to historically correct repainting of the three primary buildings, to new roadside identification signage, significant effort has been focused on these upgrades. In addition, a key aspect of the visitor experience, the website, has been recently redesigned and greatly improved, again with the help of a CT Humanities/STePS grant.  

Information: wiltonhistorical.org or 203-762-7257.