This painting of the Connecticut River looking north across present-day Forest Park has been a treasured item of the Longmeadow Historical Society for many years. Enjoying pride of place over the mantel in the parlor, the front hall, and other locations, it was painted by Joseph Antonio Hekking, circa 1876.
Storrs House Parlor
Hekking Portrait Displayed Above Mantle
Joseph Hekking was born in the Netherlands in 1830, studied in Paris, and died in New York in 1903. He lived in Cherry Valley, NY in 1859, and taught painting at the Cherry Valley Female Academy. Hekking served in the Civil War with a New York regiment. He lived in Hartford, CT from 1873-1878, where he met Professor Richard Salter Storrs. Professor Storrs was a teacher, along with his sister Sarah, at the formerly named American Asylum for the Deaf and Dumb, now The American School for the Deaf. The vista that Hekking painted--a view of the Connecticut River Valley looking north toward Mt. Tom--was still largely private land. In 1884, Orick H. Greenleaf offered 65 acres for a park to be named Forest Park. Businessman Everett H. Barney donated another 178 acres. They convinced others to donate more land until the park ultimately measured 735 acres. Much of this land was located in the nearby town of Longmeadow, just to the south.
I can picture Hekking setting up his easel on the hill near the Picknelly Baseball field just at the entrance to Forest Park and Interstate 91. You can see what looks like bucolic farmland stretching out toward the city of Springfield, and you can just make out a train emerging from the trees. A covered bridge is visible in the distance, and to the far right, Mt. Tom.
Contributed by Betsy McKee, Board Member, Longmeadow Historical Society
Originally published November 5, 2020