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Waverly Urn Was Inn’s Hallmark Of Elegance

December 18, 2010 by Josh Morgan

The historic Waverly Inn was the place to be in Connecticut during the early 20th century. With a hotel, ballroom, massive dining room, and entertainment, the Waverly was a hotbed for residents or those just passing through rural Cheshire. Opened around 1896, the Waverly expanded after its original owner purchased some nearby land. During this time, there was billiards and even a two-lane bowling alley.
In 1912, a fire destroyed the Inn and, after it was rebuilt, a dining menu was created and the building expanded yet again. Unfortunately, on Feb. 11, 1952, another fire struck the Waverly Inn and completely destroyed the wood-framed building. The only item that was salvaged from the ashes was a large urn that was used to display fresh flowers in the Waverly’s lobby. That item, the sole possession that was not consumed by flames, was donated to the Cheshire Historical Society in 1981, but it has hardly ever been put on exhibit. However, this weekend, during the Historical Society’s holiday open house, the urn will be on full display, and adorned with greens, winterberry, and red birch sticks, courtesy of the Suburban Garden Club.
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It’s going to be displayed here on Sunday,” said Mary Ellen Kania, curator of the Cheshire Historical Society. “It used to be out all the time at the Waverly with fresh flowers. The urn was also pictured in all their advertisements and menus.” Edythe Ricciuti, who ran the Waverly with her husband for many years, was responsible for the decorative urn and its many floral bouquets before, and after, the fire of 1952. When the Inn was rebuilt over the following eight months, it was expanded and incorporated furniture and fixtures such as a dining room chandelier from the Grand Hotel in Saratoga, N.Y. The new Inn could now accommodate 1,200 people, and those who came to the Waverly were greeted by the urn. “This was the place to be in Connecticut. Thousands came here,” Kania stated. “The Waverly held all the big events, like dinners and banquets.” Ricciuti, who died last month, had a picture of the urn adorned with flowers featured on her funeral service program. The old Waverly Inn used to occupy the entire building on Maple Avenue, but now the bar and restaurant is roughly a third of its original size. The additional square-footage was used for offices and retail space in the mid- to late-1980s. When the Historical Society obtained the urn, it was immediately catalogued with an item number and a brief description. However, it has rarely been displayed because of its size and the limited space at the Hitchcock-Phillips House. The massive cloisonné urn shows the signs of an item that survived a fire, with some charred remnants left on the inside. The urn is two pieces: a large base and a smaller, removable portion that can be decorated and reinstalled. Kania said it always made for a “lovely centerpiece” and those who frequented the Waverly many years ago would remember it fondly. Attendees at the party this weekend will be in for a treat because the urn is rarely seen any longer, Kania stated. “It’s quite a historical piece. We are lucky to have it here,” Kania explained. “Mrs. Ricciuti was really known for her flowers so we wanted to have it decorated for our holiday party.” The Cheshire Historical Society holiday open house is this Sunday, Dec. 17, from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. at the Hitchcock-Phillips House on Church Drive, near the First Congregational Church. More information on the Historical Society can be found online at www.cheshirehistory.org.
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