Alexie Petrov, 11, of Woodbridge, was named the 2020 winner of the Young Writers Competition sponsored by the Lockwood Mathews Mansion and Museum in Norwalk. Due to the pandemic, Alexie will be honored at an award ceremony in early January 2022, along with the three 2021 winners.
The theme in 2020 was “What in the Mansion Is This,” and it challenged the young writers to identify certain items in the Victorian-era mansion, determine what they were used for, and then include them in a fun, fictional story.
According to its website, the Lockwood Mathews Mansion was built by railroad tycoon LeGrand Lockwood from 1864-1868, and was considered a technological marvel of its time: it had indoor hot and cold plumbing, gas lighting, ventilation and a central heating system that burned a ton of coal a day. In 1876 the property was sold to Charles D. Mathews, whose family lived there until 1938. In 1941, the estate was sold to the City of Norwalk and designated a public park.
Among the items they had to identify were a Victorian call bell, which would set off a bell in the servants’ quarters and not only beckon help, but also indicated where the help was needed, said Education Program Director Iliana Begetis. Luckily, the museum had pictures of the items on its website, so the competition could continue even after the museum closed its doors to the public in late March 2020 due to the general lockdown.
Begetis remembered fondly the story that Alexie submitted, saying it integrated dialogue, and was very advanced for a young writer who was in third grade at the time. “It was so fun to read,” she said.