Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Farmington, CT to Newtown, CT on Route 6

A yukky day, but I’ll put it in perspective.  The rain was grey but gentle – no storms or tornadoes.  I have Missouri and Oklahoma in my thoughts.

Route 6 out of Farmington is Big Box Central: LA Fitness, Wallmart, Car Dealerships – big real estate for mega chains.  And then I come into Bristol; a former clock factory town with some interesting attractions.

1.     American Clock and Watch Museum; Bristol, CT (only one block off of 6) was once the World Center of the Clock industry, put there by Eli Terry who figured out a way to make clocks with interchangeable parts.  Until the early 1800’s, clocks were fashioned individually – and only the wealthy could own them.  But by utilizing a water wheel to drive gear-carving machines, Terry revolutionized the industry.  Visit this museum to learn the history of the clockmaking and to see five rooms packed with Grandfather Clocks, Shelf Clocks and other time-pieces (plenty of tick-tocking going on around here).  If you arrive on the hour, you’ll get a special treat.

2.      The New England Carousel Museum and upstairs Museum of Fire History were two great finds, and virtually unknown outside the area.  The Carousel Museum houses a vast collection of privately owned carved animals – most dating from the mid-1800’s.  Back then, carousels were commissioned by trolley companies , giving them a reason to transport people around.  The first carousels were deemed far too dangerous for children, and modest women would not dare show an ankle, so most riders were men.  You’ll learn lots of trivia here and even get to see a Player Organ in operation!

      The Museum of Fire History got me all fired up.  It’s a treasure trove of antique Firefighting equipment and hardly anyone sees it.  Here’s the video – hope that changes.


 Lock Museum of America was closed on the day I stopped in, but it’s worth a peak to learn about another facet of Connecticut history.

Eli Terry Waterwheel
Terryville, CT
Eli Terry, Jr. Water Wheel was kind of a letdown.  Purported to be the only existing manufacturing water wheel with original gears in USA, it stands, unremarked on, next to an empty lot and chain link fence.

Railroad Museum of New England
Thomaston, CT
Thomaston, CT
Next up, Thomaston, like Bristol, seems to have fallen on hard times. Factory buildings stand vacant, windows broken. But there’s something dignified about it – the way a old railroad clock stands in the center square as you drive into town. Before that, just as you cross the bridge over the railroad tracks, take a sharp left to desend down to the tracks and the Railroad Museum of New EnglandIt’s basically just an old station with some exhibits, but you can also buy a ticket to ride the steam train on this old portion of the track.

A few miles west Watertown seems a cotillion (doesn’t that come after a billion?) miles away from the factory towns. Clusters of new home developments, road canopied by old growth trees, high end stores – a very different 6 here. The Town Hall, Richardson Romanesque built in 1847, looked beautiful even in the foggy drizzle and with scaffolding around it.

A few miles down the road, tony Woodbury is considered the area’s first established antique trail for a reason. Old colonial homes line Route 6 (Main St.) which was laid out in 1670’s along Indian trail.  As in Andover, Route 6 here was used by Washington, Lafayette and Rochembeau during the Revolutionary War.

Mill House Antiques "Hatchet" Door
My first stop here was a look see at Mill House Antiques a purveyor of fine 18th and 19th Century French and English pieces in a 1700’s gristmill.  Walk through the large “hatchet door” (so named because double-strength wooden planks were laid both vertically and horizontally to prevent Indian hatchets from penetrating) and you can smell the burnt wood from centuries old fireplace fires. 
I took some exterior shots of the (closed today) Glebe House Museum, which is considered the birthplace of US Episcopal Church and then stopped into one of the only surviving Pewter Factories in the United States.  I watched a couple of artisans pouring molten pewter into molds and was reminded of required Middle-School reading, Johnny Tremain who as a pewter apprentice, melted his fingers into a web from a botched pour.  Even if you don’t purchase anything – it’s worth a stop.  I was told that the Discovery Channel filmed a “How It Is Made” episode there last month – so if you can’t visit in person, you can see this place on TV!
Dish at Carol Peck's Good News Cafe
Route 6

For a late lunch, I ate at Carol Peck’s Good News Route 6 CafĂ© – a funky contemporary “local and organic” restaurant.  I passed on the “Lobster Mac and Cheese” ($29) and “Martha’s Beat Salad” – the salad Peck concocted on the Martha Stewart Show, and opted for the Mini Chicken Eggrolls With Quinoa and Broccoli.  I felt a bit healthier when I left.

Around Southbury Route 6 joins Interstate 84W for a few miles until it peels off at Exit 10 into Sandy Hook/Newtown.  You can’t miss Newtown’s “downtown:” there is a massive flagpole right in the center of it. 

Newtown, CT Flagpole at Night
Newtown, CT
Newtown is known for having more pre-1825 homes than any town in state, and at least one from which the owner watched Revolutionary War troops walk by while sitting on his front porch (and documented it).

Jane and John, owners
Dana Holcombe House
Newtown, CT

Because the weather was so nasty, I was happy to get to my digs for the evening; the  6-room Dana Holcombe HouseAnd what a location! Like the Old Faithful Inn that faces the famous geyser, this place overlooks the Famous Flagpole right across the street.  The Dana Holcome sounds old and looks old, but is actually a brand new structure (opened just 5 years ago) on the site of a historic Inn that burned to the ground in 1981.  Retired Newtown teachers, John and Jane Vouros, wonderfully gracious hosts, purchased the property, built this inn and dressed it to the nines.  It is stunning.  Rooms are beautifully decorated in Federalist or Early American antiques and reproductions with an eclectic contemporary flare. Artwork done by well-known artist friends line the walls.  There’s an old spinning wheel on the 2nd floor landing, and the whole place is packed with eye-catching items purchased during the ownners’ world travels. The whole third floor 3 room suite – done in Yankee Doodle red, white and blue – can host a large family itself ($225 plus $25 pp over 2).  Breakfast is served in a museum-quality formal dining room on china – and on the morning of my stay, Jane whipped up wickedly good apple-walnut-whole wheat pancakes and fresh scones.  Once this place gets some publicity, it will be on lots of magazine “stay” lists.  For now, John and Jane have kept it word of mouth.


  1. Hi Aunt Mouse,
    Uncle Jeffy must have been so proud of you for selecting the Quinoa! The pics of the B&B are's beautiful! Glad you are having so much fun!!!
    Love you and miss you!

  2. Malerie -- you captured the essence of Rte. 6 in Bristol, Plymouth, Thomaston, Watertown, Woodbury and Newtown Connecticut -- Have a safe journey!

  3. The Dana-Holcombe House is terrific! A lovely place with gracious Hosts! Have stayed there twice and always enjoy our surroundings, the house, the location and the overall ambiance of a well done B&B! Thanks John and Jane.

  4. Thanks so much, Janet.
    And Dan - I totally concur re: Dana Holcome House is one of the prettiest B&B's in New England.


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