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Annual Historical Society House & Garden Tour Approaching

“Mainly Main Street” is the focus for Newtown Historical Society’s 2014 House & Garden Tour.

Ticketholders will be able to visit several antique homes and their hidden gardens, all within the town’s historic district and within easy walking distance of the flagpole. A professionally landscaped, stunning modern renovation is just a very short drive away.

This year’s tour, the 18th annual presentation by the historical society, is scheduled for Saturday, June 28, rain or shine from 11 am to 5 pm. Two properties will have their gardens open for visits, and another four will have their homes and gardens available for ticket-holders.

In addition to the homes and gardens on the tour, Saturday’s event will also offer ticketholders a visit to the historic Newtown Meeting House, at 31 Main Street; a 10 percent discount on lunch at The Inn at Newtown, 19 Main Street; and a stroll through The Pleasance, a scenic garden at 1 Main Street that is owned and maintained by The Bee Publishing Company.

Advance tickets are $25 for adults, $10 ages 8-12, and can be purchased online at www.newtownhistory.org. Early ticket sales are also available at C.H. Booth Library, 25 Main Street; The UPS Store, 261 South Main Street (within Waterfall Plaza); and at Everything Newtown, 61 Church Hill Road.

Tickets on the day of the tour will only be available in front of The Matthew Curtiss House, 44 Main Street, from 10 am to 2 pm. Tickets will be $30 for adults and $15 for children that day.

The public is reminded that these properties will only be open for visits on the day of the tour, during the hours of the event. Properties and their owners should not be approached before or after June 28.

For additional information call 203-426-5937.

 

Gardens

No one would suspect that behind the circa 1830 Greek Revival house at 35 Main Street is a “secret garden” that is a labor of love for owners Renee and Kevin McManus.

Mr McManus created the basic design for the garden and has done much of the stonework himself, while Mrs McManus works on the perennial beds and takes care of putting in the annuals each year in the spring.

The stone terrace is a vantage point that looks down over carefully planned serpentine borders of shrubs and perennials that add texture and color beneath the mature trees that provide shade, coolness and privacy.

The early 19th Century Federal home at 53 Main Street, home of Karen Boyle and Mark Poirer, is surrounded by flower gardens, beginning with the colorful perennial garden in the front and continuing down the hosta-lined driveway.  A rectangular, sloping garden is hidden from the street by charming white picket fences and is reminiscent of  a European cottage garden.

A slate patio and Adirondack chairs provide a view of poppies, daylilies and roses and an attractive garage that was designed to be harmonious with the two neighboring antique barns.

To the side of the garage is another lovely garden where Ms Boyle grows vegetables and herbs in raised beds and starts the seedlings that are later moved up into the main garden.

The couple has installed an impressive composting area and there is also a drip irrigation system that keeps this garden well fed and watered.

 

Houses And Gardens

Shane and George Miller will again open their home, The Budd House, at 50 Main Street, as well as the property’s gardens for public visits.

The stunning Second Empire style house with Mansard roof, built in 1869, was the home of Henry Beers Glover, a founder of Newtown Savings Bank.  It remained in the family for over 100 years. Locals often call it the Budd House because the granddaughter of Henry Glover married Stephen Budd and lived in the house from the 1920s until 1977.

The Millers are wonderful caretakers of this elegant and beautifully decorated home which reflects the lifestyle of an upper-middle class Victorian residence. They have also renovated the historic barn and Mr Miller has created amazing gardens that include tropical exotics that are wintered in a fully-lighted cellar greenhouse.

Betsy Kenyon’s home at 62 Main Street, a circa 1785 Colonial, is a beautiful example of the architecture of the period. One source indicates that the original owner, Henry Wood, reportedly held a clothing drive to benefit Newtowners serving in General George Washington’s Continental Army.

The original features of the home have been preserved as much as possible, and Ms Kenyon’s selection of muted colors and tasteful period furnishings give a sense of a gracious Colonial lifestyle.

At the side of the house is an outstanding example of a formal garden with a fountain in the center, a signature feature of the property that is admired by Main Street passersby in every season.

Visitors to 4 Newfield Lane, home of Chris and Rob Hughes, will find it hard to believe that this lovely house with remarkable grounds was a small ranch with no landscaping 19 years ago. The couple has transformed the home into a gracious and well-decorated place that reflects their love of entertaining.

The owner of a professional landscape design company, Mr Hughes began by creating perennial gardens and play spaces for the couple’s children, and then added stone walls, flagstone patios and extensive water features.

There is constant color throughout the seasons in this expansive property which includes a state of the art pool deck and spa as well as an area to play horse shoes, a tree house and a fire pit.

At 10 West Street, the yellow post and beam Colonial built in 1848 has seen revisions and additions over many years, yet retains the peaceful aspect of days gone by. The oldest part of the house, now owned by Patrick Hill, still retains the lovely wide-plank floors and a window marks the spot where the original front door was located.

The back yard is large and deep and suddenly one seems far from Main Street. The hundreds of hostas that border the patio and planting beds are all “from four original plants that I divided over and over again through the years,” said Mr Hill.

There are daylilies and Japanese iris in raised beds bordered by walkways that were once called The Surprise Garden because the now grownup children experimented there with plants and whatever came up was a surprise.

 

Additional Properties

The Dooryard Garden, of the circa 1750 Matthew Curtiss House at 44 Main Street, was installed by The Garden Club of Newtown three years ago. It contains culinary and medicinal flowers, herbs and plants that would typically have been included in a garden of the era, as well as those used for fragrance and textile dyes.

 The uses for all of the plants are outlined in an illustrated brochure and there is also a complete planting diagram for this garden in which everything was used and nothing was wasted.

Newtown Meeting House, 31 Main Street, is one of Newtown’s real treasures. It was built in 1720 and was originally in the middle of Main Street, where the flagpole is today. In 1792 it was moved to its current location in the the middle of West Street.

The original gilded rooster weathervane that is still in place above the 100-foot steeple has become the official symbol of Newtown. Although it was undoubtedly local rascals who put bullet holes in the rooster, folklore persists in attributing the act to French soldiers under the command of General Rochambeau. (The French general and his troops marched through Newtown in 1781 and again in 1782 on their way to and from the Battle of Yorktown in support of George Washington and his Continental Army.)

This historic property is on the National Register of Historic Places and received the CT Trust for Historic Preservation Merit Award in 1991.

The Pleasance, 1 Main Street, is two-acre public garden owned by the Smith Family Partnership. Located opposite the historic Ram Pasture, the property has been reserved for the tour and is a wonderful asset to the town.

The centerpiece of the garden is a circa 1890 cast iron, three tiered water fountain surrounded by a circuit of gravel paths and extensive plantings of grasses, flowering shrubs and perennial borders. The garden additionally includes a gazebo, a bocce court and a special Mr McGregor’s garden for children.

A  whimsical sculpture grouping of a dog walker and five dogs by the late folk artist Stephen Huneck is visible from Main Street and loved by all in every season.

 The Inn at Newtown, 19 Main Street, is not officially on the tour, but will provide a ten percent lunch discount for ticketholders.

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