Norwalk To Torrington
( Originally Published 1919 )
R. 6. NORWALK to TORRINGTON. 63.0 m. _ Via DANBURY and LITCHFIELD.
This route follows the valley of the Norwalk river north-ward to Branchville, thence crosses the hills to Danbury, whence it follows the valley of Still River into the Housatonic valley at New Milford. Thence it ascends the valley of the East Aspetuck river high into the Litchfield hills to the beautiful old town of Litchfield.
Leaving Norwalk by Main St. with the trolley at the fork, bear left on Main Ave. The State Road, clearly marked by blue bands on telegraph poles and fence posts, follows the valley of the Norwalk river.
6.0 WILTON. Alt 186 ft. Pop (twp) 1706. Fairfield Co.
The old academy at Wilton, founded in 1817, became famous under the Olmsteads. The road continues up the valley through the village of Branchville (11.4).
Note. Three miles to the east lies Ridgefield, a fine old town with an attractive main street. In the beautiful country surrounding it are many fine residential estates of New York people, including Casagmo, the estate of George M. Olcott, Wild Farms on West Lane, formerly the home of the Hon. Mahlbert B. Carey, and Grove Lawn, the residence of the Hon. Phineas C. Lounsbury, former Governor of Connecticut. There are some fine old houses in the village, including the `Peter Parley,' built in 1797 by Peter's father, the Rev. Samuel Goodrich, and the `Cannon-Ball' house, the home of Cass Gilbert, the architect; in its wall is a shot fired from a British fieldpiece in a skirmish here. A tamarack tree near the village is pointed out as the spot where Benedict Arnold's horse was shot under him in 1777 during the battle with the British. A mile or more to the north is the Ridgefield School for Boys.
Four miles northwest of Branchville are Redding and Redding Ridge, another center of fine estates, and the former home of Mark Twain. Here is located the Sanford School for Boys.
The highway, marked by blue bands, follows in general the course of the river through Sanford and West Redding, and enters on Park Ave. into
22.5 DANBURY (R. 3, p 206).
From Danbury proceed north on Main St. following the blue bands along the valley of the Still river.
30.5 BROOKFIELD. Alt 285 ft. Pop (twp) 1101. Fairfield Co. Mfg. shears and steel dies.
The highway follows the valley of the Still river into the Housatonic, passing Lanesville and crossing the Housatonic on a long iron bridge.
38.0 NEW MILFORD. Alt 340 ft. Pop (twp) 5010. Litchfield Co.
Settled 1702. Mfg. hats, silica paints, tobacco binders, upholstery, gold, silver, and plated ware, and rolled steel.
New Milford is a beautiful riverside village. In the midst of a tobacco-growing region it is a center of the tobacco trade. This was the headquarters of the Indians of western Connecticut and the chief seat of the Great Sachem Waramaug. The first settlers came from Stratford and bought these lands of Wigantenock, an Indian chief. In 1702 Milford bought these same lands of other Indians. The town was incorporated in 1712 as New Milford. The Canterbury School, R.C., has recently been located here.
The route now leaves the Housatonic and follows the valley of the East Aspetuck river through the villages of Northville (42.5) and Marbledale (44.5) to
45.5 NEW PRESTON. Alt 510 ft. Pop (Washington twp) 1747. Litchfield Co.
Just to the north lies Lake Waramaug, a beautiful sheet of water five miles long with a woody level road skirting its shores. Above it rise the wooded slopes of Pinnacle and Tower Mountains (1200 ft). Three miles to the southeast at Washington are the Gunnery School for Boys, and Wykeham Rise, a fashionable school for girls.
The route follows the blue markers beside Bee Brook through Woodville in the valley of the Shepaug river, and ascends through Bantam (53.7), a quaint little village on the Bantam river, whose falls furnish waterpower. Bantam Lake, five miles in length, is the largest sheet of water in Connecticut, The name is derived from the Indian Peantum, "he prays." On the wooded shores of the lake are Chinqueka Camp for Girls and Camp Wonponset for Boys. North of Bantam is Mt. Prospect (1365 ft), at the base of which there is a vein of pyrrhotite with small quantities of nickel and copper.
57.5 LITCHFIELD. Alt 956 ft. Pop 903. Litchfield Co.
Litchfield is one of the most charming villages in New England. The beauty of its location, its quiet and seclusion, its former historic importance and literary associations, "throw over it a glamour of old romance and antiquarian splendor.
Its broad streets are lined with old elms and well-kept Colonial dwellings which have a dignity and grace of architecture in keeping with the town's past social and intellectual importance.
The old mansion of Governor Oliver Wolcott, erected in 1753, still stands on South St. Oliver Wolcott was the first high sheriff of the new county. From this house, the oldest standing in Litchfield, he went out to the Continental Congress as a signer of the Declaration of Independence, served in the Revolutionary Army as a brigadier-general, and later was a commissioner of Indian affairs. Here in 1776 the leaden statue of George III, which had been erected at Bowling Green in 1770, torn down on the outbreak of the Revolution, and cut up and brought to Litchfield, was melted into bullets for the American Army, chiefly by members of the Wolcott household. Some 42,088—so Governor Wolcott himself attests—spheroidal fragments of the effigy of George III were here molded, with which to greet the Royal armies. The house still remains in the Wolcott family.
On the opposite side of the street is the old house of Judge Tapping Reeve, who here in 1784 opened the first Law School in America, which was continued by him and his successor, James Gould, for forty years. Reeve was a man who "loved law as a science and studied it as a philosopher," and here under his eye he trained the foremost legal lights of the time. Among the graduates of the school were five Cabinet ministers, two Justices of the United States Supreme Court, ten Governors of States, sixteen United States Senators, fifty members of Congress, forty judges of the higher State courts, eight chief justices of the State,—about 1000 in all. Judge Reeve married a granddaughter of Jonathan Edwards and sister of Aaron Burr, and under this roof Burr came to study law upon the interruption of his flirtation with Dorothy Q. John C. Calhoun passed three years of his checkered career here. A small wooden building, now on the grounds of the Historical Society, was the law office of Judge Reeve, in which he met his students.
On North St. is the house built in 1760 by Colonel Elisha Sheldon, in the northeast room of which, when it was a tavern, Washington slept. This became the home of Judge James Gould when in 1796 he joined Judge Reeve in the management of the Law School. It is now the summer home of John Prince Elton. The Deming homestead, The Lindens, on North St., erected in 1790 from designs by a London architect, William Sprats, is architecturally one of the finest of the houses of the Georgian period. Dr. Lyman Beecher lived on the northwest corner of North and Prospect Sts. The house has been moved, but the old well and the Beecher elm are still standing. Lyman Beecher was a masterful personality, and a pioneer in a more genial theology than that which preceded him. Here were born his famous children, Henry Ward Beecher and Harriet Beecher Stowe. The old `whipping post' elm still stands on the corner of North and West Sts.
The Sheldon-Tallmadge house (1775) is the residence of Mrs. Emily Noyes Vanderpoel, a great-granddaughter of Colonel Tallmadge, the friend of Washington and Lafayette. The Noyes Memorial building contains the Public Library and the collection of the Litchfield Historical Society. The building has some memorial windows and stands on the site of the Ebenezer Marsh house of 1759.
This territory, originally called Bantam by the Indians, was bought from them in 1715 for fifteen pounds. On its incorporation four years later it was named for the old English town. It was settled by people from the Connecticut valley. In 1751 it became the county-seat and constantly gained in importance. It lay at the crossing of many post roads, and during the Revolution became an important depot for military stores. In the early part of the nineteenth century, Oliver Wolcott, Jr., set out thirteen sycamore trees in the streets of Litchfield, naming them after the thirteen original colonies. The only one now standing is `Connecticut,' in front of the Roman Catholic Church.
Litchfield has furnished to the nation and the State one signer of the Declaration of Independence, one Secretary of the Treasury, two United States Senators, ten Representatives in Congress, three Governors of Connecticut, four of the twenty Chief justices of Connecticut since 1793,—more than any other town or city in the State, except Hartford, which also had four,—besides judges of the Supreme and Superior Courts, and other State officials, and one Admiral of the United States Navy, to say nothing of Ethan Allen, Vermontes strenuous hero.
63.0 TORRINGTON (R.7, p 282).