Marian Anderson, Connecticut's Voice of Freedom
On Sunday, June 13, 2004 the Connecticut Trust for Historic Preservation and the Danbury Museum and Historical Society will host a gala celebration in honor of the restoration and reopening of African-American opera singer Marian Anderson's rehersal studio in historic downtown Danbury.
Marian Anderson, one of the greatest contraltos of the Twentieth Century, is not only remembered as the woman who broke the color barrier at the Metropolitan Opera House, but was a long time resident of Danbury who supported local arts and music programs. She may best be remembered for her concert on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial in 1939 following the refusal of the Daughters of the American Revolution to let her perform at Constitution Hall because of her color. She also sang at the presidential inauguration of John F. Kennedy in 1960. Her grace, dignity, resolve, and talent made her a role model to many aspiring African Americans and performers.
The studio, which is listed on Connecticut's African American Freedom Trail, has just completed a full-scale restoration and will be open to public. The site will feature clothing, scripts and other artifacts of one of America's most renowned classical and spiritual singers. Anderson and her husband, architect Orpheus Fisher purchased a 48-acre farm in Danbury in 1943 and called it Marianna Farm. They raised livestock and used the farm as their country retreat. Fisher designed and built Marian a studio for her to rehearse in undisturbed. It featured a curved ceiling, mini kitchen, bath and fireplace and was said to be a private retreat from her public life. She was active in community affairs and is remembered by many local residents for her kindness and warmth and contributions to the City of Danbury. Marian retired from the stage in 1965 and resided at Marianna Farm until shortly before her death in 1993.
The grand re-opening of the studio caps a long and often precarious saga of a small building standing in the way of big development. Following Marian Anderson's death in 1993, a developer proposed a new subdivision on the property with the main road going through the studio location. In 1996 the Connecticut Trust for Historic Preservation was so concerned about the building's future that it was designated as one of the state's Most Important Threatened Historic Places. The studio was donated to the Danbury Museum, but it would have to be relocated. In 1999 it was moved to the Historical Society's campus on Main Street. It took a number of years to secure funding, permits and contractors and in the fall of 2002 work commenced. Today the building stands as tangible link to one of America's and Danbury's most exceptional artists and inspiring women.
For information on the Marian Anderson gala event click here: Marian Anderson, Connecticut's Voice of Freedom