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Historical Commission seeks to host more 350 lectures

Dr. Robert Brown delivering a lecture titled “A History of Downtown Westfield” to a packed crowd. (Photo by Lori Szepelak)

WESTFIELD- The Historical Commission announced Monday it would like to host four or five more Westfield 350 Historical Lectures in the coming months.

While Commission Chair Cindy Gaylord emphasized that nothing was set in stone yet, she said that they had reached out to some potential lecturers who may be willing do participate. The plan is to continue hosting the lectures on Wednesdays at 6:30 p.m. in the First Congregational Church.

“The Westfield 350th Historical Lecture Committee has chosen to host four or five more lectures in the Fall of 2019 and Spring of 2020,” said Gaylord in a written letter, “The public response was so positive that we wanted to continue the momentum of the 2018-2019 lectures.”

Fourteen lectures were held over the course of the Westfield 350th birthday celebrations. Each lecture touched upon a specific part of the city’s history and was delivered by local historians, professors, or longtime residents.

The commissioners discussed the possible lecturers, some of whom had given one of the lectures earlier this year.

Walter Powell, who gave a lecture on the life of Reverend Edward Taylor, has offered to come back to discuss the Western Massachusetts involvement in the American Civil War.

Robert Brown, who gave both the first and final of the Westfield 350 lectures, may also return to discuss the missionaries from Westfield who traveled to Hawaii.

“I was looking, it’s amazing how many congregational churches are in Hawaii. It’s because of the missionaries from Westfield who went there in the 1800s,” said Gaylord.

The First Congregational Church’s organist, Allen Taylor, offered to deliver a lecture as well. Taylor has done a lot of research on the architecture of the church and has offered to give a lecture on that topic. Gaylord floated the idea of tying in the architecture of other churches in the city as well.

Gaylord said that Harry Rock suggested a lecture on all of the old burying grounds located around Westfield. She noted that Rock asked her to do it, but she said that Robert Brown would be a good choice as well.

The final suggestion was to have Police Capt. Michael McCabe give a lecture on the Pure Foods Murder, the only unsolved murder in Westfield’s history. A college professor was found shot dead in his home in Westfield in 1940. Captain McCabe happens to be giving a lecture on the same topic at the Athenaeum on Wednesday, where he said he may be presenting new evidence in the case.

Gaylord said that McCabe’s lecture on Wednesday is expected to be sold out with 125 seats, so there would be enough interest to do another one.

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