Following Postponement, Historical Society House & Garden Tour Set For This Weekend

Published: June 22, 2018 at 12:00 am


For the past few weeks, Jean Sander has been dragging up to 200 feet of garden hose to water the plantings in her yard on a daily basis.

The septuagenarian and her husband agreed months ago to open their property at 211 Walnut Tree Hill Road, including their historic house, for Newtown Historical Society's House & Garden Tour this year. Originally scheduled for June 10, the event was postponed after a tornado and macrobursts blew through the area on May 15, causing damage to that property and plenty of others across the state.

Since the storm, Ms Sander said this week, it has been a daily exercise in ongoing cleanup efforts.

The tour will take place Sunday, June 24, from 1 to 5 pm, rain or shine. Tickets are $25 in advance, $30 on Sunday. Proceeds will be divided between The Daniel Cruson Scholarship - a new undertaking by the society, to honor the Town Historian - and repairs that are needed to some of the historical society's buildings.

Organizers plan to introduce Mr Cruson and offer a brief presentation about the scholarship at 3 pm Sunday.

Sharon Cohen, who is helping with the planning for the fundraiser, called Mr Cruson "one of the most valuable resources on the history of Newtown and surrounding areas.

His expertise, knowledge and supportive contributions will be part of history for a long time to come," she added.

In addition to teaching history and archaeology at Joel Barlow High School for over 30 years, according to Ms Cohen, Daniel Cruson has authored numerous books on local history and served as an active member of numerous organizations dedicated to the research and preservation of area history.

According to Ms Cohen, Mr Cruson has led excavations at Israel Putnam Memorial State Park, served as president of Newtown Historical Society, served on the board of C.H. Booth Library, has long been active with The Heritage Preservation Trust of Newtown and Society of American Archaeology, served as president of The Archaeology Society of Connecticut, and was chairman of the Newtown Tercentennial Commission in 2005.

He has also led many tours in Newtown borough and Sandy Hook and has been a leader with the historical societies in Redding and Easton, Ms Cohen added.


'A Nice Change Of Events'

This year's fundraiser is different from previous years in that the Sander property is the one location for the House & Garden Tour. In previous years, ticket holders have visited multiple properties, where homeowners had opened their homes and/or gardens for visits.

This weekend, ticket holders will visit a single destination. Gordon Williams, one of the event's organizers, said the Sander property - home to circa 1748 the Benjamin Curtiss House - will offer plenty for those who visit.

"This is a special house, a very special location, with so much to offer," he said. "We probably won't focus on just one property again, but this will be a nice change of events"

"The house is lovely," Mr Williams continued. "Its builder was related to Matthew Curtiss."

Benjamin Curtiss was one of three men to petition to General Assembly in October 1761 to establish the Stratford-Newtown line, according to Ezra Levan Johnson's History of Newtown.

Matthew Curtiss was the brother of Benjamin. Matthew's former home at 44 Main Street is the headquarters for Newtown Historical Society, of which Lincoln Sander is a former president.

Since they moved into their home in 2002, Lincoln and Jean Sander have continued to honor its history. The house is a Connecticut classic colonial with center chimney. Its three stories and high ceilings, spacious rooms, and beautifully crafted woodwork all reflect the status of its original owner. Many of the dwelling's historic pieces, including a beautiful highboy and a grandfather clock, are of Connecticut origin.

Docents will be on hand Sunday to answer questions about the home and its contents, which include "an amazing collection of 18th Century antiques," according to Mr Williams.

While the Sanders have added antiques to the home's interior, they also treated themselves in recent years to renovations in the kitchen. Statuary marble countertops now fill the room, which has a set of doors that lead out to the northern portion of the property and one of Mrs Sander's multiple garden areas.

The couple has planted more than 40 specimen trees and more than 200 shrubs since purchasing the property in 2002.

"None of the trees we planted came down," Mrs Sander said June 18. "All of the damage was from the huge, old maples that we didn't take down."

Nevertheless, the Sanders have been doing more work than usual on their home and gardens in recent weeks.

Hanging branches have been brought down by professionals - although two did fall a few weeks after the storm before a professional tree groomer could get to them, which caused damage to a deer fence on the property - and weeding has been a constant chore.

"Weeds will grow, even if you don't have rain, and we haven't had rain for weeks," she mentioned Monday afternoon. "I've been weeding and pruning hedges and even planting perennials that didn't survive the winter thanks to that thaw in January and then the deep freeze in February. Those poor perennials just didn't know what to do."

In the midst of their preparations, the Sanders had a bit of a setback last week.

"There were two trees," Mrs Sander said, "two huge 100-foot maple trees on the bank behind our deer fencing. There was one broken branch that had hooked onto a broken branch of another tree about 20 feet away.

"The tree man couldn't do that one, had hoped to return, but last Wednesday - crash! - a huge, huge branch came down on one of them and tore down the deer fencing," she said. "Then another branch came down and tore down another section of the deer fencing."

Despite that post-storm damage and subsequent repair, the Sanders are ready for the weekend event.

Tents will be set up on Sunday to provide shade - or cover, in the event of precipitation - and seating for the afternoon's guests.

Gordon Williams is hoping people will spend time not just walking and enjoying the property, but also sitting and socializing.

"We will also be serving wine and heavy hors d'oeuvres," he said. "It will be a very social occasion, more so than in past years."

Mrs Sander is confident her home and gardens are ready for this weekend's visitors.

"It still looks good," she said this week. "I think guests will be pleased."

Advance tickets for the Newtown Historical Society House & Garden Tour are available at C.H. Booth Library, 25 Main Street; and Queen Street Gifts & Treats, 3 Queen Street. Tickets can be purchased at those locations through the close of business on Saturday. On Sunday, tickets will be available only at 211 Walnut Tree Hill Road. 

For additional information, contact Gordon Williams, 203-405-6392.


SH_historical society house & garden pvw -- new bench from England WATERMARKED

The most recent purchase by Jean and Lincoln Sander, this vintage teak English garden bench is seated near one entrance to the woodland walk guests will discover when Newtown Historical Society presents its House & Garden Tour on Sunday, June 24.

-Bee Photos, Hicks


SH_historical society house & garden pvw -- three-seater outhouse WATERMARKED

An 18th Century three-seater outhouse with original hardware will be found just inside the gate to what Lincoln Sander calls Sandy Hook Botanical Gardens. Mr Sander and his wife Jean have been doing more work than usual at their home and gardens since May 15, when a tornado and macrobusts went through the area. Weeks of cleanup work by the homeowners and professionals mean the property is now ready for visitors, following a two-week postponement of Newtown Historical Society's largest annual fundraiser. 


SH_historical society house & garden pvw -- specimen tree with tag HORIZONTAL WATERMARKED

Lincoln Sander claims to have some forgotten of the names of the trees he and his wife have planted on their property since 2002, but he easily rattles off the names of most specimens while following a woodland path his wife has cultivated. Subtle markers like this one will help guests on Sunday. 


SH_historical society house & garden pvw -- antique tobacco jars WATERMARKED

Dutch tobacco jars from the mid 18th Century are among the items found within the Benjamin Curtiss House.

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This Week's Poll

Newtown Cultural Arts Commission is presenting or coordinating on six weeks of special events. Which event are you looking forward to the most? (Visit our Features page for a full story with details about all of these events.)

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Basket weaving workshop with Tina Puckett, October 13
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“Courageous Conversations in A Complex World,” October 17
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Live at ETH: David Wax Museum concert, October 19
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The 2nd Annual Fall Carnival at Fairfield Hills, October 19-21
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“The Wordsmiths,” October 24
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Total votes: 2