Norfolk in the Great War


One hundred years ago on April 6, 1917, the United States entered the Great War. Life in Norfolk quickly changed. The Norfolk unit of the Connecticut Home Guard mustered with 58 enlisted men. The Eldridge Gymnasium (now Town Hall) became an armory and the setting for outdoor drills with a rifle range set up on the rocky ledge behind Fox Hill, home of the Bridgman family on Litchfield Road. Dr. Dennis offered the use of his hilltop bungalow as an observation station and four acres of land for the cultivation of crops. Throughout the war, Norfolk was active on the home front with women sewing surgical dressings, knitting hospital garments, and canning for food conservation. Fund-raising drives, rummage sales, and benefit entertainments became monthly events. 79 young men and one woman from Norfolk served in the military. Eight lost their lives.

The exhibition Norfolk in the Great War documents activities in Norfolk on the home front as well as the thoughts and experiences of Norfolk servicemen and women through diaries, letters written home from the front lines, and military service questionnaires completed by war veterans. There are also stories about Norfolk men who played a pivotal role during the war, men such as Frederic Walcott who traveled to Poland in 1916 as a member of the United States Commission and wrote about the devastation and decimation of the Polish people. And there is the unique story of the Norfolk man who was impersonated by a German spy. A collection of stunning original World War I posters is featured in the exhibition.

The exhibition opens Saturday, May 27, and is open Saturdays and Sundays from 1:00 to 4:00 pm until Columbus Day.