Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Rockport, MA

I went to Rockport, Massachusetts, and I didn't take notes.

If I had, they would have read something like: Granite quarries, fishing boats, little shops, churches, beaches, artists, couples. Coffee shops, water views. Roundabouts, one way-streets, looming futuristic windmills. An unspoken tension between residents and visitors, expressed, as it always is, in odd parking restrictions. Ice cream, fudge and the smell of fish frying. Red and blue and weathered grey.

I did, however, take pictures.

Monday, November 17, 2014


I don't know if any paint manufacturer makes a color called "New England Schoolhouse," but if not, they should.

There's something so instantly recognizable about that red.

It looks bright on the sunny side of a building and deeper when you stand in the shadows. It can be almost pink sometimes, like a pair of preppy chinos, or dull like rust or brick.

I knew that New Fairfield's Little Red Schoolhouse was somewhere on Brush Hill Road, though I wasn't sure of its exact address. But I spotted it right away, because you can't mistake that color. It stands out perfectly against a bright blue sky, a few autumn leaves still hanging on to their branches, an early snowfall...or all three.

Monday, November 10, 2014

Camp Bethel, Haddam

One of my favorite Connecticut exploring experiences ever was the day last January when I wandered through an empty, snowy Plainville Campground. Since then, I've been on the lookout for similar sites throughout the state.

This one, located on the Connecticut River in Haddam, is called Camp Bethel. It dates back to 1878. It was built by the Life and Advent Union, which the modern-day Camp Bethel website describes as "a small American Protestant denomination. There were times in the early years that as many as 10,000 people would gather on this property for a couple of weeks in the summertime...They came from as far away as Maine to the Carolinas by boat, train and horse drawn wagons. They stayed in tents and later built small cottages on the camp sites. Some of the current cottages were built in the 1890’s and early twentieth century in the typical Victorian style of the period."

Today, the 467-acre campground is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. It is still used by Christian groups of various denominations. Every year in August, a ten-day Campmeeting is held here, and I imagine there must be moments when it all feels very 19th century, if you can avoid looking at the newer buildings and the cars.

Though I visited after the official end of the season, the property wasn't entirely abandoned; a few wandering people and parked vehicles remained. This made the atmosphere seem slightly less "Victorian fairytale" than Plainville Campground did last winter. Still, Haddam - where you can buy shad along the roadside and it seems like every house is a bit of preserved 18th century perfection - is a little magical all on its own. And Camp Bethel, with its little white chapel and Gothic cabins perched on the riverbank, is a world apart.

Monday, November 3, 2014

A Collinsville Stroll

Confession: I thought I had already written a whole post on Collinsville. But when I went back and checked, I realized was thinking of a short travel piece about the Farmington River Trail that I wrote in 2012.

Collinsville, like many other towns in Connecticut, is a little pocket of adorable brought to you by the production and sale of some truly terrifying weapons. (It's also like many other towns in Connecticut in that it isn't really a town; it's technically a section of Canton.)

If you like the idea of browsing in a multi-story antiques mall or strolling by the river in the place where John Brown came to order a whole bunch of pikes as a prelude to kicking off the Civil War, then you'll love Collinsville. And you could probably be my friend.

Friday, October 31, 2014

Nutmeg Poisoning

I haven't done one of these posts in a while, so here are some Connecticut links I've been saving up.

-This story has been everywhere, but Johnsonville was auctioned off this week. Via the Courant

-I wrote about how Connecticut's Jews became total foodies while I was away. In the Forward.

-I was going to write about this for Hartford City Center HamletHub while Ken Burns's The Roosevelts: An Intimate History was airing on PBS. But I didn't, so I still have the link just hanging around on my favorites toolbar: Roosevelt Rides in an Electric Car (in Hartford.)

-The New England Historical Society has amazing pictures of a 1940 farm auction in Derby. And modern-day Derby is producing an infomercial for itself.

-The New York Times has discovered Danbury.

-The Huffington Post has a gallery of haunted houses, including one in Hartford that I'm pretty sure I've never come across. I don't believe houses (or anything, for that matter) can be haunted, but I do believe they can be spectacularly creepy.

Monday, October 27, 2014


I lived in Putnam for a year, so I tend to think I know the Quiet Corner fairly well.

But again and again, I'm proven wrong.

On a recent drive through Woodstock, I found three historic libraries - and three whole sections of town - that had entirely eluded me before that crisp fall day.

The North Woodstock Library building was originally a schoolhouse.

The May Memorial Library in East Woodstock is across the street from the East Woodstock Common, a miniature town green with a gazebo. It's also just around the corner from this adorable post office.

The West Woodstock Library is connected to the restored 1820 John F. Williams Law Office.

The Library was founded in 1806, and the Law Office housed its collection in the 1930s and 1940s.

There's more about Woodstock's libraries here.

And, I finally created a "Libraries" tag, so every post I've written about a Connecticut library can be found here.


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