Annual House & Garden Tour: Past and Present, At Home In Newtown And Sandy Hook, June 29

Photo: Ginnie Carey

Re-established two years ago by members of The Garden Club of Newtown, the dooryard garden at The Matthew Curtiss House contains plants and flowers typical for the Colonial period through 1850. “The lady of the house may have sprinkled in a few favorite flowers, too, simply because she liked the look of them,” said Garden Club Committee Chair Holly Kocet. “All of these plants you see today would have been used in some way.”

Ticket-holders for the 17th Annual Newtown Historical Society House & Garden Tour will be able to cover 250 years of local history while visiting seven properties this year. This year’s tour will be held Saturday, June 29, from 11 am to 5 pm.

Guests may want to begin with a stroll through the 18th Century Dooryard Garden behind The Matthew Curtiss House, at 44 Main Street, before driving a short distance into Sandy Hook and revisit Colonial roots while exploring a Revolutionary Era saltbox home. Just across the road, enjoy the view of rolling lawns and an aerated pond from the porch of an 1820 farmhouse.

A handsome modern log home in Sandy Hook is also on the self-guided tour, as are its expansive perennial gardens.

Two historic Federal-style houses in the Taunton Hill District are also on this year’s your. With busy young families to raise, their owners have built tasteful additions while preserving the historic character of their homes — one of which is reputed to have been a neighborhood tavern. The other contains antiques its owner inherited from a relative who once owned a museum in Sturbridge Village.

Finally, jump forward into the 21st Century as you tour a stunning, architect-designed lakeside contemporary completed in 2012.

Advance tickets are $25 and can be purchased at Cyrenius H. Booth Library, 25 Main Street; The UPS Store, 261 South Main Street (Waterfall Plaza); or Everything Newtown, 61 Church Hill Road.

Tickets on the day of the tour will be $30 and will be available between 10 am and 1:30 pm at The Matthew Curtiss House, 44 Main Street.

More information can be found at www.newtownhistory.org or call 203-426-5937.


This Year’s Properties

Maps and detailed histories about each location will be provided to each ticket holder. Ticket-holders and those planning to attend the tour are reminded that the private properties and Matthew Curtiss House will be open only during the stated hours of the tour.

Following are brief descriptions of each location:

*Installed a few years ago by The Garden Club of Newtown, an informal kitchen — or dooryard — garden behind Newtown Historical Society’s 1750 museum house contains culinary, medicinal, and household plants and flowers typical for the colonial period through 1850.

Visitors to the rectangular garden (55 feet long by 8 feet wide) will notice all the usual suspects (basil, thyme, lavender, sage, parsley, and bee balm) as well as many that are not so familiar (such as pink clove, spearmint, hyssop, and wormwood). The uses for all of these herbs and plants is outlined in an extensive illustrated brochure that docents will be sharing, and a complete planting diagram has been mapped out on a nearby bulletin board nearby.

*A charming 1820 farmhouse with a newly renovated kitchen and family wing on three grassy acres is a prominent landmark at the corner of two historic, scenic roads in Sandy Hook. The current owners purchased the property in 1986, drawn to the charm of the old house and the potential they saw in its surroundings.

The open landscape features an aerated pond, carriage house, and barn. Open fields have been groomed into lawn, stone walls, woods, and a creek “that always has water in it,” according to the homeowner.

The home was carefully preserved though small changes were made for convenience and utility. Upon entering the old living room, a visitor will appreciate the old bones showing through, including a central chimney stack with fireplace and twin cubbyhole cabinets above the mantel, boxed beams across a low ceiling, several 12 over 12 windows, plank wood floors, and a period staircase with gracefully carved newel post.

*Within walking distance is a handsome Colonial-era home with post and beam construction, original hand-forged hardware, and the original kitchen in the cellar. Many family antiques and found artifacts are on display.

This Revolutionary-era Cape Cod house with center chimney was built sometime between 1765 and 1785 by Asa Chambers. The current owners are only the sixth family to own this house, which basement room reportedly served as a nursery school for local children.

Visitors enter through the original basement door, which leads to the old homestead’s first kitchen with its wide hearth, iron crane strong enough to hold cast iron cooking pots, and low ceiling typical for era in which it was built. The beehive oven was built into the back wall of the fireplace — a feature that helps date the home to just before the Revolution.

There have been two kitchen additions, one in 1950 when the house was restored after being vacant for a decade or more, and the other in 1975. The most recent addition included the master bedroom, a guest room, a full bath and, above the main level via the kitchen, a large family room.

Access to a back garden is through the kitchen and screened-in porch. The lovely, perennial garden has been nurtured through the years and may be enjoyed from comfortable chairs within the screened-in porch that was added in the 1950s.

Hand-forged iron fence hooks deeply embedded in upright granite posts along the edge of the lawn are among the oldest features on the property.

*Also in Sandy Hook is an expanded, modern log home with front veranda and back deck overlooking a parklike landscape with magnificent perennial gardens — where deer repellent has never been used. The home was built in 2001 by then-owner Bud Santo using D-shaped logs of Eastern white pine. The steep pitched roof covering a full-length, 60-foot verandah across the front of the house offers a shady sitting porch and a lovely view of extensive plantings by the walkway and on the far hillside. The dwelling was subsequently featured in the March 2003 issue of Country’s Best Log Homes.

The decorative flair of the couple who currently owns the property combines beauty with whimsy, inside and out. Having purchased the property in 2010, the new owners have created five separate perennial gardens, reinvigorated a vegetable and berry garden with raised beds and a drip line installed last year, and built a pergola from dead cedar found on the property.

*Thanks to four levels, high ceilings, and plentiful windows, there is an expansive sense of space in a Sandy Hook home that was designed by the nationally renowned, Madison-based architect Duo Dickinson. As a result, the house seems far larger than 2,800 square feet of living space.

Materials used to build the house were chosen to match its natural surroundings. The exterior of the house is covered in cedar. There is also a dramatic use of stone, both on the ground floor and in a magnificent, tapered four-story chimney. The interior features Craftsman-style details, such as plain moldings and bead board. Each level of the house uses a different mix of wood species, from mahogany and oak to ash.   

Transportation in and out of this very beautiful but limited-access property — down a long, narrow dirt road on an easement through the Lower Paugussett State Forest — will be provided.

*Built in 1805, a familiar Taunton Hill landmark may once have been a community tavern. Many original spaces have been retained but adapted for a busy family, such as the Tuscan room and kitchen addition.

Town records indicate that David Sherman first owned this property and built a home there in 1768. It is also believed that structure burned down not long afterward.

This was replaced in 1805 by the Federal-style version seen today standing at the junction of Taunton Hill Road and Taunton Lane, which has been in the possession of its current owners since 2001. The couple was married at their home in the garden gazebo. Two ancient maple trees planted on either side of the home along Taunton Hill Road are typical of what were once called “bride and groom trees.”

The home will be open for tours, as will the property. A stroll across the backyard offers views of stone walls, a distant pond and woods. Two vegetable gardens with raised beds are protected by sturdy fencing and three compost bins are tucked into a shady corner. A towering, 100-foot Norway spruce is the lone survivor of several trees that were knocked down during Hurricane Sandy in October 2012.

*A Colonial dating to 1748 has seen changes and additions over the years but retains many original features, including post and beam construction in the original section. The property includes gardens, stone walls, a vernal pool, horse barn and pasture.

The house is known historically as the Albert W. Fairchild House, and is furnished with lovely antiques. Its owners, who have lived in the Taunton district home since 1999, began several renovation projects shortly after purchasing the property to accommodate their growing family. These included improvements to the first and second floors and the addition of a master bedroom on top of what is now the guest room.

Later, they cleared land on the hillside and built the barn where they enjoy watching their two horses graze in the pasture. To the left of the barn is a chicken coop with 15 chickens laying eight to ten eggs each day, which the family sells from a stand outside their home. There is also a garden shed and a vegetable plot protected from deer by a high fence.

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