Hats Heros and History

Towns: Danbury, New Fairfield, Sherman, Bethel, Redding, Ridgefield

Full Day Tour.

Directions:

Take Exit 5 off I-84. Take a left off the exit onto Rte. 39 north (Clapboard Ridge Rd. changes to Ball Pond Rd.). In 2.5 mi., take a right onto Gillotti Road. At the intersection of Gillotte Rd., bear left to the next stop sign then bear right at the stop sign onto Rte. 39 north. At the intersection of Rte. 37 and Rte. 39 in New Fairfield continue on Rte. 39 north to Sherman. At the jct. of Rte. 37 and Rte. 39 in Sherman continue on Rte. 39 north to explore the center of Sherman* . At the split of Rte. 37 and Rte. 39, in Sherman, take Rte. 37 south toward Danbury. In Danbury continue on Rte. 37 south (Padanaram Rd.) and North St. (Rte. 37) go under the overpass of I-84. At the junction of Rte. 37 (North St.) and Rte. 53 (Main St.) take a left onto Rte. 53 south (Main St.). In a half -mile, take a left on White Street to the Railroad Museum and Dining and Entertainment District. Retrace your steps take a left on Main St. (Rte. 53). At the intersection of South St.*, Main St. and Rte. 53, take a left onto Rte. 53 south toward Bethel. At the junction of Rte. 53 and Rte 302, bear left onto Rte. 302 east to Bethel. At the junction of Rte. 302 and Rte. 58, take Rte. 58 south toward Putnam State Park*. At the intersection of Rte. 58 and Rte. 107*, take Rte. 107 south to Redding. At the junction of Rte. 107/Rte. 53, take a left on Rte. 107/53 south; at the split of Rte. 107/53, take a right onto Rte. 107 south to Georgetown. In Georgetown, at the junction of Rte. 107 and Rte. 57, take Rte. 57 to Rte. 7 north. At the junction of Rte. 7 and Rte. 102 take a left onto Rte. 102 west to Ridgefield*. At the junction of Rte. 102 and Rte. 35, in Ridgefield take Rte. 35 south for .4 mi. to visit the Keeler Tavern. Afterward, take Rte. 35 north passing the Aldridge Museum. At the junction of Rte. 35 and Rte. 116* continue on Rte. 35 north toward Danbury. At the jct. of Rte. 35 and Rte. 7, take Rte. 7 north to Danbury. To visit the Military Museum take Rte. 7 north to the Park Ave Exit. Retrace your steps to Rte. 7 and I-84 by the Danbury Fair Mall. Take Rte. 7 north to I-84 east* to Exit 5 where this tour began.

Take Exit 5 off I-84, left off the exit onto Rte. 39 north (Clapboard Ridge Rd. changes to Ball Pond Rd.). This road takes you by lovely Connecticut neighborhoods and the Danbury High School.

A point of interest on this stretch of road is Sculpture Barn located at the intersection of Milltown Rd. and Rte. 39. Here you can wander through a four acre Sculpture Field and admire outdoor sculptures that harmonize with the rural landscape.

The 3,000 square foot Gallery hosts a spectrum of visual art exhibitions featuring sculpture, paintings and works on paper by noted national, regional, and emerging artists. Workshops are offered with a contemporary approach to traditional materials.

In one half mile, take a right onto Gillotti Rd. in two miles you will come to Hidden Valley Nature Center located on your left. The Center is nestled between two hills and offers an easy 20-minute hike along log-lined trails that wind their way through the woods and wetlands. A highlight of the center is the viewing station at the pond and bog area that is teaming with life of this unique ecosystem.

At the intersection of Gillotte Rd., bear right to the next stop sign then bear right at the stop sign onto Rte. 39 north. At the intersection of Rte. 37 and Rte. 39 in New Fairfield continue on Rte. 39 north to Sherman. At this intersection you will find two plaza's that offer a variety of shopping experiences.

Continuing on you will drive through Candlewood Corners, a sleepy crossroads village that was once a thriving hive of economic activity.

Driving along Rte. 39 you pass lovely views of Candlewood Lake whose shoreline dominates 2,800 acres of New Fairfield with many bays, coves, islands and peninsulas. More than half of Lake Candlewood's eighty-six miles of shoreline lies in New Fairfield.

Candlewood is the largest lake in the State and one of the largest man-made lakes in the United States. The Connecticut Light and Power Company created the lake in 1927-1929 as a pumped storage reservoir for the hydroelectric plant on the Housatonic River in New Milford. Today the lake is an idyllic spot for boating and fishing adventures.

Although it was almost called Lake Danbury, Candlewood Lake got its name from New Milford's Candlewood Mountain that rises from its shores. The mountain got its name from early settlers who learned how to make candles from the pine trees that grew on the mountain. When young pine saplings are cut, the wood produces a gummy resin that is quite flammable. The Native Americans used pine knots as torches and the early settlers followed their lead calling the pine candlewood. Today, the water that makes up Candlewood Lake produces hydroelectric power that provides millions in "candlewood" power!

To your right just before the entrance to Squantz Pond State Park is a boat launch area for Candlewood Lake.

A second boat launch area is located in the State Park for Squantz Pond that has a maximum limit of 7.5 horsepower in order to maintain the quiet charm of this lovely park.

On the left is the entrance to Squantz Pond State Park. This enormous lake measures over ten square miles in area and has 72 miles of shoreline. Technically, Squantz Pond is the western most part of Candlewood Lake.

A special charm of exploring the pond by canoe or sailboat is discovering the many hidden coves and wooded islands here. The pond is considered to be one of America's top ten bass fishing spots.

Amenities that the park offers includes a well-manicured beach, scuba diving area, pond fishing, picnicking, hiking, x-country skiing, ice skating, boat launch, concession, flush toilets and boating.

Continuing on you will drive through Pootatuck State Forest. This Forest protects the western shore of Squantz Pond and has three main hiking trails. The White trail follows the shoreline of the lake, a green trail goes halfway up the mountain and the blue trail ascends to a look out point that offers panoramic views of Squantz Pond and the Forest. In addition to hiking, mountain biking and snowmobiling is allowed.

At the jct. of Rte. 37 and Rte. 39 in Sherman continue on Rte. 39 north to explore the center of Sherman.

In Sherman continue on Rte. 39 north to explore the center of Sherman.

Named the "Best Small Town" in the state by Connecticut Magazine the charming village of Sherman is located at the north end of Candlewood Lake in the Housatonic Valley. The town was incorporated in 1802 and named for Roger Sherman, a signer of both the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution. Roger Sherman once had a cobbler's shop in town on Rte. 55.

Classic white clapboard houses, a traditional New England Church, a pre-Revolutionary war graveyard, two museums, and a scenic walking trail epitomize the allure of Sherman. In the center of town look for the large granite boulder bearing a World War I memorial plaque and the wrought iron post lantern designed by Clarence Rhodes and made by William Worden, that is a symbol of Sherman's heritage.

Largely a farming community, the landscape and history of Sherman changed dramatically in 1926 with the construction and flooding of Candlewood Lake. Plan a visit to The Old Store Museum in the center of town that has a Gallery that tells the story of how the creation of the state's largest lake affected the farming community of Sherman.

Don't miss a visit to The Old Store once a mercantile belonging to David Northrop Jr. in 1829. Now owned by the Sherman Historical Society, The Old Store displays a wide range of collectible merchandise both old and new that reflects Sherman's style and heritage.

The Old Store Museum offers visitors a glimpse into items offered in the 1860's and a second floor gallery shows a host of rotating historical and art exhibits.

Wander across the street to visit the federally styled David Northrop House Museum built in 1829 by David Northrop Jr. after he sold his mercantile business across the street. The house was once a tavern offering food, drink and lodging to travelers. Its second floor ballroom may have been used as a meeting place for the new and growing government long before the Town Hall was built next door. The house was once a working farm and includes a cow barn that was last used to dry tobacco. Today the house is furnished with local furnishings mostly from the Mallory collection.

If time allows, pick up the Scenic Walking Trail brochure at the Sherman Historical Society and spend some time enjoying the quiet charm of this bucolic village.

To visit White Silo Farm and Vineyard continue on Rte. 39 north through the center. At the junction of Rte. 39/37 take Rte. 37 north for one mile to the Vineyard. Specialty wines including Blackberry Sangria, Raspberry, Black Currant, Rhubarb, and Blackberry made with fruit grown at the farm are the order of the day. Enjoy a wine tasting and tour the dairy barn's art gallery, fermentation, bottling, and corking rooms. In season you can pick your own farm fresh berries, asparagus and rhubarb.

Retrace your steps back to the center of Sherman to the junction of Rte. 37 /39, take Rte. 37/39 south back through the center of Sherman. At the split of Rte. 37 and Rte. 39, take Rte. 37 south to Danbury. This is a scenic 16 mile drive where you will pass lakes, estates, stone walls, beautiful meadows and the northern half of Margerie Lake, a City of Danbury water supply reservoir.

In Danbury continue on Rte. 37 south (Padanaram Rd.) and North St. (Rte. 37) go under the overpass of I-84. At the junction of Rte. 37 (North St.) and Rte. 53 (Main St.) take a left onto Rte. 53 south (Main St.).

Danbury is a multi-ethnic city that offers something for everyone and is an excellent base for exploring western Connecticut. Nearby Candlewood Lake, Squantz Pond, a myriad of dining and shopping experiences including the state's largest mall, world-class lodging and several intriguing museums make this city a delight to explore.

Danbury was once known as the "hatting capital" of the country. An abundance of water and marshes that attracted beavers were the key elements essential to hat making and at that time Danbury had both. The industry has been traced back to Zadoc Benedict who began a shop in Danbury in 1780. By the early 19th century there were over 40 shops making hats in Danbury. The glue that was used to bind the felt lining in hats contained mercury. Hatters handling mercury over a period of time went insane, so the legend goes, coining the phrase "mad as a hatter". By the end of the 1800's a clever businessman developed the process of making hats without the use of mercury.

By 1909 Danbury was making 36 million hats a year from cowboy hats to fedoras to top hats and became known as Hatting Capital of the World. The decline of the "hat culture" is attributed to the automobile industry because hats became cumbersome to wear in cars. In the 1960's not wearing hats became fashionable due to the influence of President Kennedy who didn't wear them. In 1987, Stetson was the last hat factory to leave Danbury marking the end of an era.

In a half -mile, take a left on White Street. The Dining and Entertainment District is located on Ives St. and National Place off of White St. Here you will find an intriguing ethnic mix of eateries. Continuing on White Street you will pass Meeker's Hardware, an iconic Danbury Landmark with a classic revival exterior that opened in 1883. It was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1983 and is the only hardware store currently on the Register.

Just beyond is the Danbury Railroad Museum. The restored Union Station, now housing the museum, was used as the train station featured in Alfred Hitchcock's thriller Strangers in a Train. Built in 1903 for the thriving New York, New Haven and Hartford Railroad, the station was closed by Metro- North in 1993.

Today you can explore over 70 vintage locomotives and railroad cars; some are even open to tour. The centerpiece of this 6 acre rail yard, with its connecting rail lines in all four directions is a ride on the large turntable that used to turn locomotives 360 degrees.

Inside, you will find fascinating educational exhibits of railroad artifacts, memorabilia and photographs. A highlight is the display of four operating model train layouts, a favorite for young and old alike. The rail yard offers train rides on weekends April through November and during special seasonal events.

Retrace your steps to Main Street. Take a left on Main St. (Rte. 53) passing the Soldiers Monument that stands at the intersection once known as Concert Hall Square. The women of Danbury raised the funds to erect this Civil War Monument that was unveiled in 1880.

Continue to drive along what was once known as Danbury's Green. Today this oasis of grass and gardens, fountains, walking paths and benches is called Elmwood Park. During the American Revolution, Danbury was an important military supply depot for the Continental Army. On April 26-27, 1777, the British under Major General William Tryon burned and looted the city destroying the Continental Army's depot of munitions and food. Today Elmwood Park commemorates this incident. The park also has a memorial to the victims of 9/11.

The American General David Wooster was mortally wounded at the Battle of Ridgefield by the same British forces that had attacked Danbury. Wooster waylaid the British and completely routed them on a back road on their way to Ridgefield. This encouraged the New England Colonists to band together even more enabling them to defeat the British at every point after this creating a turning point in the Revolutionary War. General Wooster, the first American General to die in this War was buried in Danbury's Wooster Cemetery, and Wooster School in Danbury is named in his honor.

Your next stop is The Danbury Historical Society located on your left with three points of interest to visit.

The first is the 1785 colonial styled John and Mary Rider House maintained by the Historical Society. The house showcases exhibits reflecting the foundation of Danbury and life in the town before, during and after the Revolutionary War. Much of the collection was acquired during extensive travels of John Fanton and his second wife Laura Scott.

The John Dodd Hat Shop (c. 1790) also on the grounds of the Historical Society offers a fascinating glimpse into the art of hatting. Exhibits detail the processes used in hat production and displays the countless variety of hats manufactured in Danbury.

In 1943 Marian Anderson and her husband, Orpheus Fisher, bought Marianna Farm on Joe's Hill Road in Danbury that was their home from 1943 to 1993. Mr. Fisher built a music studio there for his wife Marian to rehearse in.

In order to preserve the legacy of Marion Anderson her studio was moved to the Danbury Museum's Main Street property in 1999. Meticulously restored, The Marian Anderson Studio has a permanent exhibit celebrating the life and accomplishments of Marian Anderson, one of the greatest contraltos of the twentieth century. Many remember her as a courageous role model for her outdoor concert on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial after she was denied a performance at Constitution Hall because of her color, an event that drew 75,000 people. Today a visit to this studio and the special concerts held here preserve her legacy.

To visit the birthplace of Charles Ives and the Tarrywhile Mansion, continue on Main St., take a right on South St., after 500 yards, take a left on Mountainville Ave., The Charles Ives House is located at 5 Mountainville Ave and is owned by the Danbury Historical Society. The house is open by appointment.

The Ives House was moved from Chapel Place to this location in 1966. This 1790 Dutch colonial is furnished in mid.-Victorian style and has many original Ives Family furnishings on view including: a desk that Ives used when he lived in New York, a 1840 c. piano, and interesting memorabilia from his youth. A carved music stand given to Ives by his wife and his Pulitzer Prize are on loan.

Charles Edward Ives was born in Danbury in 1874 and was considered an American modernist composer and somewhat of a maverick. His musical techniques of polytonality, polyrhythm, and aleatoric elements were not popular in his day. He became a successful insurance salesman writing music in his spare time. In 1947 he won the Pulitzer Prize for Music for Symphony No. 3. Popular in Europe, Ives is widely regarded as one of the first American composers of international significance. Retrace your steps.

Continue on Mountainville Rd., bear right on Southern Blvd. and follow to Tarrywhile Park and Mansion, one of Danbury's most popular parks. There are 28 miles (45 km) of trails as well as several ponds located in this 800-acre (264 hectare) park. The historic Shingle style Victorian mansion built in 1897 evokes the style of a bygone era with elegant rooms filled with warm wood panels and lovely 18th century accents. This gracious house combined with perennial gardens and forested hillsides form a spectacular backdrop for weddings and special events. Retrace your steps to the intersection of South St., Main St. and Rte. 53 go (straight) on Rte. 53 south to Bethel.

At the junction of Rte. 53 and Rte 302, bear left onto Rte. 302 east, passing the Sycamore Diner. Bethel, once a parish of Danbury was named in 1759; and had four hat factories as early as 1793. Bethel like Danbury and Ridgefield took an active part in the Revolutionary War. When Tyron's British force marched through on April 26, 1777 en route to raid the military stores in Danbury, a local patriot made a single handed attempt to stop their progress and almost succeeded in stampeding them when he shouted orders to an imaginary force in a roadside woodlot.

Bethel's most illustrious son is PT Barnum, one of the founders of The Barnum and Bailey Circus who was considered to be the premier showman of his day. Barnum, born and raised at 55 Greenwoods Ave. lived here until he was 24. He never forgot his roots and in later years he donated a beautiful fountain to Bethel that was melted down for the WWII effort. A large bronze statue will be unveiled in Sept. 2010 in front of the Library in honor of his 200th birthday.

The Second Meeting House on Rte. 302 (40 Main St.)in Bethel served as the Congregational Church from 1842 to 1865 and later served as the Town Hall until 1939. Today the building is shared with the VFW Post and the Historical Society that maintains a museum detailing Bethel's rich history. The Second Meeting House is part of a group of historical sites that includes the oldest cemetery (1759) and the classic First Congregational Church built in 1867.

Bethel is a charming village with interesting shops and eateries in the center of town. A stroll through downtown Bethel's Greenwood Avenue Historic District is especially delightful in the spring and summer when you can admire tasteful plantings by the garden club that includes the Shakespeare Garden at the Bethel Library located in the Greek Revival styled Seeley House built in 1842 (189 Greenwoods Ave.), the Veteran's Monument Garden (1 School St.), the Libby Kellogg Garden (West End of Main St.), and the gardens at the Second Meeting House (40 Main St.) and at the Doughboy Statue in PT Barnum Square that was erected in 1932 and is considered to be Bethel's most treasured icon.

After exploring Bethel continue on Rte. 302 east to Redding. At the junction of Rte. 302 and Rte. 58, take Rte. 58 south to Putnam Memorial State Park known as Connecticut's Valley Forge. It was here during the Revolutionary War, in the winter of 1778 - 1779 that a total of 3,100 troops were encamped here.

Just as these tough seasoned troops finished building their huts made with logs and plastered with wet dirt, one of the worse snowstorms in the state's history hit. Tempers flared as food ran out and the snow continued to fall. A group from General Huntington's Connecticut Brigade mutinied and decided to march on Hartford for overdue supplies. General Putnam rode to the camp from his headquarters in West Redding and dissuaded the troops from marching on Hartford with a heartfelt patriotic speech. The troops left in March and April for various assignments, but most went to the Hudson Highlands to block the British in New York City.

To visit Collis P. Huntington State Park continue on Rte. 58 for 2 miles, take a left on Sunset Hill Rd., the park is a mile on the left. A bronze sculpture of a mother bear with two cubs and another of two howling timber wolfs made by Anna Hyatt Huntington greet visitors to this charming park that was once part of her home.

A favorite activity here is to walk through the park's lovely meadows and wooded trails that lead to two beautifully situated ponds. There is a 5.7 mile blue trail that circles the park, a green trail that crosses the park on a diagonal and an orange trail that forms a loop in the middle.

Retrace your steps to the intersection of Rte. 58 and Rte. 107. Take Rte. 107 south to Redding.

At the intersection of Rte. 58 and Rte. 107, take Rte. 107 south to Redding. At this intersection you will find the entrance to the Museum at Putnam Park. Today visitors to the park can explore ruins of the Revolutionary War encampment as well as reconstructed buildings, huts and monuments. Research shows that there were 25 to 30 huts for officers and 116 huts accommodating 12 men per hut measuring16 ft. long by14 ft. wide by 6 feet high for the troops. The entrance to the park passes between two miniature blockhouses that are a symbol of the park. A 42- foot stone obelisk, made from native granite was erected in 1888 to commemorate the encampment. The Park's Museum displays objects from the encampment and ongoing excavations continue to discover new artifacts.

A dramatic bronze statue of General Putnam on his war steed created by Anna Hyatt Huntington presides over the park. The statue depicts General Putnam's daring escape from the British at Horseneck (now Greenwich). Surprised and outnumbered the General escaped by spurring his horse down a narrow stairway cut into a cliff shouting curses as bullets flew around him; one even passed through his hat. When the English Governor heard of the General's escape, he sent Putnam another hat for his courage.

Part of the parish of Fairfield, one of Redding's early residents, was John Read who obtained 200 acres that includes much of Rte. 107 in 1711 from Pootatuck Indian Chief Chickens Warrups. Lonetown Manor, as Read's home was called, soon became the center of a busy and populous farm settlement.

Today, Redding is bucolic village with winding country roads that reward visitors with miles of unspoiled countryside, sylvan views and beautifully maintained colonial homes and country estates. Continue on passing the Lonetown Farm Museum that serves as the headquarters for the Redding Historical Society. This federal style farmhouse was built between 1782 and 1796 and much of the interior is original including wide plank floors, moldings, and staircases. The museum is open by appointment and for special events.

Samuel Clemens, known as Mark Twain moved to Redding in 1908 and lived in Stormfield a beautiful Italianate villa he built. A few days after he moved here, he declared his desire to live nowhere else and said: "Here there is nothing in sight between horizons but woods and hills and the stillness and serenity bring peace to the soul."

When he learned that the town did not have a library he began a fund raising campaign to have one built. He even donated 3000 of his own books to build the library's collection. Twain solicited money from his friends including Andrew Carnegie, he held a musical event to raise funds and even charged each male guest visiting Stormfield one dollar that went to the library fund. On October 8, 1908 he officially opened it to the public as the Mark Twain Library, naming himself the first president.

Today the library retains 200 books donated by Twain and memorabilia from Stormfield that was destroyed by fire in 1923. Two of the most interesting displays are the Burglary Case that has a replica of a showboat made by a repentant thief and the Angelfish Case with the only known angelfish pin given out by Twain to the "angelfish" that visited him at Stormfield. After declining health Twain died in Redding in 1910.

If you plan to hike on the Saugatuck Trails be sure to pick up your hiking permit at the Mark Twain Library and The Book of Trails.

To visit the Mark Twain Library, at the junction of Rte. 107 and Rte. 53, take Rte. 53 north for one half mile, the Library is on the left.

For a short driving loop on a designated scenic road, continue on Rte. 53 north for almost 2 miles, take a left on Umpawaug Rd. then a left on Diamond Hill Rd. that brings you back to Rte. 53.

Retrace your steps to the junction of Rte. 107/53 and continue on Rte. 107/53 south.

At the junction of Rte. 107/Rte. 53, take a left on Rte. 107/53 south. To go reach the Saugatuck Hiking Trail Area, at the Rte. 53 and 107 split, take Rte. 107 south, in 100 yards bear left on Rte. 53 south to the parking area. Here you will find 60 miles of trails to explore including Gallows Hill Natural Area where troops under the command of General Putnam were encamped in the harsh winter of 1779 and the Firehouse Trail that travels alongside the Saugatuck River and leads to the Saugatuck Falls that plunges into Falls Hole. This trail network includes two designated trails for horseback riding and one for the handicapped. Permit available at The Mark Twain Library. Retrace your steps and continue on Rte. 107 south.

To continue, at the split of Rte. 107/53, take a right onto Rte. 107 south to Georgetown that developed in the 19th century as a mill workers community and today is the commercial center of Redding. In Georgetown, at the junction of Rte. 107 and Rte. 57, take Rte. 57 to Rte. 7 north. At the junction of Rte. 7 and Rte. 102 take a left onto Rte. 102 west to Ridgefield.

Continuing on Rte. 102 west to the center of Ridgefield, you may want to take a two- mile sidetrip to Weir Farm (left on Old Branchville Rd., left on Nod Hill Rd., to the Park's entrance). Many art historians regard Weir Farm as the American equivalent of Monet's Giverny. It preserves the summer home and workplace of J. Alden Weir (1852-1919), a leading figure in the development of American impressionism and his friends who were inspired by this lovely landscape. It is Connecticut's only National Park and the only one in the US devoted to American painting.

For over 40 years this unspoiled rocky landscape punctuated by meadows, stonewalls and dense woods inspired over 250 works of art done by Weir in over sixty painting sites. Today, visitors can draw identical landscapes painted by Weir, tour the grounds and attend workshops and lectures. Retrace your steps, at the intersection of Old Branchville Rd. and Rte. 102, take a left on Rte. 102 west and continue your drive to Ridgefield.

Ridgefield has deep roots to the Revolutionary War. In response to the burning of the supplies in Danbury, American Generals Wooster, Stillman and Benedict Arnold hoped to cut off British General Tryon when he attempted to return to Long Island Sound. In an effort to evade the American troops, Tryon cut through Ridgefield on April 27, 1777 consequently starting the Battle of Ridgefield. General Wooster lost his life when leading his men to attack the British troops from behind. Arnold came from New Haven with 400 men and erected a barricade across the north end of Main Street where a major encounter occurred. Moving south the British burnt down several homes and the Episcopal Church. Timothy Keeler, a known patriot was making musket balls in the basement of Keeler Tavern when two cannonballs hit the Tavern -- one passed through it while the other imbedded itself in the side of the building where it remains to this day.

The Battle of Ridgefield was the only actual battle that took place on Connecticut soil during the War. Although a tactical victory for the British, never again would they mount an inland expedition in Connecticut. Today a plaque on Main St. (Rte. 35) gives a moving tribute to the Battle of Ridgefield and to those that died including eight patriots and sixteen British soldiers.

Ridgefield is one of the state's prettiest towns and a walk down the nobly broad and tree- embowered Main Street graced with grand 18th and 19th century homes and two intriguing museums is a lovely way to absorb the elegance of this picture perfect community. The center has interesting shops and a variety of dining options.

At the junction of Rte. 102 and Rte. 35, in Ridgefield take Rte. 35 south for .4 mi. to visit the Keeler Tavern, circa 1713 and on the Register of Historic Places. This building has been a farmhouse, tavern, stagecoach stop, post office, hotel, home of noted architect Cass Gilbert and, since 1966, a museum. It was operated as a hotel from 1772 to 1907 when it was sold as a private home to Cass Gilbert, a famous architect that designed the Woolworth Tower in New York and the U.S. Supreme Court. He added the Garden House overlooking a brick walled garden in 1915. Today, costumed docents lead visitors through rooms reflecting life in rural Connecticut from the 18th - mid 20th centuries. Be sure not to miss the cannonball that is still embedded in the wall of the house from the Battle of Ridgefield.

Afterward, head on Rte. 35 north to visit the Aldrich Contemporary Art Museum one of the few independent non-collecting contemporary art museums in the United States. The Museum, founded by fashion designer Larry Aldrich in 1964 continues to carry out his vision by mounting several exhibitions of provocative and significant contemporary art each year. It has become renowned as a national leader for its presentation of new art, its cultivation of emerging artists and its innovative educational programs.

Continue on Rte. 35 north, at the junction of Rte. 35 and Rte. 116; continue on Rte. 35 north through Ridgefield. You will pass a classic Congregational Church circa 1851 built in the Greek Revival style and the neo-classic Phineas Chapman Lounsbury House built in 1895 by former Governor Lounsbury. He was inspired by the Connecticut State Building at the 1893 Columbian Exposition in Chicago and hired the architect, Charles C. Northrop, to design his home. Loubsbury resided here until 1925. In 1945, the town purchased the property and today it serves as Ridgefield's Community Center.

For a three-mile side trip to Seth Low Pierrepont Park, at the junction of Rte. 35 and 116, take Rte. 116 north to Barlow Mountain Rd. the park is on the right. The park preserves Barlow Mountain, part of the estate of Seth Pierrepont and Lake Naraneka. It has hiking trails (the Blue Trail is a highlight), fishing and a car top boat ramp. Retrace your steps.

Continue on Rte. 35 north toward Danbury.

At the jct. of Rte. 35 and Rte. 7, take Rte. 7 north to Danbury. To visit the Military Museum take Rte. 7 north to the Park Ave Exit, at the end of the exit take a right, the Military Museum is on your left. Dedicated to the preservation of our nations military history visitors will see over 10,000 artifacts covering all of the armed services of the United States. Displays include a cross section of 20th century American Military history from the Story of the 10th Mountain Division, life size dioramas displaying many rare vehicles to the feature exhibit The World in Flames, a Retrospect of WWII. Once a month, April - October, visitors are invited to explore the tanks and armored vehicles that were active in our nation's conflicts during open turret days.

Retrace your steps to Rte. 7 and I-84 by the Danbury Fair Mall. Take Rte. 7 north to I-84 east.

The Danbury Fair was the state's largest fair running from 1869 - 1981. In order to remember how the "Great Danbury Fair" helped put Danbury on the map, the Danbury Fair Mall was constructed on the fairgrounds and opened in 1986 boasting 200 retailers and eateries. It is the largest mall in the state and the fifth largest in New England. A highlight of the mall is the double Decker Carousel in the food court.

Continue on I-84 east to exit 5 where this tour began.