A Cornucopia of Classic Countryside
Locations: Torrington, Winsted, Winchester, New Hartford, Hartland, West Hartland, East Hartland, Riverton,Colebrook, Norfolk.
Start at the junction of Rte. 8 and Rte. 4 in Torrington, take Rte. 8 north* to Winsted, and take Rte. 44 east to New Hartford to Rte. 219 north to Rte. 318 west. At the junction of Rte. 318 and 181, take Rte. 181 north to Hartland. At the junction of Rte. 181 and Rte. 20, take Rte. 20 east to West Hartland. At the junction of Rte. 20 and Rte. 179 in East Hartland, take Rte. 179 south to *Rte. 219 south. At the junction of Rte. 219 and 318, take Rte. 318 west. At the junction of Rte. 318 and Rte. 181, continue on Rte. 318 west and Rte. 181 south for 1 mile; take the right just before the metal bridge, through Peoples State Forest to Rte. 20 to Riverton. Continue on Rte. 20 west through Riverton to the junction of Rte. 20 and Rte. 8. Take Rte. 8 south to the junction of *Rte. 44 in Winsted; take Rte. 44 west to Rte. 183 north to Colebrook, to Rte. 182A; take a left on Rte. 182A by the old Colebrook Store. At the junction of Rte. 182A and Rte. 182, take a right on Rte. 182. At the junction of Rte. 182 and Rte. 44, take Rte. 44 west, to Norfolk, to *Rte. 272 south to Torrington. At the junction of Rte. 272 and Rte. 4, take Rte. 4 east; bear right onto Main Street. At the junction of Main St., Rte. 202 and Rte. 8, follow Rte. 202 east to the junction of Rte. 8 and Rte. 4 where this tour began.
* denotes sidetrip in narrative.
Tour three begins at the jct. of Rte. 8 and Rte. 4 in Torrington. Proceed on Rte. 8 north for 9 scenic miles to Winsted.
Driving along Rte. 8 north you will pass through Burrville, where Gail Borden invented the process of producing condensed milk by preserving it with sugar at Burr Pond State Park (exit 46, left on Pinewood Rd., left on Winsted Rd. for 1 mile, right on Burr Mountain Rd.). Borden built the world's first condensed milk factory here, just below the falls in 1877; a bronze tablet marks the site. Visitors to Burr Pond State Park will enjoy a walk around the eighty-eight acre pond, fishing, canoeing, swimming, and picnicking in a setting of great natural beauty.
At the junction of Rte. 8 and Rte. 44 in Winsted, take Rte. 44 east to the center of New Hartford, a charming village nestled on the banks of the Farmington River. Elias Howe built the first practical sewing machine here in the cellar of the Old New Hartford House on Rte. 44.
Proceed to the junction of Rte. 44 and Rte. 219, where you can take two side trips.
To visit Mainstream Outfitters follow Rte. 44 east for 2 miles.Mainstream offers guided and unguided canoe and kayak trips on the Farmington River. Just beyond is Satan's Kingdom where tubs are available to rent for a scenic and thrilling ride on the Farmington River.
Retrace your steps to the center of New Hartford and the junction of Rte. 44 and Rte. 219.
To reach Jerram Winery, located in the area where New Hartford was originally settled in the early 1700's take a left on Rte. 219 south and follow for 2.5 miles. Because of its elevation, the vineyard enjoys a long growing season and offers wine tastings and tours of the vineyard and gardens.
Retrace your steps back to the junction of Rte. 219 and Rte. 44.
At the junction of Rte. 44 and Rte. 219 take Rte. 219 north to the Lake McDonough Recreation Area. Lake McDonough is one of the area's gems offering beaches, bathhouses, swimming, rowboat rentals, fishing, picnicking, and hiking trails. The area also has wheelchair accessibility to the beaches, bathhouses and picnic areas as well as a fully accessible nature trail for the disabled and the blind.
Ski Sundown, on Ratlum Rd., off Rte. 219, has 15 trails, 4 lifts, night skiing, 100% snowmaking coverage, and beautiful views of Lake McDonough.
At the junction of Rte. 219 and Rte. 318, take Rte. 318 west passing the Saville Dam and Barkhamsted Reservoir. The Saville Dam was completed in 1940 on the East Branch of the Farmington River and was named for the chief engineer of the project, Caleb Mills Saville.
The Barkhamsted Reservoir, Connecticut's largest water supply is eight miles long and extends north from Barkhamsted to the town of Hartland. The Reservoir is the primary water supply for the metropolitan Hartford area, which is about 25 miles away. The village of Barkhamsted Hollow along with many other farms and villages located in the area were flooded when the Reservoir was created.
A scenic parking area located on Rte. 318 is a favorite spot for photos of the reservoir and spillway. The area between the Lake and the reservoir is laced with hiking trails and paths that meander along spillways and waterfalls.
Proceed on Rte. 318 west for one mile. At the junction of Rte. 318 and 181, take a right onto Rte. 181 west to Hartland passing some of this drives most unspoiled and wooded countryside. Along the way, you will pass the Center School House circa 1821 maintained by the Barkhamsted Historical Society.
Proceeding up a hill you will catch glimpses of the Barkhamsted Reservoir that was created by damming the east branch of the Farmington River.
At the junction of Rte. 181 and Rte. 20, take Rte. 20 east. Along the way you will pass the Gaylord House, a lovely colonial home circa 1845 displaying the area's lifestyle, industry, amusement and faces.
Continuing on Rte. 20 you enter the center of West Hartland passing the classic Second Congregational Church and the entrance to Howell's Pond whose thickly wooded shoreline affords a sense of tranquility.
Continuing on Rte. 20 you will be driving through Tunxis State Forest named for the Tunxis tribe whose name means, where the river bends in reference to the Farmington River. In addition to miles of blue blazed trails, the forest features steep hillsides that drop dramatically to the Barkhamsted Reservoir, which actually separates the forest in two.
When streams are running full in Tunxis State Forest, the woods abound with cascades and small waterfalls. On this drive, you will pass the entrance to Falls Brook Trail that offers an easy walk to two waterfalls as well as good views of the reservoir below.
At the junction of Rte. 20 and Rte. 179 you enter the center of East Hartland a bucolic village with a traditional Congregational Church, a triangular green and a very old cemetery that dates to 1752.
To continue, take Rte, 179 south to wend your way through Tunxis State Forest and miles of Mountain Laurel, Connecticut's State Flower. Along the way you will pass Sweet Wind Sugar House and Farmstand that offers homemade maple syrup and fresh seasonal fruits and vegetables. At the junction of Rte. 179 and Rte. 219, take Rte. 219 south; at the junction of Rte. 219 and 318, take Rte. 318 west, crossing the Saville Dam to the junction of Rte. 318 and Rte. 181.
Proceed on Rte. 318 west and Rte. 181 south for one mile. Take the right just before the metal bridge and follow East River Rd., once the main thoroughfare to Hartford, to the charming village of Riverton.
This narrow serpentine road follows the west branch of the Farmington River, a designated National Wild and Scenic River. Your drive takes you through Peoples State Forest where you can visit two museums, picnic in a 200-year old pine grove, camp, fish, and hike on many well -marked trails.
The American Legion State Forest whose rugged terrain with rocky hillsides typifies the landscape is located on the opposite bank of the Farmington River and offers camping, picnicking, hiking and fishing.
Along the way you will pass Squire's Tavern (just before the entrance to Peoples State Forest) built between 1795 and 1801 and operated by the Barkhamsted Historical Society. The house was on a stagecoach route and has an interesting and varied history as a tavern that picked up customers from the wagon traffic hauling iron products from the Colebrook forge going to Hartford as well as chairs from Lambert Hitchcock's chair factory. In later years, it became a prosperous farm until the 1920's when it became part of the State Forest. Today visitors to the house will see how the Society is restoring this historic gem.
To visit The Stone Museum, drive into People's State Forest, the museum is on the left. Built in 1934 by the Civilian Conservation Corps of local fieldstone taken from old stonewalls and American chestnut which was salvaged from the trees killed by the chestnut blight, the museum exhibits mounted taxidermy specimens of many mammals and birds that are common in the forest in addition to a wide range of Indian artifacts, including soapstone and Indian pottery bowls, arrowheads and other weapons, tools and decorative art. Flora and fauna identification is easy and fun with samples of twigs, bark and wood of local trees on display, and electric games to match animal tracks, trees and birds with their pictures. Dioramas show events in the history of Peoples Forest including Camp White, Barkhamsted Lighthouse and Soapstone Quarry. Trail maps and forest information is displayed on a board in front of the museum when it is closed. Continue your drive to Riverton.
Following Rte. 20, you will enter the bucolic village of Riverton appearing today just as it must have 100 years ago with its colonial houses, general store, country inn, and towering trees lining the street. Today, however, some of these dowager houses contain delightful shops, award winning restaurants and even a glass blowing studio gallery!
At the first intersection, take a left over the bridge passing the former Hitchcock Chair Company, closed in 2006. This landmark factory building is where Lambert Hitchcock began manufacturing chairs in 1826. By 1828, the elaborately stenciled chairs with wooden, cane or rush seats, and cabinets made in Hitchcocksville became famous throughout America.
Legend says that in the heyday of chair production, workers would drop the chairs out of upper story windows into the wagon below, and if the chair survived intact, it passed the quality control test! In later years as business declined the name of this village was changed from Hitchcocksville to Riverton. Today, the historic legacy of the Hitchcock Company along with the original manufactory, now used for storage, gives visitors a glimpse of what was once the centerpiece of this peaceful village.
In the center of Riverton, located in the Old Union Church, circa 1829, you can visit the working studio and gallery of nationally acclaimed master glass artist Peter Greenwood. Founded in 1980, Greenwoods Glass is a treasure trove of unique contemporary designs including displays of lighting, sculptures, goblets, vessels and even exquisite glass blown furniture. Peter's signature work is lace glass, a 17th century Venetian technique characterized by a symmetrical black grid pattern on clear glass, with minute air bubbles centered in each opening.
Continue on Rte. 20 west, to Rte. 8 south to Winsted. At the junction of Rte. 8 and Rte. 44 by the Winsted Green, take Rte. 44 west. Winsted, noted for it's beautiful ecclesiastical architecture is often referred to as the Laurel City and has an annual summer festival to fete` the state flower, the mountain laurel. Winsted's Park Pond, Highland Lake and Winchester Lake are popular fishing spots well-known for their great natural beauty.
To visit the Solomon Rockwell House, follow Rte. 44 west to Rte. 263 west (Lake St.); the house is located on the corner of Rte. 263 and Prospect Street. This columned Greek revival mansion built in 1813 displays collections of period furnishings, rare 19th century portraits including eight by Erastus Salisbury Field, and has an extensive collection of Civil War memorabilia including weapons, uniforms, and letters. On the grounds there is an architecturally significant outhouse built in the full Greek Revival style with columns and other classical details.
For a side trip to Winchester Center continue on Rte. 263 west for 4 miles. This village hasn't changed much in 200 years. Today, it remains an intersection of narrow roads and open fields dominated by graceful examples of early colonial architecture and a classic Greek Revival Church surrounding a picture perfect village green that was once used as a training ground for the 25th Regiment of the Connecticut Colonial Militia in 1793. It is hard to believe that in the 1760's this hamlet was a major Toll Road for the Old Waterbury Turnpike. Retrace your steps to Rte 44 and continue on Rte. 44 west to Colebrook.
Continue on Rte. 44 west through Winsted to Rte. 183 north to Colebrook often proclaimed to be Connecticut's most authentically preserved example of a small post-Revolutionary village center. A sense of colonial order is preserved in its cluster of classic white clapboard houses, sheltering maples and its architecturally perfect Greek Revival Congregational Church facing a small triangular green. The Colebrook Historical Society shares space with the Town Hall in the former Colebrook Inn, circa 1816 and displays collections reflecting the history of this idyllic village.
Leaving Colebrook, take Rte. 182A to Rte. 182; bear right on Rte. 182 and follow for eight scenic miles to Norfolk passing colonial homes, stonewalled fields, and panoramic views.
Norfolk was the last town in Litchfield County to be auctioned off in 1738 due to its rocky and hilly landscape making it undesirable for farming.
Norfolk is known as the icebox of Connecticut, cold in the winter and delightfully cool in the summer; attributes that make it attractive as a summer colony. At the junction of Rte. 182 and Rte. 44, take Rte. 44 west to the center of Norfolk.
Norfolk's popularity as a resort area began in the 1870's when it became linked to New York by train. Prominent businessmen attracted by Norfolk's rural beauty, lush woods, cool mountain air and summer concerts built huge houses forming the backbone of a thriving summer colony.
In the late 1800's, Robbins Battell, a patron of Yale's first professor of music, hosted concerts at the Whitehouse , his family's mansion in Norfolk. In 1906, his daughter, Ellen Battell Stoeckel, built a music shed on the grounds where world-renowned composers and musicians including Sergei Rachmaninoff, Jean Sibelius, Alma Gluck, Victor Herbert and other notable musicians performed at the Norfolk Music Festival until 1925.
In 1938, Ellen Battell Stoeckel bequeathed the Whitehouse and Music Shed to the Yale University School of Music. Today, Yale continues to maintain the tradition of a music festival and holds a summer concert series July -Aug. featuring performances by internationally acclaimed artists and ensembles.
A walk around the historic Norfolk Green is a pleasant way to absorb the quiet ambience of this quintessential New England village. Architectural points of interest located around the Green include: the Battell Fountain, designed by Stanford White in 1889; the tall steepled Church of Christ designed by David Hoadley in 1813, and many fine private residences built between 1776 and the 1840's.
The Norfolk Historical Society Museum, facing the green, is located in the former Norfolk Academy built in 1840. The Museum's collections depict The Norfolk Country Store and Post Office; other highlights include a children's room and rotating exhibits that emphasize Norfolk's history and cultural heritage.
Across the Green is the Whitehouse, easily identified by its grand columns and elegant lines. The Whitehouse, built by Joseph Battell in 1799 was left in trust in 1939 to Yale University for the development of a Summer School of Music and Art by his granddaughter, Ellen Battell Stoeckel. Today, the Whitehouse is the home of the Yale School of Music and Art.
The Norfolk Library is the beautiful red sandstone building at one end of the Green. The library was established by Miss Isabella Eldridge as a memorial to her parents, the Reverend Joseph and Sarah Battell Eldridge, and presented to the town of Norfolk in 1889. George Keller, the Hartford architect who designed the building, worked in the shingle-style idiom of H.H. Richardson. This is considered by many to be his finest expression. Today the library serves as a cultural meeting spot and offers changing art exhibits, a bi-annual book sale and several concerts a year in addition to modern library services.
Norfolk has three state parks perfect for hiking, picnicking and scenic photos.
Haystack Mountain (one mile north of center on Rte. 272) is a 224- acre state forest that was given to the state by Ellen Battell Stoeckel whose father Robbins Battell bought the mountain to preserve the landscape.
The 34 foot high, stone tower at the summit of Haystack Mountain (1716 feet above sea level) was built during the great depression as a public works project that fed hundreds of families.
On a clear day you can see Long Island Sound, the Berkshires, and peaks in Massachusetts and New York. A roadway takes visitors halfway up the mountain to a parking area. From the parking area there is a rugged half-mile trail to the top.
Six miles north of Haystack Mountain State Forest, you will find Campbell Falls State Park that preserves the spot where Ginger Creek drops nearly 100 feet into a beautiful gorge with high walls on each side. A short wooded path leads you to the base of the falls. Resuming your drive take Rte. 272 south.
Driving along Rte. 272 south, you will pass Norfolk's third State park, Dennis Hill, a 240-acre estate, gifted to the State of Connecticut in 1935 by Dr. Frederick Shepard Dennis, a distinguished New York surgeon.
This unique summit pavilion designed after the wool markets of Wales was the summer residence of Dr. Dennis, known as the father of aseptic surgery. Among his more famous guests were President Taft, Andrew Carnegie, and the Mayo brothers of the Mayo Clinic fame.
Located at an elevation of 1627 feet, the view from Dennis Hill is superb. On a clear day you can see Haystack Mountain to the north, Mt. Greylock in Massachusetts, the Green Mountains of Vermont, and maybe a bit of New Hampshire to the northeast.
Continuing on Rte. 272 south, you will pass John A. Minetto State Park, named in honor of a prominent State Senator that initiated legislation that built Rte. 8. Visitors to the park enjoy fishing and picnicking in the summer and ice fishing and cross country skiing in the winter.
Just beyond Minetto State Park is Stillwater Pond State Park that offers excellent fishing in the shallow finger of the lake. This peaceful pond stands in contrast to its most controversial neighbor, John Brown. In 1800, John Brown was born on top of Brandy Hill, which is the mountain that is on the west side of the pond. Brown, a religious man thought ending slavery was the will of God. In 1859, he gained immortality when he captured the federal armory in Virginia in hopes of arming Southern slaves. He was tried for treason, convicted and hanged. To many Northern abolitionists, John Brown became an icon of freedom. Historians agree that John Brown played a major role in starting the Civil War, but the tactics he chose still make him a controversial figure today.
At the junction of Rte. 272 and Rte 4, take Rte. 4 east, bear right on Main St. to the center of Torrington. Torrington became well known in the 19th century for the production of brass products, wooden clocks, and the condensing of milk. Stores, restaurants, and antique shops are located in a mix of late Victorian, Art Deco and commercial buildings along a delightful Main Street.
One of Torrington's gems is the Hotchkiss Fyler House Museum, spotlessly maintained with its gold leaf stenciled wallpaper, delicate Meissen and Dresden china figurines and elaborately carved woodwork by the Torrington Historical Society. The House Museum is a grand Victorian built in 1900 by a local figure, powerful in state government. Today, the house remains furnished, as it was when it was a family residence with parquet floors, rich mahogany paneling, beautiful furniture, and a fine collection of decorative arts including paintings, glass and porcelain.
An adjacent carriage house contains an operational machine shop called Hendey Machine Tools. Displays trace the history of this company from 1870 until 1954. A 1930's Hendey lathe, shaper, and milling machine give visitors a glimpse into Torrington's industrial history.
Another Torrington treasure is The Warner Theater located on Main Street a few doors down from the Hotchkiss Fyler House. The Warner Theatre was built by Warner Brothers Studios and opened on August 19, 1931, as a 1,800-seat movie house. Described as Connecticut's Most Beautiful Theatre, it contained stunning art-deco designs, murals of historic Litchfield County sites, and a magnificent star-shaped chandelier in the auditorium.
Damaged in the flood of 1955, repairs were made but when Warner sold the theater new owners were unable to maintain it. In 1980, the Theatre was slated for demolition, and the not-for-profit Northwest Connecticut Association for the Arts, Inc. was founded to save the Theatre.
Today, The Warner Theatre, a National Landmark, is undergoing renovations to bring it back to its former glory while presenting year round entertainment including performances by the highly acclaimed Nutmeg Ballet Company a division of the Nutmeg Conservatory for the Arts also located on Main Street.
To complete Torrington's art scene visit Artwell Gallery on Water St. (off Main St.) that offers changing art exhibits, poetry and musical performances, art classes and lectures.
Just beyond the Warner Theatre, at the intersection of Main and Litchfield Streets you will find Coe Memorial Park, an oasis of beauty and serenity located in the heart of Torrington. The park was given to the city in 1906 by the Coe family as a memorial to their parents with the stipulation that the family mansion and green house be taken down in order to develop a New England styled common for residents and visitors to enjoy. A 15 ton boulder moved through the center of town by a team of ten horses is the backdrop for the Coe Memorial Plaque. In 1907, James W. Scott designed the Park and in 1922 Adelaide Eliza Coe Godfrey established a trust fund to maintain the park.
Coe Park is one of Connecticut's most beautiful city parks that has been developed and impeccably maintained by Horticulturalist, Gwenythe B. Harvey and her firm The Garden Goddess. Features of the park include resplendent seasonal gardens surrounded by thoughtfully placed statues and memorials, fountains and benches. A highlight of the park anytime of year is the formal Victorian Promenade.
Retrace your steps to the junction of Main Street, Rte. 202 and Rte. 8, follow Rte. 202 east to the junction of Rte. 8 and Rte. 4 where this tour began.