For awhile my cousins and I had planned to visit, and it finally worked out on Thursday, 25 July, I headed to my aunt’s home in Mystic, Connecticut, Steve arrived from Colorado, and Debbie came by ferry from Block Island. A quick trip for us all, it was a nostalgic four hour visit. My aunt, now in her late 90s, is failing mentally, but it was obvious she had some idea of our visit and conversation. The most touching moment was when I was leaving, her care-giver had helped her outside, where I saw her smile and wave. Touching and tearful.
A long, but not impossible day, I decided at the last moment to stop on the way home (backroads, of course). I was finally in the “quiet corner” of Connecticut at the right time of year to visit the Roseland Cottage in Woodstock, it made sense. I found Henrietta House Bed & Breakfast on US Route 44 in Ashford, an area I had not reached previously. The B&B, a 300 year survivor, fascinating features, owned by only five families in those three centuries.
Knocked off my feet, you know I love original, and was born in the wrong century. The right (above) part of the home was built c1722. The “new” deck on the right was off my room. The addition to the left was added about 1740 with a massive central fireplace. Actually, not totally centered in the resulting structure because the rear half with its fireplace (see below) opens up to the original structure – fascinating, and must be seen. Remember, you may click on an image to open the gallery.
The owner wishes to maximize her sustainable life, and maintains a small farm of pigs, goats, and gardens. She does this well because you barely can see that her solar panel system is atop the 19th century barn, seen here from my deck.
It was feeding time, before breakfast feeding time for Ray, so I meandered out to the barn. There were two mama pigs, the lucky daddy, and 15 little ones running around. Yes, I asked, the little ones are but three days old, and they come out running. Yes, again I asked the gestation period being told three months, three weeks, and three days (give or take three minutes I must add). Sorry, forget the breed of this pig/hog, but someday they will make it to the house (on a plate).
Walking back to the home I stopped at the door handle seeing something I have only seen once before – a marking on the handle. I knew what it was
My hostess knew it was there, and also the similar one on the rear door. But she had no idea of the significance. In October 2017 I had a fantastic trip to Historic Deerfield, and then had great experiences at Old Sturbridge Village. That first evening the plan was for dinner at Salem Cross Inn in West Brookfield, MA. The large 18th century inn is named for the almost exact Hexmark on its front door handle. From the Salem Cross Inn’s blog, “at first sight, the hexmark appears as a Roman numeral 10, or two triangles, with a line across the center of it. There were many symbols that related to the witch trials, many symbolized whether you believed in the actual Puritan ways. The hexmark was meant to ward off “ye evil spirits of deviltry” that the supposed Salem Witches “carried” with them. If you had this on your door, it was to show others you believed in the superstitions that came with wanting the good spirits. Those who did not believe in the accusations of the witchcraft put themselves at risk if they did not show they stood behind the Puritans, therefore making themselves targets.” – so, now you know.
Sharing the above with my hostesses, I could then eat, knowing I was safe.
I have mentioned before that Connecticut Route 169 must be driven. So before picking up that route north, I crossed on US 44 through Pomfret (beautiful) to Putnam for antique shops I frequent when in the area. Bought two books in one shop — priced such that they will be a big score once sold, another trip paid for.
It was then up to Woodstock, Connecticut to the green with the Woodstock Academy at the head.
and then across the street for Roseland Cottage, the Bowen House.
I have been a member, supporting Historic New England and its properties for a number of years, but never visited a property. I have only been in this area the wrong time of year, or day to visit. Today was the day, and with “Ray luck,” I arrived just minutes to show my membership card before the noon tour began.
here is a gallery of a few images to whet your appetite.
Built in 1846 as a summer cottage, the property was in the family until 1970 when acquired by Historic New England. A time capsule of originality with its 1880’s improvements. And its builder, Henry C. Bowen, was a successful merchant and well-connected. His parties and events included grand Fourth of July parties, begun in 1870 to promote patriotism. The Independence Day celebrations continued for twenty-five years. Hundreds were invited, and thousands gathered for the festivities. Well-heeled did I say? Three United States presidents, Ulysses S. Grant, Benjamin Harrison, and Rutherford B. Hayes, and three past and future presidential candidates, John C. Fremont, James G. Blaine, and William McKinley attended the celebrations.
Here is the Presidential bedroom. If I remember correctly, Grant only spent the day, and did not sleep here (but wait until you read further).
This new carriage was purchased to meet President Grant at his train,
and can be see in the oldest existing bowling alley in the country. President Grant rolled a strike, and wanted to celebrate smoking a cigar. Bowen, opposed to all vices, invited the President to smoke across the street.
And, finally (but there is so much more to see and learn here), below on the left is the outhouse attached to the woodshed (center) and icehouse (right). This improved necessary convenience was built for President Grant. The right hand image is the “President’s Throne” (my clever term for it) – remember to click to enlarge.
Only a half hour away, and on the way home (and if not directly I would still do it) you know what I did – OSV – Old Sturbridge Village – for a short visit (easy and painless when a member). Here is a panorama you can click for full screen looking down the common from the meeting house.
Walking in, these 1834 gentlemen were harvesting rye. The seeds will be thrashed for grain, middle part of the stalks can be woven into straw hats and the like, and the thicker bases used in broom making – I love learning, up-close and first hand.
I have become cognizant of 19th century small one or two room attorney’s offices (wrote a story for the August issue of the Walpole Clarion – page 16). So, before sitting on a bench on the common watching and enjoying everyone strolling around, I took another look at the 1796 Law Office originally from Woodstock, Connecticut.
next door at the Parsonage (c1748 from East Brookfield, Mass.) there was a gardening demonstration.
and, I stay awhile in one of my favorite buildings – Isaiah Thomas’ c1780 Printing Shop from Worcester, Massachusetts. I always learn something new about 19th century printing.
a stop in the gift shop, bought another book, and then backroading home on basically the most direct route, but about 20 minutes longer than fast slabs – well worth it. So follow US 20 west from Sturbridge; 148 north to the Brookfields; turn left on Massachusetts 9 (pass the Salem-Cross Inn); north on 32; bear left on 32A (more direct) then when it ends, follow 32 into wonderful Petersham (I last stopped here 7 April 2019, and if you forget why, click on this link), where you will find another Law Office.
Brooks Law Office, circa 1830 is all I have learned so far. Interior has been restored.
and, then it was an easy trip home
1 – Visit Roseland Cottage in Woodstock, Connecticut
2 – Visit Old Sturbridge Village
3 – Become a member of Old Sturbridge Village and take advantage of their special events
4 – Become a member of, and support Historic New England
5 – get out and explore and shunpike