A Journey Back In Time

Sunday, June 5, 2016 - by Diane Siskin

A few days spent exploring Litchfield and other small towns in Western Connecticut will leave you with a revolutionary feeling.

In many of the towns in this beautiful area of the state time has stood still. Whether you visit in spring, summer or early fall all the enticements are yours for the taking.

During the summer the attractions for visitors are bountiful and far-reaching. National Geographic magazine has called Litchfield Hills “one of the 50 best places in the United States for a scenic drive.”

We covered quite a large swath of Western Connecticut on a spring weekend. But I wanted to stay and see more.

One of the highlights of my visit was the charmingly quaint town of Litchfield with its multitude of historic Revolutionary era homes and artifacts.

Not to be missed here is the Tapping Reeve House and Law School, which was America’s First School of Law. In 1773 Tapping Reeve moved to the town, opened a school and enrolled his first law student, Aaron Burr. Then for the next 60 years, hundreds of our nation’s future leaders, men who had a lasting influence on politics, law and business of our emerging nation, studied at this pioneering school.

The Litchfield History Museum on the Litchfield Green features permanent and changing exhibits on the themes of Litchfield history as told through paintings, furniture, textiles and household objects.

But you needn’t stay indoors to soak up history in this area, just walk the streets and view beautifully maintained homes which look on the exterior pretty much as they did when they were built more than 200 years ago.

Then wander around the town’s small shops and dine in their first-class restaurants, such as West Street Grill, 43 West Street and The Village Restaurant & Pub, 25 West Street, where the cuisine rivals any big city restaurant. Or try the small locals’ hangouts, such as Patty’s Restaurant at 499 Bantam Road.

While on West Street don’t miss a look at R. Derwin Clothiers, both the Men’s and Ladies stores are located a few doors apart. The clothing is traditional with lots of contemporary twists, featuring excellent style and wear-ability.

Nearby are Lawrence Jeffrey Estate Jewelers and Jeffrey Tillou Antiques both of the highest quality.

On Saturdays from now through October 31, head to Litchfield Hills Farm Fresh Market for local produce. Definitely sample the ice cream produced on site at Arethusa Dairy and their bakery and other items in Arethusa al Tavalo next door at 828 Bantam Road. Be prepared to wait for your ice cream, it is truly a popular place.

Hop back into your car to visit the expansive and breathtaking views you can see around the Arethusa Dairy Farms along Route 63. This Dairy Farm of Distinction is owned by two men involved in the making of those famous  and highly desirable Manolo Blahnik shoes. Tours of the facility have to be arranged in advance. The owners of the Arethusa enterprises have bought up lots of the area’s acreage and old farmsteads to create their immaculate farms with prize cows in residence. They have also helped create jobs for many of the locals.

While on Route 63 be sure not to miss White Flower Farm, the retail nursery on this site is known wide and far by people all over the country who order their seedlings, garden tools, supplies and fresh flower bouquets and gifts from nursery catalogs, such as the White Flower Farm Spring 2016 Garden Book. (Website: WhiteFlowerFarm.com)

The White Flower Farm Store and Display Gardens are open from April to October at 167 Litchfield Road, in Morris, CT. The display gardens cover 5 acres (on uneven terrain) but are open to the public.

The farm started out originally as landscape lawn and small garden to supply cut flowers for the country residence of two writers, William and Jane Grant. The couple’s avocation soon became an obsession and the White Flower Nursery was born. The name for new business was the result of the first perennial border surrounding their vacation home, the all-white garden known as Moon Garden, which still occupies its original site. A beautiful pair of Wisteria floribunda standards blooms in this garden in May.

Another Litchfield business, Bantam Tileworks was born of the creative talents of Darin Ronning and Travis Messinger, who moved to the area from New York. The pair left the Manhattan store where they formerly sold ceramic tableware to create custom handmade tile and tableware.

Their business is located on Bantam Road in a relatively small workshop/showroom in a newly renovated building. While the owners work in the open studio behind some permanent tile installations and changing displays, they invite visitors to see first-hand their process of creating tile from their own unique palette of colors.

Their tableware designs are not limited to dishes or bowls. They also include tile tops for tables, trays and coasters.

They work with clients to make their vision a reality by using field, shaped and carved custom tile.

Other creative people are found throughout the county at various Connecticut Farm Wineries. We visited the Hopkins Vineyard adjacent to Hopkins Inn on Lake Waramaug, one of Connecticut’s most scenic bodies of water.

The Vineyard has a great gift shop and café. But, don’t miss a meal at the Hopkins Inn across the road; even if you are not staying there. The Inn has welcomed guests to enjoy this scenic and peaceful countryside since 1847. Hopkins Inn sits high above the northern shore of the lake and overlooks the vineyards. (www.thehopkinsinn.com)

The restaurant which is renowned for its contemporary Austrian cuisine offers dining on its shaded garden terrace. It is open for breakfast and lunch (and currently for a mid-afternoon menu (2:00 to 3:00) from Tuesdays through Saturdays through Labor Day). Dinner is served nightly from Tuesdays through Sundays in the dining room.

This area (Warren) of Connecticut, like Litchfield, New Preston, Washington Depot, Woodbury and Bantam lend themselves to exploring by walking, bicycling and even hiking. The White Memorial Foundation and Conservation Center, (two miles west of Litchfield and the largest of its kind in the state) is perfect for all kinds of outdoor activities, including canoeing.

But to get to Litchfield and these other Western Connecticut towns you will need a car.

If you are unable to rent a car, such as was the case for me on this trip, you do have another wonderful option.  I found local driver and guide John F. Keitty through the Litchfield Inn, where I stayed.

Mr. Keitty, a native of the area, provided needed chauffeur services during our visit; he also drove us back to New York City. He was efficient, on-time and very knowledgeable about the area. (Transporter.Keilty@gmail.com).

It turned out that not driving ourselves made the sightseeing more fun and enjoyable and definitely increased safety since I could stop and take pictures quickly and at any point. It is also good to note that this area of the state offers free parking around all sites mentioned.

The Litchfield Inn at 432 Bantam Road is in the heart of this whole enticing area. It offers a variety of rooms, from cozy to contemporary. They serve a complimentary full country breakfast and offer complimentary bicycles and a fitness center. There is also a business center and a Library Lounge with books and magazines. The inn exterior reflects its historic setting and has a very laid-back vibe.

For More Information:

Western Connecticut Convention & Visitors Bureau, www.visitwesternct.com

www.litchfieldhills.com(860) 567-4506. The wonderful women who work there will be more than helpful in planning your own unforgettable journey.

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Dsiskin123@gmail.com


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