Guilford woman worries about future of famous map

By Rachael Scarborough King, Register Staff
March 31, 2008

GUILFORD — Emily O’Neil grew up in Gettysburg, Pa., the site of the decisive Civil War battle and Abraham Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address, where as a child she would walk along the area’s fields and pick up bullets fired in 1863.

Starting with her great-great-uncle John Rosensteel, O’Neil’s family amassed one of the nation’s largest collections of Civil War relics. When she was young, she lived in an apartment above the battle site’s museum and visitor center, which the family owned.

And in 1963, her father, Joseph Rosensteel, created the electric map of the battle, still in use at the Gettysburg National Military Park’s visitor center. The 30-foot-by-30-foot cement map uses colored lights to represent troop movements for the Union and Confederate armies during the three-day battle in July 1863.

Now the National Park Service and the Gettysburg Foundation, a nonprofit group, are planning a move to a new $103 million museum and visitor center on a different location in the park. That has O’Neil worried about the future of the map, which she called “my father’s masterpiece.”

The new center is opening April 14, and the current facility will close at the same time. There are plans to demolish the old building in 2009.

For now, park officials are planning to cut the map into four pieces and store it in a barn within Gettysburg National Military Park, said Katie Lawhon, public affairs specialist for the park.

“In general, the approach to the electric map has been that while the concept of the electric map at Gettysburg is very valuable as a kind of 3-D way to orient people to the way the battle was fought, that it needed to be updated,” Lawhon said. “We did not plan to take the map lock, stock and barrel and move it to our new museum.”

The new facility will include a 22-minute video presentation and separate galleries for each day of the battle, she added, which will serve much of the same function as the electric map. The Cyclorama, an 1884 circular painting that depicts the final charge of the battle, will also be restored and moved to the museum.

Lawhon said that park officials are focusing on preparations for the new museum and visitor center, and have not decided what the long-term fate of the electric map will be.

“It will be saved there until we can find some future use for it,” she said. “We’re kind of fishing around for ideas at this point.”

O’Neil, 67, said she and other family members are hoping to find a nonprofit organization that will be able to continue displaying the map. Her father completed it in 1963 for the centennial anniversary of the battle, one year before he died of cancer.

The 1963 map was the second he built for the center.

He recorded a narration for the 30-minute presentation, but also often gave live performances, including one of his earlier map for President Dwight D. Eisenhower.

The Rosensteel family sold the museum, including the map, to the federal government in 1972 for $2.3 million, and made a gift of the tens of thousands of Civil War relics inside it. Those items will move to the new museum and form the core of the collection there.

O’Neil described herself as “very prejudiced” about the map, but said she thinks people should be able to see it in its present form because “it is an artifact in and of itself.”

“People all over the country have seen the map,” she said. “When people go to Gettysburg, and it’s such a famous historical site to visit, before they go out on the field, they start with the map because it orients you.”

After marrying in 1965, O’Neil moved away from Gettysburg, settling in the Stony Creek section of Branford about 30 years ago and then moving to Guilford a decade ago. She has continued visiting the battle site over the years. Her ancestors first arrived in the Gettysburg area around 1830, she said, and some of her siblings still live there.

Earlier this month, she took her daughter and her daughter’s fiancé, who is English, to view the map. She said she was disappointed to see that the 1920s-era building looked rundown and some of the lights on the map were not working.

Her father’s voice is no longer used in the narration, but O’Neil said much of the text is the same way he wrote it.

“It’s really not in good repair at the moment — with all that said, at the end (of the presentation), the people around us applauded and they’re applauding the map; there’s no one else there,” she said. “Overall, even though it is outdated and outmoded, you take away an understanding of the battle of Gettysburg.”

Dru Anne Neil, a spokeswoman for the Gettysburg Foundation, said that the new museum will be located about two-thirds of a mile from the current facility.

Park officials are planning to “rehabilitate” the land where the visitor center now stands to what it would have looked like during the battle, an area of farmland and orchards.

“The place where those facilities sit was key battleground during the three-day battle of Gettysburg, so we want to obviously remove the modern structure from that key ground and return the ground as much as possible to 1863 appearance,” Neil said.

Neil added that the new museum and visitor center will increase the park’s capacity. The current center can accommodate about 400,000 guests a year, she said, but more than 1.1 million people visit Gettysburg each year.

Lawhon, the park spokeswoman, said the federal government has guidelines on giving or selling its property to other groups. The park could consider requests from other government agencies, nonprofit groups or educational institutions, and the map would have to be used for “interpretive or educational purposes.” The group would also have to pay to remove the map.

O’Neil said that family members are not asking for the map to be returned to them.

“That’s something we never intended to have happen. Our goal has always been to locate a nonprofit that would be interested in keeping the map viable,” she said. “It is my father’s masterpiece and I would really like to see it continue to be used to preserve the history of the battle of Gettysburg.”

Advertisements

World will give the Earth a break tonight

Guilford boy, 11, helps spur local participation in 1 hour of conserving energy

By Rachael Scarborough King, Register Staff
March 29, 2008

A Guilford boy is encouraging his friends, family and all Connecticut residents to turn their lights off at 8 tonight as part of Earth Hour, a worldwide effort to conserve energy.

Ian Zane, 11, has been speaking at his school and church and sending letters to local newspapers to get the word out about the event. His family’s business, Zane’s Cycles in Branford, is supporting the cause.

Towns around Connecticut are also promoting Earth Hour and asking residents to switch off their lights tonight. Bridgeport has registered with Earth Hour’s Web site, along with more than 30 other U.S. cities and towns and the state of New York.

The first Earth Hour took place last year in Sydney, Australia, when 2.2 million people turned out their lights for one hour. Atlanta, Chicago, Phoenix and San Francisco are the official U.S. partner cities for the effort this year.

Ian, a sixth-grader at The Country School in Madison, said he became aware of Earth Hour about six months ago while visiting the Web site for the World Wildlife Fund, which started the event last year.

“In the past I’ve been very interested with global warming and emissions and the problems with CO2,” Ian said. “I looked into it and I’m like, ‘Wow, that makes a lot of sense.’”

Ian recruited his father, Chris Zane, to help with his cause. The family’s bike store now features a large banner promoting Earth Hour, and Ian plans to hand out postcards at the business’ annual sale this weekend.

Zane’s Cycles also signed up as an official supporter of Earth Hour at the event’s Web site, earthhour.org.

“That’s kind of in line with what we are, we’re a recreation business that’s involved with the outdoors,” Zane said. “I thought that would be a pretty neat thing if we could get involved.”

Zane is building a new facility for Zane’s Cycles, which will include 160 solar panels on the roof. At home in Guilford, he said, the family tries to turn off lights and unplug electronic chargers that aren’t in use, and they installed timed thermostats to regulate energy use.

In Madison, the town’s Energy Committee is planning Earth Awareness Month, which kicks off tonight with Earth Hour. The events continue through April 22 and include a “clean energy parade” and hybrid car show April 20.

Dean Plummer, chairman of the Energy Committee, said this is the first year the town has organized Earth Awareness Month. The Board of Selectmen recently passed a proclamation encouraging residents to participate in Earth Hour, and the town is planning to turn off nonessential lights in municipal buildings tonight.

“I think it’s a great opportunity for folks to be a little bit more in touch with the energy they’re using,” Plummer said. “Saving energy always is a good thing.”

Bridgeport Mayor Bill Finch is asking homeowners and businesses to participate tonight. The town became involved when the Student Council at Columbus Elementary School brought it to the mayor’s attention, press secretary Kaitlin Lesnick said.

“It raises awareness about global climate change and the mayor is very determined to lower Bridgeport’s carbon footprint,” she said. “The actual act of turning off your nonessential lights for one hour, it is something that saves energy, but it makes sort of a statement.”

Lesnick said that the city turns off almost all nonessential lights in government buildings over every weekend, but the mayor sent employees an e-mail Friday asking them to switch off all computers and printers and to participate at home tonight.

Ian, the Guilford boy, said his goal has been to let people know about different ways they can conserve energy.

Earth Hour takes place across the world at 8 local time tonight.

“That’s the point, it’s pretty easy for people to save power and reduce their emissions, so the fact that people aren’t doing it just means they’re not aware,” Ian said. “This is to make them aware.”

Earth Hour takes place across the world at 8 local time tonight.

Fire captain retires to focus on hometown

By Rachael Scarborough King, Register Staff
March 27, 2008

NORTH BRANFORD — Fire Chief William Seward III is retiring from his full-time position as a captain in the New Haven Fire Department.

His last day on the job is today; his official retirement date is Wednesday.

Seward, who has worked in New Haven for 30 years, said the move will allow him to spend more time on his duties as North Branford’s fire chief, a part-time position he has held since 2005.

“Up to this point, it’s been pretty difficult,” Seward, 52, said. “A majority of the work that I do as chief is often split between weekday nights and weekends.”

As fire chief, Seward’s responsibilities include compliance with state and federal regulations, purchasing equipment and managing homeland security funds. He is also the town’s emergency management director.

North Branford has a volunteer fire department, but Seward earns about $13,000 a year for his part-time work as fire chief. He said he works about 20 hours a week, but he thinks that will increase after he retires from the New Haven Fire Department.

Seward grew up in New Haven and rose to captain and training director in the department. He moved about 15 years ago to North Branford, where he lives with his wife. They have three grown children and one grandson.

In addition to his work in North Branford, Seward said he is hoping to use retirement to spend more time with his family. He also is a referee for high school and preparatory school hockey games.

He said the New Haven Fire Department’s system for retirement benefits encouraged him to retire at this time. “We probably have the best labor agreement of all fire departments in the state of Connecticut, and the retirement benefits make it very enticing to retire at this point,” he said.

Wireless device gets students involved

By Rachael Scarborough King, Register Staff
March 26, 2008

GUILFORD — Fifth-grade teacher John Montanaro is used to seeing the same set of hands shoot up when he asks questions in his classes.

But now Montanaro can hear from all his students at once, and instantly analyze their responses. Through a grant from the Guilford Fund for Education, he recently acquired 32 wireless handheld devices that allow students to answer questions with the push of a button.

Montanaro, who teaches socials studies and language arts at Abraham Baldwin Middle School, received the equipment in February. Last week, he used the response systems in class several days in a row.

In some classes, for example, students studied the best ways to respond to short-answer questions. Montanaro, whose classroom also has a built-in projector, displayed different writing samples and asked the students to rate them.

Using the handheld devices, he then made a graph showing how many students rated the samples a 1, 2 or 3.

“This gets the kids who aren’t sure of themselves and aren’t ready to raise their hands to give an answer, and it also gives me the chance at the end of a class to see where we are and are we ready to move on,” Montanaro said. “I’ll get a range of scores in a graph and then we can talk about it.”

The devices are made by a Wisconsin Rapids, Wis., company called Renaissance Learning. Montanaro is using their 2Know product, a wireless handheld system that transmits the students’ responses to a receiver on the classroom computer.

Montanaro applied for the money from the Guilford Fund for Education, which offers grants for innovative educational projects, last fall. The $2,700 he received covered 32 handheld units and two receivers, one mounted on a desktop computer and the other on a laptop that can be used throughout the school.

Joe Goldberg, a member of the Fund for Education’s board and grants committee, said that the goal of the grant is to introduce new teaching ideas to the middle school with the new equipment.

“Sometimes in a classroom a student is a little bit hesitant, wants to speak up but doesn’t, but this tool … allows the student to feel like he’s not the only one who doesn’t get it,” Goldberg said. “So that’s what I was very excited about — it really wasn’t the tool itself, but that this was bringing a new method of teaching to the Guilford public schools.”

The equipment does not have to be confined to the classroom or the school building. Montanaro said there is an option to pre-load questions onto the systems, so students on a field trip could answer questions during the visit.

Superintendent of Schools Thomas Forcella said he will watch to see what Montanaro’s experience is with the handheld devices. If they prove successful, the district could expand the program to other classes and schools.

“We’re going to look at it, see if it works and if we want to implement it in the schools,” Forcella said. “It seems fascinating what the potential might be for it.”

Montanaro is still familiarizing himself with the equipment, but he said his students have been enthusiastic about it so far. Other teachers at Baldwin will also have the opportunity to use the response systems in their classes.

And last week, the equipment helped him realize that many of his social studies students needed to learn more about the differences between the branches of government. On an in-class quiz that students answered on the handheld devices, most of them missed questions distinguishing between the legislative and executive branches.

“It would take me two or three days to compile that data — I know now in this class there are kids who need to revisit that,” he said. “The whole idea is to give me data that I can use to influence my teaching quickly, efficiently and almost on a daily basis.”

Play takes a look at life after Katrina

By Rachael Scarborough King, Register Staff
March 26, 2008

OLD SAYBROOK — The stage in Old Saybrook High School’s auditorium was filled with student actors of all ages Tuesday as the members of this weekend’s musical production performed a preview of the show.

The school is presenting a version of the musical “Once on this Island” set in post-Hurricane Katrina New Orleans. The After the Storm Foundation, which supports organizations helping young people in New Orleans, staged the musical with a cast of children and young adults from New Orleans in early 2007.

“Once on this Island” was first performed on Broadway in 1990. It is a retelling of the “Little Mermaid” fairy tale set on a Caribbean island.

Old Saybrook’s staging of the musical includes elementary and middle-school students from Kathleen E. Goodwin School and Old Saybrook Middle School, as well as the high school actors, stagehands and technicians.
Advertisement

Senior Megan Puttre, who plays earth goddess Asaka in the musical, suggested to organizers that the school perform the play this year.

She attended a summer music program at Wesleyan University, where she became friends with some students who had performed in the New Orleans production.

“We just started thinking about it, so then I became the head of the After the Storm committee,” said Puttre, 18. “Art basically is a segue out of depression into dealing with whatever problems they have.”

Maggi Dunlap, another senior in the musical, said Old Saybrook’s theater program has donated proceeds from past shows to Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS, an entertainment industry group that supports people with HIV/AIDS and other critical health issues.

“Old Saybrook is always trying to give back,” said Dunlap, 17. “This was just another way we could help our fellow thespians.”

Drama teacher Jeanne Proctor said Old Saybrook is the first high school in the country to work with the After the Storm Foundation to present “Once on this Island.”

Proctor is planning to make a donation to the foundation, although she is not sure how much the school will give.

“It’s good for my students to connect to a larger community, something outside of themselves,” Proctor said.

The musical is scheduled for 7:30 p.m. Thursday, Friday and Saturday. Tickets are $10 and can be purchased in advance at the high school or at Harbor Books on Main Street.

Art center may get $80G in state funds

By Rachael Scarborough King, Register Staff
March 25, 2008

GUILFORD — The Guilford Art Center could soon be getting help with funding for a project that would increase the number of classes the center is able to offer.

The state Bond Commission is expected to pass $80,000 in state funding to enclose a space the art center uses for stone cutting and blacksmith classes, Gov. M. Jodi Rell’s office announced.

The commission is scheduled to meet Friday.

Jean Perkins, director of the 51-year-old art center, said the money would go toward enclosing the facility’s pole barn, which covers the sculpture and blacksmith area.

The project would add sliding doors to the currently wall-less structure, which consists of a roof set on poles.

“Not many people have the space to teach blacksmithing,” Perkins said. “It’s certainly open to the elements, so what this grant is for is for enclosing it and the idea being that once it’s enclosed, we’ll be able to offer classes year-round.”

Perkins said the funding came about after state Sen. Edward Meyer, D-Guilford, visited the center last summer.

He asked Perkins to send him a description of needed capital improvements, which she did in September.

The hope is for the $80,000 to cover the entire cost of the project, although Perkins said she may have to check prices again, since the request was made more than six months ago.

She added that she is not sure when work could begin on the barn, but it could be this fall.

“We are so wildly excited and grateful and appreciative — this is just amazing,” she said.

The art center’s shop, which offers handmade items by American artists, reopened this month at the center’s main location at 411 Church St.

The shop had moved to a storefront on the Green for the holiday season, and then underwent a redesign of the Church Street space.

“We decided to really redo the shop and we have many, many new artists in the shop now and the shop is a whole different shopping experience,” Perkins said.

American chestnut tree putting down new roots

Creating a blight resistant strain is the goal of conservationists

By Rachael Scarborough King, Register Staff
March 24, 2008

GUILFORD — Walk around the forests and parks of Connecticut, and you won’t see many American chestnut trees stretching into the canopy.

One hundred years ago, blight killed as many as 4 billion of the trees, which were once common from New England to western Tennessee.

The blight, a fungus that was imported to the U.S. on Asian trees, all but wiped out the American chestnut in the early 20th century.

Now, Guilford’s Conservation Commission, along with the Connecticut Chapter of the American Chestnut Foundation, is working to establish a blight-resistant chestnut tree in a 1½-acre orchard in the town’s Nut Plains Park.

The commission is planning to spend two Saturdays in April building a fence to protect the trees from deer, and another Saturday in May planting the first 100 nuts. There is also a kickoff event March 29 at 10 a.m. at the Nathanael B. Greene Community Center to introduce the project to town residents.

Last year, volunteers planted about 20 trees as a test orchard, which proved successful. Eventually, they may sow 400 to 500 of the blight-resistant nuts in the area.

“There were billions of trees, billions of chestnut trees in the Eastern states in the 1800s,” said Jennifer Allcock, a member of the Conservation Commission and orchard manager for the tree project. “They were a primary source of food, both for animals and for people, and the chestnut wood is one of the hardest, most durable that was available.”

Since 1983, the American Chestnut Foundation has been working to establish a species of blight-resistant chestnuts by crossbreeding American trees with Chinese chestnuts, which are naturally resistant. The nuts that will be planted in Guilford are a result of that process, with about 94 percent American genes.

The goal is to produce trees that look like American chestnuts — tall and straight, with hard, lightweight wood — but “breed true” for blight resistance, meaning that future generations of chestnuts will also carry the resistant gene. Bill Adamsen, the president of the Chestnut Foundation’s Connecticut chapter, said that some American chestnuts can still be found in the Eastern United States, although most of them eventually develop blight.

Adamsen said the strong, rot-resistant chestnut wood was important for early colonists, who used it to build barns, houses and bridges.

“This is a tree that we allowed to be killed essentially by inadvertently importing a pathogen, and I think there’s a certain cultural and even a spiritual aspect about trying to restore something that we have damaged,” he said.

To create a blight-resistant American chestnut tree, scientists at the foundation’s research farms first cross-bred native trees with Chinese ones, creating a plant that had half of each tree’s genes. They then continued to breed the resulting trees with American chestnuts, arriving four generations later at a tree that is about one-sixteenth Chinese.

Volunteers in Guilford are planning to plant about 100 of those nuts in the orchard this spring. Leila Pinchot, New England regional science coordinator for the American Chestnut Foundation, said that not all of the fourth-generation trees will be resistant to the blight. The ones that are resistant will be allowed to cross-pollinate, and by the sixth generation most of the trees should be highly resistant.

After the trees have matured — which takes four to seven years — they will be exposed to the blight to test for resistance. Adamsen said the group expects that one out of every eight trees will be resistant to the blight.

The blight, which kills the trees’ tissues and blocks the flow of nutrients, does not kill the underlying roots, Pinchot said. That means that many tree stumps sprout new saplings, but they may not grow old enough to flower, which is necessary for the pollination process.

“There’s probably millions of chestnuts in Connecticut, but most of them are pretty scraggly,” said Pinchot, a Guilford native. “They’re pretty much all going to eventually succumb to the blight — it’s a matter of time.”

Nuts from one of the trees the American Chestnut Foundation used in the breeding process come from a hybrid that a Yale professor, Arthur Graves, established in Hamden in the 1930s, Pinchot said.

“Connecticut actually has a really long history with chestnut restoration,” she said. “It’s better to have Connecticut genes in our trees.”

Guilford’s will be the fifth American chestnut orchard in Connecticut. In Woodbridge, volunteers planted 168 nuts two years ago and more last year. Some of the trees there are now 4 feet tall.

Orchard officials in Woodbridge are planning another planting of 170 nuts this spring. Each round of planting uses nuts bred from a different “mother tree,” Pinchot said, so that this will be the third line of chestnuts in the Woodbridge orchard.

Allcock said the Guilford program is costing about $8,000, most of which will go toward paying for the 1,200-foot deer fence. The money comes from the American Chestnut Foundation, the town of Guilford, and the Guilford Foundation, which funds community programs.

The Conservation Commission is looking for volunteers to help put up the fence and sow the first chestnuts. They are planning to work on the fence on April 19 and 26, and plant on May 3.

“The deer fence … needs to be put up around the orchard before we start,” Allcock said. “That is expected to help us manage the orchard for the first two years — after that the trees know what to do.”

For more information on the project, visit the Web site of the American Chestnut Foundation’s Connecticut chapter at http://www.ctacf.org.