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New England Auto Museum Revs Up Efforts To Build In Norwalk

Michael Scheidel, president and CEO of the New England Auto Museum
Michael Scheidel, president and CEO of the New England Auto Museum Photo Credit: Meredith Guinness
Michael Scheidel, president and CEO of the New England Auto Museum, welcomes guests to a recent fundraiser at Stepping Stones Museum for Children.
Michael Scheidel, president and CEO of the New England Auto Museum, welcomes guests to a recent fundraiser at Stepping Stones Museum for Children. Photo Credit: Meredith Guinness

NORWALK, Conn. — If one Burlington man’s dream becomes a reality, a new museum highlighting all things auto will be rolling into Norwalk in the coming few years.

Michael Scheidel, president and CEO of the New England Auto Museum, said he is looking at a few Norwalk locations to set up the fledgling museum, possibly on Belden Avenue. Eight years in the making so far, the museum will preserve, interpret and exhibit autos and auto artifacts.

“We’ll have cars from the turn of the 20th century on up,” said Scheidel, who hopes to open the museum within the next four years.

The museum Scheidel envisions will feature antique automobiles from 1900 through 1960s, but it will also include special cars from 1961 through 1972, period-correct street rods and customs, experimental vehicles and racing cars with a New England heritage. Scheidel hopes to put the cars in perspective by also exhibiting period clothing, artwork and other artifacts related to autos.

A main goal of the museum will be education. The organization, which has an advisory board and memberships with national auto associations, is forging partnerships with Norwalk Community College and local public schools to show how it might be instrumental in teaching science, technology, math and history.

“We want to bring in the STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) side of things,” Scheidel said.

The Norwalk Redevelopment Agency offered the museum a $13,000 grant to share in the cost of a feasibility study by Massachusetts-based White Oak Associates, according to Nick Ord, the museum's marketing director.

The museum recently held a fundraiser at Stepping Stones Museum for Children, where Mayor Harry Rilling said he would throw his full support behind the museum efforts. Rilling said he sees the museum as “another part of the puzzle” that includes Stepping Stones and the Maritime Aquarium that makes Norwalk a destination for visitors.

“We want it to come to Norwalk. It would be a wonderful asset,” he said.

Connecticut is an obvious choice for an auto museum, as Hartford was once considered the center of the automobile industry, Scheidel said. The first steam-powered road wagon was made in Hartford in 1797 and the Pope Manufacturing Co. created Columbia Electric Automobiles there.

“Our goal is to educate people to the automobile industry and to Connecticut history,” Scheidel said.

For more information, visit www.neautomuseum.org .

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