Aaron Marcavitch, the new Executive Director of Connecticut Landmarks and a Suffield resident, is a man who projects tireless energy and enthusiasm. He came to us from the Anacostia Trails Heritage Area in central Maryland, where his organization was part of a joint effort of 15 local towns to promote historic tourism, and, fortunately for us, was ready to return to New England when the position here in Connecticut opened up. Specifically, he was aware through his professional contacts that our state could boast many good museum programs, a general keen interest in history, and generous financial support for organizations such as Connecticut Landmarks.
Of course, Aaron had many choices for places to live once he had been offered the position. Why did he, his wife Andrea, and their two children choose Suffield? “Suffield’s Main Street did it for us!” he says. He wanted a rural environment but also one with access to a city and one with good schools–and he was impressed with the number of beautiful old homes he saw on his first visit. He and his family have immersed themselves in the activities that are available here; on the day of our interview, which happened to be in the middle of a violent rainstorm, he was preparing for a Boy Scout camping trip. What about the soggy ground where the group would be pitching their tents? “It’s part of the fun,” said he, without hesitation. A typical response from Aaron!
There are many successful non-profit historic organizations in Connecticut, and Marcavitch sees a need to build partnerships among them. Each one has carved out its niche and developed its own strengths and its own programs. Connecticut Landmarks owns 11 historic houses, including our own Phelps-Hatheway House and Garden. The organization gets some funding from the state, but it also relies on gifts from private donors, acquired through its annual fund, and on ticket sales and rentals for events such as weddings. It’s a fairly bare-bones budget, with only a part time administrator at the Phelps-Hatheway House, for instance, plus seasonal employees who help when needed. Limited staffing is typical at the other ten houses as well.
Marcavitch is a man with endless new ideas, percolating at the moment in his active brain, and he welcomes input from the community. Of course there are challenges shared by all the historic houses under the Landmarks ownership: lack of proper storage space, managing the various collections, and not surprisingly, finding historic tradespeople when their skills are needed. But Aaron Marcavitch is not a man overwhelmed by challenges; on the contrary, he seems to thrive on them. It will be interesting to watch his trajectory, and to support his efforts, as he moves ahead.