Rivers, Lakes and Lore
Location: New Milford, Gaylordsville, Kent, Cornwall Bridge, Warren, New Preston, Washington Depot, Washington, Roxbury, Bridgewater, Brookfield.
Approximate Mileage: 84 Miles
Approximate Driving Time: Full Day
* Denotes side trips in narrative.
Start at Rte. 202 by the New Milford Green. Follow Rte. 202 west*, at the jct. of Rte. 202 and Rte. 7, take Rte. 7 north through New Milford, * Gaylordsville * and Kent. At the jct. of Rte. 7 and Rte. 45*, take Rte. 45 south to Warren and around Lake Waramaug to New Preston. At the jct. of Rte. 202 and Rte. 45 in New Preston * take Rte. 202 east to Rte. 47 south to Washington Depot. At the jct. of Rte. 47 and Rte. 199 take a right on Rte. 199*. At the jct. of Rte. 199 and Rte. 67 take a right on Rte. 67* take a left on Rte. 133* to Bridgewater and Brookfield. At the jct. of Rte. 133 and 25, take Rte. 25 north, at the jct. of Rte. 7 and 202, take Rte. 7 north/ 202 east to New Milford where this tour began.
This tour begins in New Milford, Connecticut's largest town encompassing 64.8 sq. miles. Known to the Potatuck Indians as Weantinock meaning beautiful valley the land was purchased from Chief Waramaug, in 1703, nearly three-quarters of a century before the Revolution by a company of individuals from Milford Connecticut, hence the name, New Milford.
Take Rte. 202 to the historic New Milford Green , laid out in 1872. Today, you will find monuments from past wars as well as a bandstand, first built in 1891 that is a symbol of New Milford's sense of community. You can also explore many exceptional galleries, boutiques, restaurants and antique shops that are clustered in the heart of this village. Many are located in beautifully restored 18th and 19th century homes and buildings.
Town Hall , facing the Green, marks the home of one of New Milford's most illustrious citizens, Roger Sherman, the only Connecticut man whose signature is on all key documents of the founding of this nation.
On one side of the bandstand, is the Gregory James Gallery , featuring original art of prominent, emerging and established artists of the Northeast that is complimented by a series of changing shows. On the other side is the Village Center for the Arts a ceramic art studio in a landmark building overlooking the Green that offers classes,workshops and special events for groups.
The New Milford Historical Society, on the Green, is a complex of 4 buildings: the Knapp House c. 1800, attached to the main gallery; The Litchfield County First Bank building, c. 1820; and the Boardman Store, 1796. In the Knapp House you will find wide floor boards, and an 18th century cooking hearth where people prepared dinner without modern conveniences, a Victorian dining room and parlor, as well as a collection of antique toys.
The adjoining Gallery contains the Society's permanent collection of portraits by Ralph Earl, Richard Jennys, and paintings by Woldemar Neufeld as well as displays of New Milford pottery, pewter, period furniture, tools, textiles, decorative arts and a series of changing exhibits.
The Pratt Nature Center (3 mi. on Rte. 202 east on Papermill Rd.) is a 193 acre wildlife preserve and environmental education center. Hiking along the East Aspetuck River, to the summit of Mt. Tom or to caves where Native Americans lived are favorite activities here. A series of children's programs and a farm in season are also offered. Retrace your steps following Rte. 202 west through the center of New Milford to the jct. of Rte. 202 and Rte. 7.
To reach The Nature Conservancy's Sunny Valley Preserve, continue on Rte. 202 west for 3 mi., take a right on Sunny Valley Rd. (Staples on corner) turn left on Sunny Valley Lane. The Preserve consists of 1,850 acres of farmland, forests, wetlands, and meadows. Visitors can hike on a variety of trails and learn about nature, land management, and environmentally compatible farming at several observation sites. Retrace your steps to the jct. of Rte. 202 and 7; take Rte. 7 north.
Continue on Rte. 7 north to the quaint village of Gaylordsville founded in 1725. Historic sites in Gaylordsville include the Little Red Schoolhouse (Gaylord Rd.) circa 1740, Brown's Forge, Merwinsville Hotel and a plaque where a 300-year old oak tree called the Washington Oak once stood. It was here that General Washington held council with his staff on Sept. 20, 1780.
To reach Merwinsville Hotel and Brown's Forge, cross the bridge, take a sharp right by the post office, follow Riverview Rd., a left on Station Rd.; cross the railroad tracks, take a left on Brown's Forge Rd. Merwinsville Hotel, on the National Register of Historic Places is on the left. The hotel opened its doors to the public in 1843. It represents the legacy of the gilded age when steam trains linked steamship ports on Long Island Sound to the Litchfield Hills. Trains would stop in Merwinsville for lunch before continuing on with their passengers. By 1877, with the introduction of faster trains and dining cars, the Merwinsville meal stop became unnecessary and finally the hotel was forced to close.
Continue on Brown's Forge Rd. for .7 mi. to Brown's Forge, circa 1870, an authentic blacksmith shop with original tools and a working forge. Retrace your steps to Rte.7 and continue on Rte. 7 north.
The next 28 mi. of Rte. 7 north runs parallel to the Housatonic River and has received a special designation for its scenic beauty. The Housatonic River, whose Indian name means Place Beyond the Mountains , headwaters in the Berkshire Mountains of Massachusetts and makes its way down 132 miles through Connecticut to Long Island Sound.
Entering Kent you will pass Bull's Bridge whose roots date to the Revolution. This is one of two covered bridges in CT open to auto traffic. The bridge you see today was rebuilt in 1842 using the town and queen truss design. Over the years, one bridge replaced another as each was washed away by high water and ice.
During the Revolutionary War, Kent was known for its' strategic importance and for supplying the Continental Army with iron ore, goods and soldiers. Local history has documented that George Washington had an accident at Bull's Bridge in 1781. What happened has never been told in detail, but one thing is clear; one of his horses, perhaps his own mount, fell in the raging Housatonic River. One exciting bit of confirmation regarding this incident appears in George Washington's own expense account for March 3, 1781. The first travel expense of the day noted: getting a horse out of Bull's Bridge Falls, $215.00. The amount spent to resolve this incident indicates that it involved quite a rescue operation. It must have taken time and the General was on his way to make plans with the French for naval support of New York against the British. Any ordinary horse might have been allowed to stay in the river. So, it might be assumed that this was no ordinary horse, and perhaps it was Washington's own mount. Today, we can only wonder.
Several miles beyond Bull's Bridge, on Rte. 7 north you will enter the center of Kent. Situated on the Housatonic River between Macedonia Valley and Lake Waramaug, Kent enjoys a setting of great natural beauty. A portion of the Appalachian Trail winds through Kent and two state parks, Macedonia Brook (off Rte. 341) and Kent Falls (Rte. 7) enhance the town's unspoiled character.
Kent's natural beauty has attracted many artists and writers. Today in the center of this friendly village, you will find many exciting antique shops, boutiques, restaurants and art galleries including: The Gallery at Kent Art Assoc. with representational paintings and sculptures by prominent northeast artists in four juried shows annually, Heron Gallery offering one of the finest contemporary collections of American crafts in New England; Foreign Cargo's upstairs gallery of Asian, African, and Pacific Island art; Eckert Fine Art Connecticut specializing in Traditional, Impressionist, Modern and Contemporary paintings and sculptures and Pauline's Place with an eclectic mix of Asian, European and American art and textiles.
An an enclave of galleries just behind Main St. includes the 7000 sq. ft Morrison Gallery that provides a spacious and beautifully lit interior for large sculptures, paintings and installations as well as a private Client Viewing Room and a Print Room. Nearby, the Robin Alexander Gallery features studio furniture created by local artisans in native, exotic and reclaimed hardwoods.
Continue on Rte. 7 north to The Sloane Stanley Museum that displays collections reflecting the great American heritage of craftsmanship and original art by Eric Sloane, artist, illustrator, and author of more than 30 books. Eric Sloane, donated his extensive collection of 18th and 19th century farm tools and implements to the museum. The tools on display were arranged by Mr. Sloane to present them in an artistic and educational fashion.
Eric Sloane wrote many books on the reverence that early settlers had for wood and how they developed skills to design many of the ingenious tools found on display here. Shortly after the museum first opened, Eric Sloane financed the creation of a gallery so that his works could be placed on display and enjoyed by the public. After his death, Eric Sloane's Warren Connecticut studio was re-created at the museum and its contents moved here to represent a working studio of the artist and writer.
The land and building for this museum was donated to the State by The Stanley Works to commemorate 125 years of manufacturing quality tools.
The CT Antique Machinery Museum, next to Sloane Stanley, is a complex of buildings dedicated to the preservation and demonstration of antique machinery from our rich industrial and agricultural past.
The complex includes a fully functional Blacksmith Shop stocked with tools of the trade, Diebold Agricultural Hall houses a large collection of antique farm tractors, large farm implements, agricultural memorabilia and small internal combustion engines; and Industrial Hall features the largest display of working full size steam engines and gas tractors in the state.
The Museum of Mining chronicles the iron ore industry in Litchfield Hills and has one of the state's most extensive collections of Connecticut minerals on display. Visitors to the Cream Hill Agricultural School circa 1845 and noted as one of the earliest schools dedicated to teaching the science of agriculture can admire various collections still in their original cases. A narrow gauge railroad once used in the sugar cane fields of Hawaii to move cane to the processing mill surrounds the complex.
Beyond Sloane Stanley, enter the Flanders Historic District once, the original center of Kent where you will find The Seven Hearths House Museum built in 1754. This meticulously maintained colonial house is furnished with authentic period furniture, many pieces are of Kent origin. An authentically restored colonial kitchen along with the artwork and lithographs of George Laurence Nelson, one of America's all-time great portrait painters are highlights of the museum.
Continuing on you will pass The Dog Show's three -story barn of art and crafts depicting dogs of all breeds. This is the home of Denis Curtiss, Sculptor, whose life-size representational animals and dancers in steel or bronze, grace his studio and outdoor sculpture garden.
A mile beyond, you will pass Kent Falls State Park, well known for its 200 foot cascading waterfall with a hiking trail that follows the falls to their summit. A picnic area at the foot of the falls makes this a perfect place to stop and enjoy the beauty of the Litchfield Hills.
Continue on Rte. 7 north.
At the jct. of Rte. 7 and 45, take Rte. 45 south to the center of Warren, whose centerpiece is the impressive Warren Congregational Church, completed in 1820 with a pilastered pediment, and fine interior woodwork. The town's name was chosen to honor the Revolutionary War hero Joseph Warren, who died in the Battle Of Bunker Hill.
Proceed on Rte. 45 south to Lake Waramaug, named for Chief Waramaug, the most powerful warrior of his day.
The unspoiled beauty of Lake Waramaug, CT's second largest natural lake bordered by Kent, Warren and Washington is reminiscent of Switzerland's Lake Lucerne and Italy's Lake Como. In the 1840's the Lake became a summer resort for people from New York City with the opening of the Housatonic Railroad.
Today, the lake retains the ambience of a stylish resort. The eight mile drive around Lake Waramaug, has something for everyone including a state park with a beach, paddle boats, picnicking, and camping, three elegant inns, several restaurants with stunning views of the lake and Hopkins Vineyard located in a restored 19th c. barn. Hopkins welcomes visitors to sample their award winning wines and relax in the hayloft wine bar with its bird's eye view of the lake.
Follow Rte. 45 south to the riverside village of New Preston where you will find a tempting array of antique shops, restaurants, and craft galleries.
From New Preston, take Rte. 45 to the jct. of Rte. 202 where you can take three special trips. Mt. Tom State Park, 3.5 miles from this junction, offers swimming, fishing, boating, shaded picnic areas, and a popular one mile hiking trail to a stone tower (1,325 ft.) with panoramic views of the area. Just beyond is G. Wolff Pottery the shop of renowned master potter, Guy Wolff. Displays here include a variety of pots made in the tradition of 18th and 19th century English, French, Tuscan, and American potters. Retrace your steps to the jct. of Rte. 202 and 45.
For the third side trip from the junction of Rte. 45 and Rte. 202 in New Preston for a visit to The Silo and Hunt Hill Farm take Rte. 202 west for four miles, left on Upland Rd., the Farm and Silo are at the top of the hill on the right.
In association with Smithsonian Institution, Hunt Hill Farm Trust is the heart of two New England farms with ten historic buildings and 84 acres of preserved farmland. It is the home of the Skitch Henderson Museum that offers a window on the life, career, and pursuits of Skitch Henderson in the context of America's 20th century cultural history. Collections include portions of the Henderson American Music Archive such as many rare recordings, scores, ephemera, and photos as well as carefully chosen pieces from the holdings of the Trust.
The Silo Store consists of the Hayloft Gallery with changing monthly shows and exhibits, and the Silo Cooking School that offers a full and varied roster of cooking classes for adults and children.
Retrace your steps to Rte.202 east and follow to Rte. 47 south toward Washington Depot.
Retrace your steps to Rte. 202 take Rte. 202 east, to Rte. 47 south to Washington Depot where you will find appealing shops, restaurants and art galleries. Most notable is the Washington Art Association Gallery next to the Town Hall, which features monthly exhibits and offers regularly scheduled classes and workshops.
Continue on Rte. 47 south to the heart of Washington, the first town to be incorporated in Connecticut after the Declaration of Independence was signed. The town was named after General George Washington who passed through the area on three separate occasions during the Revolutionary War. Stately homes, buildings, and a classic Congregational Church built in 1801 with a distinctive porch surround the beautifully maintained Washington Green laid out in the 1740s.
Adjacent to the Green is the Gunn Memorial Library and Museum. Highlights of the Library include an exquisite gilt accented ceiling mural by H. Siddons Mowbray, stained glass windows, and changing art exhibits.
The Gunn Museum has an impressive range of decorative and fine arts spanning 200 years displayed in the period rooms of a 18th century house. Collections include dollhouses and children's toys, a superb 18th through 19th century textile and wardrobe collection, and photography that offers a glimpse into this former farming community and country retreat for New York Society. Exhibits that change several times a year complete the experience.
Continue on Rte. 47 take a right on Rte. 199. To visit The Institute for American Indian Studies take a right on Curtis Rd., the entrance is 1 mi. on the right. The focus of Institute's primary exhibit, "As We Tell Our Stories", is expressed through artifacts, art, stories and maps on the enduring connections to the land, the spirits of ancestors, knowledge of clay, corn, and deer, living spaces, exchange, and caring for the earth.
Additional exhibits include a re-creation of an indoor Algonkian longhouse, containing both original and replicated artifacts, a mural depicting daily life of the Algonkian peoples prior to the arrival of Europeans, a children's discovery room, and two Native American Art Galleries with changing shows.
Located in a pristine setting,the Institute also offers a variety of outdoor activities including hikes on four signed Nature Trails, a simulated archaeological site; gardens, and a life size outdoor 17th century replicated Algonkian village with wigwams made of bark and other local materials.
Retrace your steps and continue on Rte. 199, take a right on Rte. 67 toward New Milford. Enroute you will pass the entrance to Mine Hill Preserve, whose landscape represents the historic legacy of Connecticut's early iron ore industry (2 mi., right on Mine Hill Rd.). The area, is on the National Register of Historic Places.
At Mine Hill visitors may explore a fascinating 3.5 mi. trail that will take them on a journey past the state's largest ruins of chimneys, tunnels, roasting ovens, smelting furnaces and even a large granite quarry.
Continue on Rte. 67 to Rte. 133 to the village of Bridgewater, settled in the early 1700's when it was called The Neck. The town was given its present name from the site of the first bridge (1737) built across the Housatonic River when it was incorporated from New Milford in 1856. Bridgewater's rolling hills, brooks, and lakes once attracted a large summer community and today its charming village center is a reflection of that time.
Entering Bridgewater note the classic Congregational Church built in 1807 on the left. The Green is located across from St. Mark's Episcopal Church built in 1859 whose original 90 ft. spire was replaced with a Latin trefoil cross in 1929 because the spire was thought to be unsound. The Village Store is located in an ornate Victorian styled building with a 50 ft. tower that was once the factory of Charles B. Thomas, who is remembered as "the Mail Order King."
Across the street, the Federally styled Town Hall circa 1904, is next to the Bridgewater Historical Society, situated in the Victorian styled Peck House that was originally located across from the Congregational Church. Displays include rooms decorated with period Victorian furnishings and exhibits depicting the social and cultural history of Bridgewater.
The Society also maintains the Captain's House, circa 1851, that displays post office and general store collections. This house was the childhood home of Captain William Dickson Burnham, a benefactor of Bridgewater. Burnham's life reads like a fast paced adventure novel. At 14 he was a runaway to the sea, working as a cabin boy on a clipper ship; by 37, he had risen to Master Mariner status, holding command of steam and sailing ships in all seas; later in his career, he managed the American Hawaiian Steamship Company. He never forgot his childhood in Bridgewater and bequeathed to it his residual estate that allowed the town to build a school and a library, both of which are named Burnham.
The Burnham Library built with funds left by a sea Captain in 1926 was expanded in 1980 from a bequest from Charles E. Piggott, an eccentric hermit living in seemingly destitute conditions in an L.A. slum. Apparently Mr. Piggott read about the Library's fundraising efforts to build the Van Wyck Brooks Memorial Wing, and being a fan of this author, he left $300,000 to a library in a town, across the country that he had never seen. His will was discovered by accident when his shack was being bulldozed. After a five year legal battle the estate was settled in favor of the Library and the wing was built. Today the Library offers changing art exhibits.
Continue on Rte. 133 passing the Bridgewater Country Fair Grounds, lovely homes, including the historic Red Mill circa 1796, striking views, and the Henry Plusher Nature Preserve. Just before crossing the bridge, pull into the parking lot on the left for a scenic view of Lake Lillinonah formed after the Shepaug Dam was built to control flooding.
In 1955, Hurricane Diane hit the area and the lake filled overnight changing the landscape of the Housatonic Valley forever. Named Lillinonah after Chief Waramaug's daughter, it is the second largest manmade lake in the state. Under the water of this lake, right where you are standing, are old Indian trails, roads for cars and carriages, and homes and buildings where people once lived and worked.
Crossing the bridge enter the town of Brookfield and continue on Rte. 133. At one time, Brookfield was largely composed of farms along with a small pocket of industry nestled on the banks of Still River.
In keeping with Brookfield's agricultural history, visit DiGrazia Vineyard an award winning Connecticut Winery (left on Tower Rd., entrance is 500 ft on left) for a guided tour. Retrace your steps and continue on Rte. 133 to Brookfield Center.
At the jct. of Rte. 133 and 25, the classic Brookfield Congregational Church built in 1854 is in front of you. To explore the historic district of Brookfield, take a right on Rte. 25 north. On the right is the Brookfield Historical Society located across the street from the current Town Hall. The Historical Society is located in a building that dates to 1875 and once served as the town hall. The Society maintains a collection of more than 15,000 dated artifacts and a historical garden designed by Dr. Rudy Favretti who helped restore 18th c. gardens at Monticello and Winterhur.
Continue on Rte. 25 passing St. Paul's Church, the third on this site, built in the English Gothic style. Next, is the Brookfield Theater for the Arts housed in a 1907 building that was part of the Curtis School for Boys. The theater offers year-round live performances. Just beyond is The Grotto, a popular pilgrimage site built in the 1940's and modeled after the Grotto in Lourdes, France.
At the jct. of Rte. 7 and Rte. 202, enter Brookfield's historic Ironworks area where part of the chain was made during the Revolutionary War that stretched across the Hudson River to keep the British at bay.
Here you will find where the Brookfield Craft Center, was located until it closed in the summer of 2010. The Center was located in one of the oldest mills in the area overlooking Still River at Halfway Falls.
At the jct. of Rte. 7 and 202, take a right on Rte. 7 north and 202 east to New Milford where this tour began.
To get off Rte. 7 with a scenic drive past Lovers Leap, to the New Milford Green where this tour began, just after the New Milford High School, take a right on Lanesville Rd. (KBRO gas station by the stop light), turn right on Still River Dr., cross the bridge and railroad tracks, as you cross the second bridge, you will see the entrance to Lovers Leap Gorge. It was here that Chief Waramaug's daughter Lillinonah discouraged that her lover would not return slipped into her canoe and plunged into the rapids that would be her doom. When she was already in the rapids, her lover appeared on the cliff above. Seeing her, he leaped down the 100 ft. precipice and joined her in the arms of the Great Spirit. Continue on Still River Rd./Grove St., following the River, at the jct. of Grove St. and Rte. 67 take a left on Rte. 67 to Rte. 202 w to the Green where this tour began.