This past summer, we announced our newest oral history initiative entitled Coming to Windsor. The project highlights the stories of individuals who migrated to Windsor and shaped the town’s ever-changing history. Thus far, we have collected narratives from several residents, each of whom shared their unique journey to Windsor as well as their immersion in the local community. Here’s a sneak peek at some of the discussions that took place and the individuals who contributed their stories.
Thomas Stringer pictured during virtual Coming to Windsor interview.
Thomas Stringer is a native New Yorker and a third-generation immigrant, as his grandmother and grandfather came from South America and Barbados respectively. He spent most of his childhood living in Queens, New York City’s largest borough, which meant that moving to Connecticut for college was quite an adjustment.
“Attending Connecticut College was an interesting experience because this is back in the 80s,” Thomas stated. “I think Connecticut College back then had under 2,000 students on campus and approximately 50 of those were minority students. So it was a good experience, but again, we were in an environment where a lot of the colleges [had] a smaller minority population.”
After completing his bachelor’s degree in economics, Thomas went on to live in numerous places along the east coast, including Washington D.C., Atlanta, and Fort Lauderdale. He eventually settled in Connecticut after landing his current job as the general manager of CT Transit, and Windsor was immediately his first choice. “You’re going to laugh when I say this, but the wildlife is kind of amazing,” Thomas chuckled. “I’ve seen deer, rabbits, coyotes. […] And then you see the birds in the estuary, so that’s kind of cool.”
Thomas also expressed his appreciation for the walkable and people-friendly community, as well as the town’s rich history. As a history buff himself, he enjoys reading about the origins of street names in Windsor and learning about the bridges that once stood on Palisado Avenue. “There’s a sense of history that’s true and it’s being preserved, hence what we’re doing now.”
Gregory and Di VanHouten being interviewed for the Coming to Windsor project in their home.
Di and Gregory VanHouten lived two different lives before finding each other. As a so-called “military brat,” Di moved around quite a bit as a child, living in places like Colorado and California before coming to Hartford, Connecticut to attend high school.
Meanwhile, Gregory was born and raised in Newington, Connecticut and later moved to West Simsbury. Gregory has lived in many countries throughout his life, including Japan, Italy, and Serbia, most of them due to his service in the Marine Corps. When asked how Windsor compares to those places, Gregory responded: “What I do like about Windsor that you don’t have in Japan or Italy or anywhere else is it’s a very multicultural community. And for the most part, everyone gets along with each other. I really haven’t seen that anywhere else in any other country to this extent.”
Di elaborated similar sentiments, mentioning diversity as one of the standout characteristics of Windsor. They both referred to Windsor as a melting pot and spoke of the importance of this as a mixed-race couple. Di also spoke of her involvement in the community, as she currently serves on the Friends of Northwest Park Committee and the Windsor sector of the Hartford Foundation of Giving Committee.
The pair first met while attending their children’s karate class in Windsor, and they eventually got married in 2012 and blended their families. “The first year that [I] moved to Windsor, Windsor had an event, Nightmare on Broad Street,” Di recalled. “I had a toddler who was two and a baby who was two months, and it was the biggest event I had ever seen in a community. […] It was the greatest thing, and it made me love Windsor.”
Each contribution made to our Coming to Windsor project has helped us build a cohesive narrative about this town through the experiences of its inhabitants. For more information on this initiative, visit this page or reach out to us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
By Sulema DePeyster, Community History Specialist, 2023