Looking at Newtown with Love

Uncover Newtown's treasures through a heartfelt journey. Explore its history, resilience, and the transformative Choose Love Movement.

Leora BH Staff
May 21, 2024

A Glimpse of Newtown's History

Newtown, a town located in Connecticut, has a rich and vibrant history that dates back to the early 18th century. Let's take a closer look at the origins of Newtown and how it has evolved over time.

Origins of Newtown

Newtown's history began in 1708 when 36 men petitioned the colony's General Assembly for permission to settle a town north of Stratford, making them the first settlers. A town plat was established in 1709, with home lots distributed to the proprietors around Main Street, West Street, and Glover Avenue. The early settlers primarily came from Stratford and Milford and were farmers in their late twenties to late thirties. They built saltbox houses near the main street, reflecting the architectural style of the time [1].

Newtown's Evolution Over Time

Throughout the years, Newtown has experienced significant growth and development. In 1794, the town boasted 20 school districts, indicating the expansion of education in the area. These districts had intriguing names like Dodgingtown, Hattertown, Lake George, and Head O'Meadow, reflecting the settlement patterns of Newtown's proprietors and the town's agricultural past.

The historical significance of Newtown can be witnessed through the preservation of notable structures. One such example is the Matthew Curtiss Jr. House, which was purchased by Matthew Curtiss Jr. in 1781. Although initially believed to be the house's builder and first resident, further research revealed that the house was originally constructed around 1750. Matthew Curtiss Jr. was a Lieutenant in Connecticut's Revolutionary War militia and served Newtown in various civil offices before selling the house in 1807.

Today, the Matthew Curtiss Jr. House serves as the headquarters of the Newtown Historical Society and is open to the public as a house-museum. It is a remarkable example of Connecticut's saltbox architecture and showcases unique features such as three fireplaces, including a rare arched fireplace in the main parlor, a large basement fireplace with a built-in cupboard, and meat hooks in the attic from an old smoke oven.

The house contains a collection of furnishings from the time it was new, as well as items from later periods that help narrate Newtown's history. Visitors can explore the arrangement of rooms, which demonstrates how family possessions were accumulated over generations. The Matthew Curtiss Jr. House offers tours by costumed docents on select Sundays each month, often accompanied by living history events like open hearth cooking, candle dipping, spinning, and blacksmithing.

Newtown's history is a testament to the enduring spirit and heritage of the town. By understanding its origins and evolution, we can gain a deeper appreciation for Newtown's unique character and the stories that have shaped it over the centuries.

Tragedy and Healing in Newtown

The town of Newtown, Connecticut has experienced profound tragedy, but it has also shown immense strength and resilience in the face of adversity. The Sandy Hook Massacre, which occurred ten years ago, left the community devastated and grieving. The community's response to this tragedy has been marked by resilience and a commitment to remembrance.

The Sandy Hook Massacre

Ten years ago, on a fateful day, a gunman took the lives of twenty first graders and six adults at Sandy Hook Elementary School, leaving Newtown and the nation in shock. The tragedy sent shockwaves throughout the United States, highlighting the urgent need for addressing gun violence and its impact on communities.

The Sandy Hook Massacre was a turning point, leading to increased conversations about sensible reforms to prevent such devastating events from occurring again. Unfortunately, school shootings have become more common, and the U.S. has faced more mass shootings in the last five years than any comparable time span dating back to 1966. The tragedy in Newtown serves as a reminder of the ongoing societal challenges surrounding gun violence.

Community Resilience and Remembrance

In the face of unimaginable grief, the community of Newtown has shown tremendous strength and resilience. The town has come together to support one another, heal, and honor the memories of those lost. Ten years after the Sandy Hook Massacre, a memorial was unveiled in Newtown as a silent marker of the tragedy and a call to engage the collective memory in moving forward towards healing and unity.

This community's resilience is also evident in the Choose Love Movement, which emerged from the devastating tragedy. The movement, named after Jesse Lewis, a young victim of the Sandy Hook Massacre, focuses on spreading the message of "nurturing healing love" [3]. Over the past decade, the Jesse Lewis Choose Love Movement has reached over three million people across more than 120 countries, emphasizing the importance of teaching children essential life skills through free Character Social Emotional Development programming.

While the tragedy of the Sandy Hook Massacre will always be a part of Newtown's history, the community has embraced remembrance while also focusing on moving forward. Through resilience, unity, and initiatives like the Choose Love Movement, Newtown continues to inspire others and offer hope to those in need.

The journey of Newtown, from tragedy to healing, serves as a testament to the strength of the human spirit and the power of community support.

The Choose Love Movement

In the wake of the tragic events that took place in Newtown, a movement emerged with a mission to spread love and nurture healing. The Choose Love Movement, named after Jesse Lewis, who tragically lost his life at Sandy Hook Elementary School, focuses on promoting the message of "nurturing healing love" that Jesse left on his kitchen chalkboard.

Jesse Lewis Choose Love Initiative

The Jesse Lewis Choose Love Initiative is at the heart of the Choose Love Movement. This initiative aims to teach children and individuals essential life skills through free Character Social Emotional Development programming. The program equips participants with tools to build resilience, make positive choices, and foster healthy relationships. By integrating the principles of love, gratitude, forgiveness, and compassion, the initiative seeks to create a more compassionate and connected society.

Impact and Reach of the Movement

Since its inception, the Jesse Lewis Choose Love Movement has made a significant impact worldwide. Over the past decade, this Newtown-based nonprofit cause has reached over three million people in more than 120 countries. The movement's commitment to spreading love and teaching essential life skills has resonated with individuals and communities far beyond its origins.

The Choose Love Movement has become an annual campaign known as Choose Love Awareness Month, which aims to raise awareness about the movement and the importance of teaching children essential life skills through its free programming. Each year, this campaign encourages individuals to participate in positive actions such as walking, meditating, and helping others to overcome negative feelings.

To further engage and inspire young minds, the movement organizes an art contest for elementary, middle, and high school students as part of Choose Love Awareness Month. This contest encourages students to create artwork that showcases how they turn negative feelings or experiences into positive actions through various activities or interactions. By empowering children to express their thoughts and emotions through art, the movement encourages them to embrace love and kindness as transformative forces in their lives.

The Choose Love Movement continues to make a profound impact, spreading love, compassion, and healing not only in Newtown but across the globe. Through its initiatives and outreach efforts, it serves as a powerful reminder of the resilience and strength of the human spirit.

Addressing Societal Challenges

In the wake of the tragedy that struck Newtown, the community has been confronted with various societal challenges that extend beyond the immediate aftermath of the Sandy Hook massacre. Newtown, like many communities in the United States, has grappled with the issue of gun violence and the need for sensible reforms. Additionally, the town has been focused on healing divisions and fostering unity in the face of adversity.

Gun Violence and Sensible Reforms

The Sandy Hook massacre brought the issue of gun violence to the forefront of national conversation. Since that tragic event, school shootings have unfortunately become more common, prompting individuals to imagine how they would react in such situations. The United States has witnessed an alarming increase in mass shootings, surpassing any comparable time span dating back to 1966, highlighting the urgent need to address the escalating gun violence.

There is a consensus among Americans, regardless of their background or political beliefs, that sensible gun reform is necessary. A Pew Research Center survey conducted shortly after the Newtown shootings revealed that about half of Americans prioritized controlling gun ownership, while a significant portion believed in protecting the right of Americans to own guns. This marked a notable shift in public opinion, with more Americans emphasizing the importance of gun control.

Healing Divisions and Building Unity

While the tragedy in Newtown brought the community together in grief and resilience, it also shed light on the divisions present in society. Newtown, like many other communities, has faced challenges such as a growing mental health crisis, a loneliness epidemic, divisive politics, disparities, and addiction issues like opioids, meth, and fentanyl. These challenges reflect larger societal problems that extend beyond mass shootings [2].

Addressing these issues requires a collective effort to rebuild the civic fabric and foster shared responsibility. Building a better society involves actively working together to create a fair, just, inclusive, and hopeful future for everyone. Newtown has shown resilience and a commitment to healing divisions within the community and beyond, serving as an example for others facing similar challenges.

By addressing gun violence through sensible reforms and focusing on healing divisions and building unity, Newtown strives to create a safer and more inclusive society. The community's response to these challenges serves as a reminder of the importance of coming together to effect positive change and promote a society that values the well-being and safety of all its members.

Newtown Documentary: "Newtown"

The documentary film "Newtown" provides an intimate portrayal of grief and resilience in the community affected by the tragic 2012 Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting. Directed and co-produced by Kim Snyder, the film focuses on how the community learned to function in the aftermath of devastation.

Portrayal of Grief and Resilience

"Newtown" chronicles the journey of the Newtown community with a focus on resilience rather than enforcing a narrative of healing. The film aims to capture the dignity and resolve of the people of Newtown, highlighting their determination to be remembered as a community of meaningful change, not just tragedy.

One notable aspect of the documentary is the intentional decision not to name or focus on the shooter. This choice was made to stand in solidarity with the community, shifting the attention away from the perpetrator and towards the collective grief and long-term aftermath experienced by Newtown [5].

Impact on Conversations and Actions

"Newtown" has sparked conversations and prompted action in various communities, influencing individuals from diverse backgrounds, including NRA members, urban victims of gun violence, teachers, police officers, and trauma surgeons. Through screenings of the documentary, a shift and progress in the conversation around gun control have been observed. The film has moved audiences profoundly and inspired shared grief and resolve to make change.

The positive critical response and wide reception of "Newtown" have helped to reach universal audiences and specific stakeholder sub-communities represented in the film. The hope is to foster meaningful dialogue and action, moving people out of denial and towards open conversations about gun violence prevention.

The impact of the documentary extends beyond Newtown, as it has inspired conversations and actions in different communities, contributing to a larger movement for change and awareness surrounding gun violence prevention.

"Newtown" serves as a powerful testament to the strength of the Newtown community and their commitment to turning tragedy into an opportunity for meaningful transformation. Through its portrayal of grief and resilience, the documentary has become a catalyst for dialogue and action, igniting a collective drive to address the issue of gun violence and work towards a safer and more compassionate society.

Newtown Today

After enduring the unimaginable tragedy of the Sandy Hook Massacre, Newtown, Connecticut, has shown remarkable strength and resilience as a community. Today, Newtown stands as a testament to the power of unity, support, and hope in the face of adversity.

Community Strength and Support

Newtown, known for its diverse and unique community, has come together in the wake of the tragedy to support one another. Residents of Newtown have demonstrated unwavering strength, offering support and random acts of kindness to each other. The community has adorned the town with signs calling for prayers, makeshift memorials with stuffed animals, candles, and flowers, and store windows displaying messages of hope and support.

Moving Forward with Hope

Despite the deep wounds caused by the tragedy, Newtown has shown a commitment to moving forward with hope. The town has embraced the Choose Love Movement, inspired by the Jesse Lewis Choose Love Initiative. This movement aims to foster social and emotional learning, resilience, and compassion in schools and communities.

Through the Choose Love Movement, Newtown has demonstrated its dedication to addressing societal challenges and promoting healing. The community has actively engaged in conversations about gun violence, advocating for sensible reforms to prevent similar tragedies in the future. Newtown has also emphasized the importance of healing divisions and building unity, seeking to create a more inclusive and compassionate society.

In the face of unimaginable grief and loss, Newtown has chosen to honor the memories of those affected by the tragedy by embracing love, resilience, and hope. The community's strength and determination serve as an inspiration to others, reminding us of the power of unity and compassion in times of adversity. Newtown continues to move forward, carrying the memories of the past while building a brighter future.


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