Town historian re-appointed for second term

By Evan Pajer - Staff Writer
East Hartford - posted Thu., Jan. 10, 2013
The Selden-Brewer House was one of the buildings Raymond Johnson campaigned to protect during his time with the East Hartford Historical Society. Photo by Evan Pajer.
The Selden-Brewer House was one of the buildings Raymond Johnson campaigned to protect during his time with the East Hartford Historical Society. Photo by Evan Pajer.

On Jan. 2, East Hartford's Town Council re-appointed Raymond Johnson for a second term as municipal historian. Johnson currently serves on the town's Historic District Commission, and has worked with the town's historical society in the past.

"Whenever any research needs to be done on a building, I do it," Johnson said. In the past, Johnson has been responsible for defending several historical buildings in the town against demolition. One such building was the Selden-Brewer House, which the town had marked for demolition in the 1980s. Johnson, who was president of the town's historical society at the time, fought to save the building. "We fought the demolition, and it got moved to the corner of Naubuc and Main St. That's now the home of the East Hartford Historical Society," he said.

Last year, Johnson campaigned against the demolition of a building next to Town Hall. "It was a typical Main Street building for any town anywhere," Johnson said of the structure, which was formerly a family-owned grocery store before becoming an annex to Town Hall. "We thought it would be advantageous to have it preserved, but the town deemed it too far gone to restore."

Johnson has also worked to build interest in the town's history. Three years ago, he wrote a book detailing the history of East Hartford for the town's Rotary Club, and last year he worked with the historical society to make a calendar of historical buildings in the town. "I've given numerous speeches to different organizations around town, trying to make people aware of and proud of the town's history," Johnson said.

Johnson said he has also tried to promote East Hartford's historical value as a "trolley-car town," one of several areas in the state that was serviced by a trolley car system more than 200 years ago. Johnson said the trolley system had a stop near where Town Hall stands today, before it was removed in the 1930s in favor of a bus system. "They thought it was a better choice to have buses run by diesel, but it was a bad decision because of World War II and fuel shortages. They would have been better off if they had kept the trolleys," Johnson said.

Johnson taught history in East Hartford schools for 35 years before his retirement in 2001. He taught at three schools - Langford Elementary, Stevens (now Synergy High School), and Hockanum Elementary. "My interest in history was generated by the fact that when my students were studying American history, they would get interested and I would look into the history of the town," Johnson said. During his time in the school system, Johnson said he would often take his students on tours of the city to examine historical buildings.


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