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Corner & Norwich
Tucked just beneath the Massachusettsís state line, the Quiet Corner, Connecticutís northeastern tourist area awaits leisurely discovery. Spanned by Scenic Byways #169 & #49 and pretty #195, the area has all the amenities and pleasures a visitor could wish for, including quaint villages, gorgeous architecture, heritage sites, natural forests and state parks. There is accommodation and restaurants that suit all budgets and tastes. Nature walks and hiking trails abound in the Quiet Corner. Most trails are open to the general public between dawn and dusk. The area also has a number of excellent parks for those who like to camp.
For better use of your time, choose an accommodation to use as your home base so that you donít have to worry about moving "bag and baggage" from one spot to another. Perhaps you would like the amenities and access of the Sleep Inn at Willington. The Inn at Woodstock Hill certainly meets all requirements for a cosy retreat with great dining room. The Inn is located in one of the most charming villages on Route #169. The c1917 Lord Thompson Manor near Thompson exceeds all expectations for an exquisite bed and breakfast accommodation Monday through Thursday. This gorgeous home boasts original floors, staircases, dish cupboards, fireplaces and exterior facade. Weekends are usually reserved for weddings and special party events.
Suggested itinerary one day in the Quiet Corner should include a circle tour - north on #169 leisurely exploring the villages of Lisbon, Canterbury, Brooklyn, Pomfret, South Woodstock and Woodstock. Then south on #12 through the old mill towns of Thompson, Attawaugan, Putnam, Danielson, Wauregan and Plainsfield. Give lots of time for exploring the mill towns that owed their existence to the industrial revolution. For the most part these 4-5 storey red brick industrial structures stand derelict. With their sturdy construction, imposing towers and Victoria window treatments the buildings are worthy of being transformed into homes, retail outlets, museums, galleries. Letís hope their beauty and usefulness is discovered before they are lost forever.
Scenic byway #169 holds a few surprises along its tree lined bower. Several of the most interesting are to be found in and near Woodstock. Roseland Cottage/Bowen House cannot be missed at Woodstock Common. Its bright pink exterior pulls visitors off the road. Designed by Joseph C. Wells and built in Gothic Revival style in 1846 by Henry C. Bowen, the home exemplifies theories of that great American planner Andrew Jackson Downing for room function, comfort, sanitation and landscaping. Roseland Cottage is a National Historic Landmark.
Also located in Woodstock are the Woodstock Academy, Old Burial Grounds and pretty white steepled church on the Common.
A circle tour of the south/western Quiet Corner reveals even more surprises. Mansfield, is home of the University of Connecticut which has a number of interesting museums on site, including a Museum of Puppetry.
A mile west of Mansfield on a little used country road, the c1830's Gurleyville Grist Mill, located on the Fenton River, houses a small museum. More striking are the ruins of a stone fence and wall on the opposite side of the river. Of course, during all your discovery tours, always respect private property. Coventry is a pretty village that boasts a number of businesses housed in heritage buildings.
Hungry? We found ourselves returning over and over again to Kathy Johnís where food is good, reasonably priced and ice cream deserts are amazing. If it is good enough for university students, its good enough for us. Lunch is a treat at the c1822 Bidwell Tavern in the small village of Coventry. One evening we enjoyed an excellent meal in the dining room of the Inn at Woodstock Hill, properly cooked, well presented by friendly, knowledgeable staff. I would be remiss if I didnít mention the excellent meal we had at the Grecian Festival sponsored by the Holy Trinity Greek Orthodox Church in Norwich. We have met some lovely people when dining at local not-for-profit suppers sponsored by community groups. We understand the Grecian Festival is held on the second weekend of September each year. When traveling, watch for signs in front of churches or community halls, advertising such delights.
Letís get on with our tour. The village of Coventry has a number of monuments and site dedicated to the Revolutionary war. Nathan Hale is its most famous son. He is Connecticutís state hero for his bravery, and subsequent loss of life, during the Revolutionary War. A visit to the c1770 Hale homestead is a must for history and architecture buffs. A small gift shop is located in the barn. Look for the interesting monument to a horse near the barn. Interpreters will tell you the house is reputed to be haunted by two ghosts, that of a young woman and an old man. I must tell you this is one house that gave me a "chill." What do you think? The Hale Homestead is maintained by the Antiquarian and Landmark Society.
The small village of Lebanon, settled in the late 17th century, has the longest village common in Connecticut. It is a National Register Historic District. At one mile in length, the Common is best experienced on foot. Lebanon has a number of important residents and architectural features, including the c1760 Dr. William Beaumont House, the c1735 Jonathan Trumbull House and a Revolutionary War Office.
One of the most interesting museums in the Quiet Corner is located in Willlimantic. The creative Windham Textile and History Museum gives visitors the opportunity of looking inside one of those imposing mill buildings as it located in a former mill complex. The history of the textile industry, and cultures of its workers is presented in an innovative and entertaining format. The complex houses a research library, museum shop and mill floor. Rarely has the story of Americaís textile industry and its workers been told so well.
Healthy doses of Christmas can be found at G and L Christmas Barn near Windham. A fourteen room barn is chock full of collectibles and Christmas memorabilia, including a phenomenal Dept 56 display which is a must-see!
Included in this article is the city of Norwich that can be accessed via Route #12 from the north. Technically speaking Norwich belongs in the Mystic & More Tourism area.
Norwich is built over five hills on the Thames River. Founded in 1659 by settlers from the coastal town of Old Saybrook, Norwich boasts 300 years of architectural styles including the c1675 Leffingwell House Museum. Norwich, at the junction of the Yantic and Thames Rivers, with access to Long Island Sound, was destined to be an industrial "giant." It was always a city that boasted a hearty ethnic mix. Most spent their lives in area factories looking for the American dream, trying to capture it for their children and grandchildren. Many succeeded.
The Yantic River in particular, with its magnificent high falls, became the focal point for industry that required water power. Falls Village is cradled below the roaring cascade. Area history predates the coming of the "white man." It was once an important camp and gathering spot for the Mohegan Indians. Indian Leap, an outcropping of rock that bounds the narrow river channel just below the bowl of the falls, is especially important to Indian legend.
The City of Norwich offers some of the most striking urban architecture in small town Connecticut, including Federalist, Colonial, Victorian, Gothic, Second Empire, Roman Classicism, Romanesque, Greek Revival, Late Georgian, Italianate, Richardsonian Romanesque. Walking tours of Historic Norwich, Old Norwichtown Burial Ground, Washington & Broad Streets and Broadway & Union Streets are available through Norwich Tourism.
No visit to Norwich is complete without a stop at the Slater Memorial Museum located on the campus of Norwich Free Academy. Give yourself at least one half day to do this museum justice. The building itself is a treasure. Designed by Stephen A Earle and constructed at the bequest of William R. Slater, the 1886 Richardson Romanesque building houses a rare collection of Roman, Greek and Renaissance plaster casts, native American artifacts and Victorian furniture. The Converse Art Gallery is the home of changing exhibits by local and regional artists. Gaultieri Childrenís Museum delights small visitors.
IF YOU GO:
Willington, Connecticut 06279
94 Plaine Hill Road
South Woodstock, Connecticut 06267-0098
Thompson, Connecticut 06277
69 Main Street
108 Crescent Street
348 Washington Street
Norwich, Connecticut 06360
Stone Mill Road
Mansfield, Connecticut 06268
157 Union and Main Street
Willimantic, Connecticut 06226
2299 South Street
Windham, Connecticut 06280
Corner of Rte #195 & #44
1260 Main Street
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