From 1974-76, I served on the mayor of Hamden’s Bicentennial Commission. When Hamden resident Thornton Wilder, author of the play “Our Town,” died in 1975, we arranged with his sister, Miss Isabel Wilder, to acquire the famed author’s desk and chair and significant books from his study, with the promise that we would preserve them in a reconstructed version of the author’s study.
That effort took longer than the Bicentennial Commission’s 1976 charge, so we became the “Reconstituted Bicentennial Commission” and after nine years and two more mayors we finally arranged with an architect to construct a portion of Wilder’s study in a nook in the lobby of the then new Miller Memorial Library building. It was dedicated in May 1985 with Miss Wilder attending, at age 85. She would live ten more years and endow a scholarship for an annual Thornton Wilder essay contest at the Miller Library for high school students.
Last November, the Miller Library announced a major renovation of its facility. In a world in which memorials come and go when renovations and building projects occur, I am pleased to discover that the renovation did not alter the Bicentennial Commission’s promise to Miss Wilder that if she donated her brother’s desk and memorabilia to the Town of Hamden, we would put it on permanent display.
Citizens can still view that memorial to America’s most honored writer (and Hamden resident), Thornton Wilder, in the lobby of Hamden’s Miller Memorial Library, diagonally across from the Hamden Town Hall on Dixwell Avenue. I trust that that memorial — and our promise to Miss Wilder — will long endure.
Paul D. Keane
White River Junction, Vermont