DARIEN — The passion Maggie McIntire has for history is evident. She can tell you off the top of her head the history behind the street she used to live on in Darien and the stories of how the town may have gotten its name.
As she walks through the historical society’s museum, the Bates-Scofield House, her eyes light up as she shows off the house’s many historic artifacts, like an 19th century playpen, and its secret passage residents used to escape British soldiers.
“Darien has the coolest history that needs to be told,” the new executive director of the Darien Historical Society said. “The Historical Society has a special mission to make local history relevant.”
McIntire, who started in August, credits her love of history to her extended family where especially her older relatives enjoyed telling stories.
“I come from a very large, Irish family,” she said. “All the relatives love to tell stories. I think that’s where my love of history was born.”
McIntire started her career by writing the first draft of history. Originally a reporter, McIntire’s job out of school was writing obituaries for The Norwalk Hour.
“I was told it was the best job to have because it’s the first page everyone read,” she joked.
McIntire met her husband, a fellow journalist, at The Hour. She went on to cover courts and work for the Hartford Courant until she and her family moved to Darien in 2003 to be closer to the city for her husband’s job at the New York Times. Then McIntire decided to go back to school to become a teacher. Between classes, she worked at Barrett Bookstore where she really dove into her longtime love of history.
“That sort of led me to my other career path,” she said of her job at the Heights Road business. “Sheila (Daley, owner of Barrett Bookstore,) is really great. She lets you follow your interests.”
McIntire became Barrett’s go-to history book expert and started developing history-based programs and events for the store, even starting their history book club. From there, she went on to work on programs at the Ferguson Library in Stamford. Before coming to the Darien Historical Society, she coordinated adult programs at the Mark Twain Library in Redding.
In 2010, McIntire and her family moved back to Ridgefield where her husband grew up, but she always remained interested in Darien’s history. When she heard about the Darien Historical Society’s search for an executive director through the grapevine, she decided to go out on the limb and apply, describing the position as “kind of a dream job.”
“It was the challenge of the executive director position and being involved with every aspect from the house to the barn to programming,” she said, referring to the society’s 1827 Scofield Barn Exhibit Hall, currently the home to “Mannequins on the Runway,” an exhibit of haute couture fashion from the 20th century.
McIntire said the society’s fall programming is already set with sessions on antique guns, witchcraft and the role of art in the American Revolution. But she’s looking forward to creating more programs, as well as promoting the work the historical society is already doing and increasing society membership.
“I have so many ideas,” she said. “There’s so many facets to this place. What amazes me is what is already here.”
McIntire credits much of her existing knowledge of Darien history to “The Story of Darien, Connecticut,” a book about the history of the town written by society historian Kenneth Reiss. She said the other volunteers at the society have also been helpful in showing her the society’s extensive collections, from historical quilts to a collection of old bottles from decades ago, all of which she’s excited to explore.
“Wherever I am, I tend to steep myself in (its history),” she said. “That’s why I have a mission to teach people about town history. It’s so rich — you can mine it forever. My mission is, especially in this position, to promote local history because it’s touchable. It’s here right around the corner.”