Thomas Fatone calls Shelton home but he has a special connection to the other 168 towns and cities in the state.
Over the last 13 years he has visited every state municipality and turned the experience into a self-published book, The Signs of Connecticut. He visited each town and city, taking a photo of its blue history sign.
“It just happened,” the 44-year-old said of his quest to see every sign. “It started out as a hobby and I thought ‘You know, this could be a book’ so I started documenting my adventure.”
It started with a Trumbull sign, close to the Bridgeport border, where he grew up.
“I was always curious what it said,” Fatone said. “So one day I stopped and looked at it and took a picture.”
He started to do the same while visiting other towns.
“It just transpired into this journey,” he said.
It helps that he knows state highways pretty well, as he is a traffic coordinator with the state Department of Transportation. The visits turned into more than just looking for a sign. He ate at local restaurants, visited historical sites and talked with the locals. He shares facts about the community and stories about his experience in the book.
“I’m not going to drive all the way to Pomfret to just take a picture and leave,” he said.
One of his favorite destinations is East Haddam, because of the history and the sights to see like the Goodspeed Opera House.
He is also a fan of Brooklyn, Connecticut.
“I think our Brooklyn is a lot more fun than the one in New York,” Fatone said. “Some people in Fairfield County don’t even know there is a Brooklyn, Connecticut.”
Brooklyn has the oldest agricultural fair in the country and is located along one of the state’s most scenic drives, Route 169, he said.
Sometimes the signs were hard to find, but he didn’t give up. The sign in North Branford was particularly difficult. Turned out it had been taken to the town’s Public Works garage after a car ran it over. He made a few calls and was able to stop by the garage to take a photo.
After a story ran about him in a local newspaper, his reputation began to precede him.
“Once I was in the middle of the Torrington Town Green and I struck up a conversation with some local town elders on a park bench and one of them said ‘Oh, you’re the sign guy,’” he said.
The final piece of his puzzle was the Hartford sign. It took some time but he was eventually able to get a photo of himself and then Gov. Jodi Rell with the sign.
Fatone’s book is on display at The Big E’s Connecticut Building.
You may find his book by visiting Lulu.com and searching Tom Fatone, The Signs of Connecticut.
He hopes his journey will encourage more people to visit other communities.
“More people should get out there,” he said. “Not everyone is an explorer but it’s good to drive around and check things out.”