Legacy of a Winchester Rifle Heiress - The Community Foundation of Greater New Haven

Legacy of a Winchester Rifle Heiress

Anne Hope Bennett.

Anne Hope Bennett, Caroline Silverthau and Nettie J. Dayton were contemporaries, but Bennett lived a much more “modern” life. Her grandfather, Oliver Winchester was the gun manufacturer whose factories employed many people in New Haven. 

Born in 1810, Winchester was a carpenter, builder, and haberdasher before coming to New Haven in 1848. His first local business was a shirt factory. In 1855, pursuing his interest in guns, he bought the rights to manufacture a rifle. With some tinkering, Winchester perfected that rifle and soon added other guns. Winchester made rifles used in the Civil War and other conflicts of the late 19th and early 20th centuries. As a prominent factory owner, Winchester felt responsible for the welfare of his employees, and even for those in the city not in his employ. When New Haven Mayor Henry G. Lewis created the Board of Associated Charities in 1878, there was a place on that board for Oliver Winchester.

The Winchesters had three children, Ann Rebecca, William Wirt, and Hannah Jane. Hannah Jane married Yale graduate Thomas Grey Bennett and they had three children, Anne Hope—who was born in 1874—Winchester, and Eugene.

Anne Hope Bennett attended Miss Porter’s School in Farmington. She lived graciously in an architecturally distinguished home on Prospect Street, where she organized dinners, brunches, and receptions for musicians, artists, and friends in the clergy. An advocate of sacred music and art, Bennett attended and supported Christ Church, Center Church, the Church of the Redeemer, St. John’s Episcopal Church, and the Berkeley Divinity School. At her home, always generous in the tradition of her grandfather Winchester, Anne Hope Bennett was not above making the ostentatiously dramatic gift if it could inspire donors to give as well.

After her death in 1942, $306,000 from Bennett’s estate went to the Union and New Haven Trust Company as trustee for the New Haven Foundation. Though some of her chosen organizations have consolidated since then, The Foundation has always found causes that conform to the spirit of her intentions: preventing or curing sickness in New Haven. For example, the Bennett Fund has helped The Foundation to shape its long partnership with the local and Regional Visiting Nurse Association. In 1986 the Board approved a contribution from the Bennett Fund to support a new Foundation initiative, the Commission on Child and Infant Health, a partnership between The Foundation and New Haven’s Health Department, to promote infant health and healthy child development, and to reduce infant death and disability. A “grandchild” of this Commission is today’s New Haven Healthy Start program.

What would you like your legacy to be? A permanent endowment will benefit your community for generations. To learn more, please contact Angela Powers at apowers@cfgnh.org or 203-777-7068.

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