Towns In Tour: Southford, Southbury, Newtown, Woodbury, Middlebury, Bethlehem, Watertown, and South Britain
Approximate Mileage: 80 Miles
Approximate Driving Time: Full Day Trip
Start in Southbury at the jct. of I-84 exit 14 (I-84 west take a right at end of ramp; from I-84 east take a left at end of ramp and a left at light). At the light take a left on Main St. South, bear right over bridge crossing I-84. At the first stop sign take a right on Fish Rock Rd. to Glen Rd. to Sandy Hook. Take a right on Riverside Rd./ Church Hill Rd. to I-84 west to Exit 9 (Rte. 25/Newtown). At the end of the exit take a left on Rte. 25 south/6 east, at the next intersection continue on Rte. 25 south/6 east to Newtown. At the Rte. 25/6 split, continue on Rte. 25 south passing the jct. of Rte. 302 to your 5th left (Mile Hill Rd./Wasserman Way) to I-84 East to exit 15 in Southbury.
Take a left off the exit go under the I-84 overpass and continue on Rte. 67 north / Rte. 6 east; at the Rte. 6/67 split continue on Rte. 6 east to Woodbury to Rte. 61 north to Bethlehem. At the jct. of Rte 61 and 132, take a right on Rte. 132 east. At the jct. of Rte. 132 and 63, take a right onto Rte. 63 south to Watertown. At the jct. of Rte. 63 and Rte. 64 in Middlebury take a right on Rte. 64 west. At the jct., of Rte. 64 and 6, take a right on Rte 6 east (to shorten your trip, take a left on Rte. 6 west, follow for 3 mi. to I-84 where the loop began) to Rte. 317 to Roxbury. At the jct. of Rte. 317 and 67, take Rte. 67 south to Rte. 172 south to South Britain. Follow Rte. 172 to I-84 to exit 14 where this loop began. At the junction of Rte. 172 and Main St. South, take a left on Main St. South to the junction of Rte. 6 and I-84; take I-84 east to exit 16 where this loop began.
The Treasury of Americana Loop begins in Southbury. Take I-84 to exit 14 (I-84 west right off ramp; I-84 east left off ramp). At the first stop light; take a left on Main St. South. Before crossing the bridge over I-84 go straight on Russian Village Rd. to visit Churaevka Village (.1 mi.), on the National Register of Historic Places. The village was settled in 1925 by writer George Grebenstchikoff and llya Tolstoy, son of Leo Tolstoy, as an artistic community for Russians who fled to America after the Russian Revolution of 1917.
A visit to the small fieldstone chapel located in a wooded clearing replete with an onion shaped dome and striking icons is a reminder of the cultural heritage of the men and women that found refuge here. The chapel was built as a memorial to the Cathedral of St. Savidur in Moscow demolished by the Soviets in the early 1920's.
Retrace your steps, take a right at the end of Russian Village Rd., cross the bridge over I-84, at the first stop sign, take a right on Fish Rock Rd., cross a second bridge (River Rd.) leaving I-84 behind.
This scenic road follows the curves of Lake Zoar making it a lovely drive any time of year. Crossing a steel bridge (Glen Rd.) enter Newtown established in 1711; just after the bridge is the historic Benjamin Cutriss House erected in 1747.
To visit McLaughlin Vineyard, (1.5 mi.) take your first right on Walnut Tree Hill Rd., a right on Alberts Hill Rd., the Vineyard is 100 yards on the right. The Vineyard, located on the Housatonic River has a tasting room, hiking trails, and seasonal events. Retrace your steps.
Take a right onto Glen Rd, to continue your drive to Sandy Hook. Along the way, pass two historic mills that now house offices and restaurants. The first mill was once the home of the Fabric Fire Hose Corporation. They made high pressure cotton rubber lined hoses for 120 years used by Fire Company's worldwide. The second mill was where the Plastic Molding Corporation was located for many years. Sandy Hook was once a thriving industrial center whose mills and factories were powered by the Pootatuck River. Today, Sandy Hook has interesting shops and galleries to explore.
At the jct. of Glen Rd. and Riverside Rd., in the center of Sandy Hook, take a right on Riverside Rd. / Church Hill Rd. to I-84 west to Exit 9. At the end of the exit, take a left on Rte. 25 south /6 east, to Newtown known for the large American flag that crowns the center of this historic town.
Newtown has more pre-1825 houses than any town in the state; many date from the early 1700's. Today, a walk along Main St. (Rte. 25), once an Indian trail, is the best way to admire the many architectural styles of historic homes and buildings found here. Begin at the Hillbrow House (74 Main St.) c.1760 whose occupants watched the French Army Encampment of General Rochambeau in 1781. Local lore tells us that the smell of baking bread that Hillbrow's owner withheld from the visiting French soldiers made an angry solider pull an elderly man from the house and chase him up and down Main Street! One of many architectural gems is the house at 68 Main St. built by Capt. Thomas Bennit in 1729. Just beyond the Bennit House, is the Soldiers and Sailors Monument erected in 1931 by Mary Hawley in honor of Newtown's fighting men and women. Across the street is Blackman Tavern (61 Main St.) that was a popular stop during the stagecoach era. A Liberty Pole once stood in front of this house. Next, is a lovely colonial (62 Main St.) built in 1785 by Henry Wood who gathered clothing for the men of Newtown serving in the Continental Army. A few doors down, is the classic Edmond Town Hall, on the National Register of Historic Places, that was built by Mary Hawley in 1930, and named after her grandfather. The Matthew Curtiss House Museum, named for the original owner, a Lieutenant in CT's Revolutionary War militia is a superb example of an 18th c saltbox that showcases 300 years of Newtown's cultural material including furniture, paintings, and decorative accessories.
At the Rte. 25/6 split, continue on Rte. 25 south. In 1876, to commemorate the nations centennial, Newtown erected a 100-foot flagpole on the site where the Congregational Meeting House of 1714 once stood. The Meeting House was moved across the street to its present location in 1792. The move made room for the Episcopal Church that stood directly across from the Meeting House until 1870 when the new stone church that you see today was erected.
Newtown's Meeting House, enhanced by Greek Revival elements was built in 1810 and has a chanticleer (rooster) weathervane that remains the symbol of Newtown. The weathervane has a number of bullet holes that local folklore attributes to the target practice of French soldiers who marched through Newtown under Rochambeau to the Battle of Yorktown in 1781 and back again in 1782. It was in this area that French soldiers camped from June 29 - July 2, 1781 spending time resting and repairing their equipment before the critical battle of Yorktown.
The house on 27 Main St. built in 1787 was the house of Mary Hawley's grandfather, Judge William Edmond and the person that the Town Hall, was named after. Across the street, is a colonial house, (32 Main St.) built in 1795, that was an inn popular during the stagecoach era owned by several generations of the Baldwin family.
The Cyrenius H. Booth Library was a posthumous gift of Newtown's benefactress, Mary Hawley. Today, the library houses Mary Hawley's elegant dining room and a variety of historic collections. A comprehensive architectural guide of Newtown may be purchased here.
A few doors down, is the three generational family home (19 Main St.) of Mary Hawley, whose family amassed a fortune in hardware and agricultural implements. Following her short-lived marriage and European honeymoon to a local minister she lived in seclusion here. Before she died in 1930, she established several trust funds and donated a number of noteworthy buildings to her beloved Newtown.
At the jct. of Rte. 25 and 302, continue on Rte. 25 south, passing Ram Pasture, the town's common land where 4,000 sheep once grazed. Today, it is the focus of many community events.
At the next light, take a left on Mile Hill Rd. (changes to Wasserman Rd.) and follow the signs to the Governors Horse Guard (left on Trades Lane, entrance on right). Chartered in 1808, the Governors Horse Guard is one of the oldest horse cavalry units still in continuous service in the United States. The public is welcome to visit the horses during regular drill hours or events.
Retrace your steps. Continue on Wasserman Way to I-84 east to Southbury, exit 15; at end of exit take a left on Rte. 67 north /6 east.
Founded in 1673, Southbury, purchased from the Pootatuck Indians was once known as Pomperaug Plantation. In 1731, Southbury separated from Woodbury and built it's first Meeting House in South Britain, the original center of the town, laid out along an old Indian Trail where many of the town's original homes were built. Southbury, was primarily an agricultural community; however because of the waterpower in South Britain, light industry developed in the 18th century. Although General Washington never slept in Southbury, he traveled through Southbury several times. Southbury's country ambience has always attracted writers such as Gladys Tabor who wrote about her Southbury Connecticut farm Stillmeadow and Samuel G. Goodrich, author of 116 books for children using the pen name of Peter Parley.
Today Southbury is a lovely rural community with two beautiful State Parks; Kettletown (off Rte. 67 south) and Southford Falls (Rte. 188), many fine restaurants and interesting shops.
Proceed on Rte. 67 north /6 east passing Southbury Plaza and Playhouse Corner.
Bullet Hill School Museum, on the National Register of Historic Places, is the oldest public building in Southbury as well as one of the oldest schoolhouses in the United States that was used continuously from 1789 until 1942. Its name was derived from a hill where bullets were cast for guns during the Revolutionary War. Today it is used for Southbury's 1850's living museum school program.
Just beyond Bullet Hill School, you will pass the classic United Church of Christ built in 1840. This church is the result of the union of the Southbury Congregational Church dating from 1732 and the Southbury Methodist Church dating back to the 1790's.
At the Rte. 6 and 67 split, continue on Rte. 6 east through the Historic Districts of Southbury and Woodbury. This road was a major thoroughfare used by General Washington, Lafayette and Rochambeau during the Revolutionary War and has been designated as the Grand Army Highway of the Republic because of its importance to the founding of our nation. In fact, Rochambeau marched on this road to join General Washington in the critical battle of Yorktown against the British led by General Cornwallis.
Today this historic tree-lined section of Rte. 6 east from Southbury to Woodbury is graced by an architectural melange of beautifully kept 18th and 19th century houses; many have been converted to antique shops, classic churches, and beautiful landscapes.
Woodbury, whose name means a dwelling place in the woods was settled by 17 colonists in 1659 making it one of Connecticut's oldest western inland towns. In 1673, Woodbury was purchased from Chief Pomperaug of the Pootatuck Indians. The present day Main Street (Rte. 6) was laid out in the 1670's along an old Indian trail where Chief Pomperaug is buried.
Woodbury was always a prosperous town. By the end of the 18th century, it was a thriving center of agricultural trade. In the early 19th century, industrial growth led to a building boom and many of the houses and four of the five churches along Rte. 6 date from this period. Today, Woodbury has historic and recreational attractions but is best known for its wide variety of antique shops; probably more per square mile than any other community in New England! As a matter of fact, Main Street has been officially designated as Connecticut's first Antiques Trail. Woodbury is home of the state's oldest inn, award winning restaurants, and a superb selection of shops including Woodbury Pewter Factory Outlet where you can watch a pewter making demonstration while browsing among 5,000 pewter items. Several galleries complete the shopping experience: including the P.H. Miller Gallery noted as one of the most important galleries in the area that exhibits the work of emerging artists and specializes in the work of Thomas Adkins, Robert Holden, Judith Andrew, Tom Yost and Ella Knox.
To reach Woodbury's two historic gems, the Herd House and the Glebe House, take Hollow Rd. off Rte. 6 in the center of town.
The Hurd House Museum is the oldest building in town and the oldest structure on its original site in Litchfield County. The Herd House is unique because it consists of two houses, one built in 1680 and the other built in 1720 that were joined together to form one house. Today, in the upstairs hall, to the left of the hall window, you can see where the two houses were joined. The house is furnished with 17th and 18th century furniture and art.
Just beyond the Hurd House, is The Glebe House dating from the 1740's. The Glebe House became a minister's farm or glebe for Woodbury's first Episcopal minister, John Rutgers Marshall. Only weeks after American Independence was secure, a group of clergy met secretly at the Glebe House, to elect the Reverend Dr. Samuel Seabury as the first Bishop in the new nation, a decision that assumed the separation of church and state, and religious tolerance in the new nation. This event established the Glebe House as the birthplace of the Episcopal Church in America.
The Glebe House was restored in 1923 by the Seabury Society and furnished with period furniture depicting the Revolutionary era when John and Sarah Marshall and their nine children lived here. The Garden surrounding the house was designed in 1927 by Gertrude Jekyll widely considered to be England's most important 20th century garden designer and writer best known for transforming gardens from geometric Victorian schemes to informal English country designs. The garden consists of a planted stone terrace, an intimate rose alle and 600 feet of classic English styled mixed borders and foundation plantings, that are characteristic of Jekyll's pleasing perennial clusters, colors and textures. This is the only extant Jekyll garden in the U.S.
Retrace your steps and continue on Rte. 6 east passing the Old Burying Ground. Among many markers for Revolutionary War Veterans is the marker of Reverend Walker dating to 1699, one of the oldest in the area. The Father's Monument erected to honor the town's first three clergymen, who between them served for 143 years, stands in the oldest corner of this ancient burying ground. Next to the Burying Ground is St. Paul's, the birthplace of the American Episcopate organized in 1740. This Federal styled church was erected in 1785. Next pass the First Congregational Church organized in 1670, making it the oldest in Litchfield County, the present building dates to 1819. Saint Theresa's is next with its gingerbread Steeple, followed by the United Methodist Church circa 1839 across from the green. In front of the North Congregational Church circa 1818 look for a Milestone erected by Benjamin Franklin indicating that Litchfield is 14 miles. In 1752 Franklin became Postmaster General and by 1760 he succeeded in connecting most of the colonial centers with organized mail routes by marking miles with stones such as this one to improve the system of mail delivery.
Just beyond the center of town, Flanders Nature Center and Land Trust (3 mi. off Rte. 6 on Flanders Rd.) has nature exhibits and 8 trails to explore including a Marsh Walk perfect for bird lovers, and a Wildflower Trail maintained by the Woodbury Garden Club that peaks in the spring and summer months. A perennial favorite is the Maple Sugaring event that takes place for 4 weekends each spring. (An alternate way to reach Bethlehem is to proceed on Flanders Rd., past Flanders Nature Center and the Abbey of Regina Laudis to the intersection of Rte. 61 in Bethlehem.)
Continue on Rte. 6 east, take Rte. 61 north to Bethlehem. The Abbey of Regina Laudis founded in 1947, is a Roman Catholic community of contemplative Benedictine women. Visit the Abbey, (Flanders Rd., 1 mi. off Rte. 61) to see a newly restored 18th c. Neapolitan Creche, an elaborate nativity scene that contains sixty hand-carved figures, each a small masterpiece, dressed with exquisite detail in period costume. The Abbey's Monastic Art Shop offers pottery, candles, woven and knitted goods, wool from abbey sheep, cheese, honey, herbs, skin creams, religious art objects, and CD's of the Gregorian Chants sung by Abbey Nuns. The public is welcome to share the Gregorian Chants each day at 8:00 a.m. and at Vespers at 5:00 p.m. (4:30 p.m. Sun.) at the Church of Jesu Fili Mariae ( left off of Flanders Rd. on Robert Leather Rd.).
Retrace your steps to Rte. 61 and continue north to the Bethlehem Green, which has a monument, dedicated to Bethlehem's most famous son, Joseph Bellamy, a preacher and author who captivated many people with his eloquence in the 1740's. Bellamy ran the country's first theological seminary in his home; today this house, now known as the Bellamy Ferriday House Museum and Garden (jct. Rte. 61 and Rte. 132) is open to the public. Eventually, the property became the summer home of Caroline Ferriday, awarded for her work with the French Resistance. Today, the house remains furnished as she lived in it reflecting country life in the early part of 20th century. The formal gardens, surrounding the house includes collections of historic roses, lilacs, peonies, specimen trees, herbaceous plants, and an orchard.
On the adjacent corner you will find the Old Bethlem Historical Society Museum. The Society's collections include a notable assemblage of costumes, tools, and articles used during the late 19th and 20th c. depicting local history. Of special note is the large church bell on the front lawn saved from the Methodist Church that was razed in 1929. The bell, which has excellent resonance, is rung for special occasions.
By the Bethlehem Green, facing the Bellamy-Ferriday House and Historical Society, at the jct. of Rte. 61 and 132, take a right on Rte. 132; to Watertown; at the jct. of Rte. 132 and 63, take a right on Rte. 63 south to Watertown.
At the jct. of Rte. 6 and 63, in Watertown, take a right on Rte. 6 west, passing an elegant Civil War Monument. At the first light, the Richardson Romanesque style Town Hall built in 1847 is in front of you. Just beyond the light take your first right on DeForest St., follow past the Greek Revival styled Congregational Church, circa 1839, next to the Parsonage built in 1772, by Reverend John Trumbull, to the Watertown Fire District brick building. The Watertown Historical Society Museum is located in the back on the second floor. A Victorian parlor, displays of prominent businesses such as the silk and thread industries, and rotating exhibits reflecting local history complete the experience here. The Old Nova Scotia School House, circa 1853 is located behind the museum. If time allows, continue on Rte. 6 east for one mile to see the famous Taft School established here in 1893.
Retrace your steps and continue on Rte. 63 south passing the Old Burying Ground, on the left, (Rte. 63 and French St.) where 47 Revolutionary War Hero's are interred. John Trumbull, Poet of the Revolution was born here and his father, Rev. John Trumbull (#69) is buried here.
At the jct. of Rte. 63 and 64 in Middlebury, you may take a side trip; or to continue, take a right on Rte. 64 west. For a side trip to Hopbrook Lake Recreation Area, popular for stocked fishing, swimming and picnicking continue on Rte. 63 south for two miles. The Larkin State Bridle Trail, (1 mi. south of Hopbrook Lake on right) is an abandoned rail line that once connected Danbury and Waterbury. Today, 10.3 miles of trail is open for horseback riding, hiking, and x-country skiing.
Retrace your steps and continue on Rte. 64 west. The name Middlebury derives from the central position the Town's Meeting House occupies, six miles from Waterbury, Southbury, and Woodbury. In 1781, Rochambeau's Army of 6,000 men, camped here along Breakneck Hill Rd. enroute to the final campaign at Yorktown. Today, Middlebury is a multifaceted town that is home to corporate headquarters, as well as to Quassy, a family amusement park on the shores of Lake Quassapaug.
To reach the Middlebury Green, take a left on Rte. 188 north, follow for .5 miles. Surrounding the Middlebury Green is the Westover School, founded in 1909, a classic Congregational Church circa 1840, the Parsonage (a former tavern), the Wheaton House circa 1814, and St. John Church of the Cross, built in 1914 of native stone. Just beyond the Green, take a right on Library Rd. to reach the Middlebury Historical Society, located in the Center School originally built as a two-room schoolhouse in the 1800's. The Society displays many interesting items pertaining to the history of Middlebury.
Retrace your steps. Continuing on Rte. 64 west you will pass Quassy, a Family Amusement Park located on Lake Quassapaug, whose Indian name means clear water. Quassy is a great stop for family fun with more than 30 rides and attractions, games, entertainment, free picnicking, and swimming. Just beyond the lake, is the 700-acre Whittemore Sanctuary, operated by Flanders Nature Center. The Sanctuary's Bog Trail is highly recommended for bird watchers because of the multitude and variety of birds found here.
At the jct. of Rte. 64 and 6, in Woodbury, take a right on Rte 6 east (to shorten your trip, take a left on Rte. 6 west, follow for 3 mi. to I-84). At the jct. of Rte. 6 and 317 in Woodbury, take a left on Rte. 317, and follow this designated scenic road for six miles to Roxbury, a small village once known for its granite and garnet mines. Along the way, you will pass many stately colonial homes and Roxbury's classic Congregational Church, circa 1838 with granite steps cut at the town quarries.
To explore CT's most extensive ruins of the iron ore industry take a 3.5 mi. wooded walk past a blast furnace, roasting ovens, tunnels, and shafts at Mine Hill Preserve (Rte. 67 north for 4 mi.). Granite quarried here was used in the construction of New York's Brooklyn Bridge and Grand Central Terminal. Retrace your steps; at the jct. of Rte. 317 and 67 take Rte. 67 south. At the jct. of Rte. 172 and 67, take a right on Rte. 172 south to South Britain, which appears today, just as it must have 100 years ago, when it was the hub of town affairs.
Surrounding South Britain's Green is a Hoadley-style Congregational Church, the oldest church in town built in 1825, a Victorian style general store, and fine examples of pre and post Revolutionary homes.
To reach Audubon Center at Bent of the River, a 700 acre nature sanctuary, take a right on East Flat Hill Rd., (by the church), the entrance, on the left is 0.2 mile. The Center is a birding hot spot with 15 miles of trails to explore including some along the Pomperaug River.
Continuing on Rte. 172 south you will pass the Old Town Hall Museum located in Southbury's first town hall used from 1873 until 1963. Today, displays trace the town's country life with changing exhibits. A few doors down, the South Britain Library, circa 1904, is where local genealogical records, books and manuscripts are stored by the Museum.
Continue on Rte. 172 south to the jct. of Main St. South and I-84 where this tour began.