Nellie McKnight Museum getting upgrades with help from community

Ellington — Most Ellington residents have at least heard of Nellie McKnight, who was born in town in 1894, taught school in Ellington, and worked at the Hall Memorial Library for many years.

The Ellington Historical Society, with the help of local businesses and volunteers, is revamping McKnight’s home and fitting it to be a more complete museum, while also holding a holiday gift sale through Christmas.


The Nellie McKnight Museum is located in McKnight’s home at 70 Main St., which was originally built in 1912. The McKnight family moved into the house in 1922.

McKnight remained single her entire life, and went to college at Mt. Holyoke, and then returned home to help her father’s business as the middleman for shipping products to local farms. McKnight herself was a historian who started the Ellington Historical Society in the 1960s and donated her house as a museum (and everything within it that she owned) to the society upon her death in 1981.


There was a changing of the guard on the Ellington Historical Society’s Board of Directors in early 2020, and the new board has completely renovated the museum’s exhibits and mercantile shop. But, it didn’t do it by itself. The generosity of many local business people has made the “new-look” historical museum more functional and eye-pleasing.

The mercantile gift shop has been open since this past spring, and has been doing well, according to Dianne Trueb, the current vice president of the Ellington Historical Society’s Board of Directors.

“When we get people in, they love it,” she said.

The biggest renovations have come in an windfall of support from local businesses. Trueb said local companies donated goods and services to install a new driveway, a septic system, and more.

“These companies just gave to us,” Trueb said. “This is huge. The community just came around to help.”

Other recent renovations include a new nursery, featuring old toys and children’s items.

“This was just not a finished room,” Trueb said. “It was just full of papers. It was a huge project. We put in a ceiling and painted the whole thing.”

The Ellington Historical Society also received two $5,000 grants from CT Humanities - the first was to create a farm exhibit and second was to hire a professional to prepare a three-year strategic plan with the Board of Directors. Trueb said that the goal is to make the museum more interesting and to draw return visitors by rotating exhibits and holding more events.


“When we get people in, they love it. You have to change an exhibit and keep having events, to keep people coming back,” she said. “We are planning to make our schedule in January. We’ll probably be closing down for January and February, to make our new exhibit for next year.”

To help raise money for the ongoing renovations, the Historical Society is holding holiday gift shops, selling donated and consignment items. The Holiday Marketplace is open on Saturdays from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., Black Friday, Nov. 26 from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., during Winterfest on Dec. 4. from 10 a.m. to 7:30 p.m., and on Sunday, Dec. 19 from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.

Among the many donated renovations were: Barber Utlities and Star Valley Construction contributed the museum’s new driveway; Basch Stone Masonry added new steps to the museum’s entrance; Nutmeg Stairs and cabinets installed a stair railing; Kloter Farms donated a large storage shed, for which SD Construction supplied the pad; Green Electric installed electrical work in the barn, and Wattsaver Lighting Products provided lights; Earthlight Technologies lent the society a tent for its flea market; Homestead Comfort provided oil and furnace repairs, new bathroom fixtures and heating oil; Katherine Hemingway provided mulch for landscaping; Jennifer Smyth donated items to the gift shop; Ski’s Handyman Services provided railings to the back porch and repaired the children’s room’s ceiling; H and D Welding repaired the railings at both of the museum’s entrances and Skips Wastewater Services provided the new septic tank.

For more information, visit