Tuesday (October 27th) was the perfect autumn day for a socially responsible face-to-face in Old Wethersfield with my dearest friend, Elaine. We’ve not seen each other as much as we would like during the pandemic, so we seized the opportunity this gorgeous day provided.
We strolled and explored the picturesque charms, heritage and rich history of this classic New England village’s colonial homes, museums and quaint shops featuring antiques, handmade crafts and artwork. We also marveled at the creativity of the record-setting 60 or so offerings constructed by residents comprising the 25th annual Scarecrows Along Main in Old Wethersfield, sponsored by the Old Wethersfield Shopkeepers Association.
We saw so many clever and original scarecrow displays along Connecticut’s largest historic district, including first responders; a construction worker; Gru and the Minions; Trolls; Sing a Song of Sixpence (a well-known English nursery rhyme, perhaps originating in the 18th century, according to Wikipedia); superheroes; Gene Kelly, who was “Singing in the Rain,” and The Cat in the Hat.
As we leisurely took in the sights, we saw two of the three National Historic Landmarks on Old Wethersfield’s Main Street – Silas Deane House (203 Main) and Joseph Webb House (211 Main).
Silas Deane served as a delegate to the Continental Congress before being named America’s first diplomat to France. He built his Georgian-style family home around 1770.
General George Washington has ties to Old Wethersfield, meeting with French commander Rochambeau in the Webb House on May 22, 1781, to plan the conclusion to the American Revolution.
According to the All Things Liberty website: “Washington had wanted to meet Rochambeau in Hartford, but the city lacked proper accommodations as the Connecticut General Assembly sat in session. Located less than five miles south of Hartford, Washington selected Wethersfield on the advice of his aide-de-camp Samuel Blachley Webb. Webb had grown up in Wethersfield. His brother Joseph owned the family house. Webb suggested that Washington stay at his brother’s home and meet with Rochambeau there.
“Washington stayed in Joseph Webb’s house for five nights. He conferred with Rochambeau in one of the front parlors on May 21 and May 22. During their meetings, Washington and Rochambeau outlined plans for a combined French-American offensive.
“The plan Washington and Rochambeau devised in Joseph Webb’s house set the stage for the Yorktown Campaign. Today, you can visit the Webb House and see the room where Washington slept and the parlor where he and Rochambeau formulated their strategy. The Webb House forms one-third of the Webb-Deane-Stevens Museum, a group of houses owned and operated by the National Society of The Colonial Dames of America in the State of Connecticut.”
The Silas W. Robbins home (185 Broad Street), located across from the Broad Street Green, was featured in Hallmark’s 2018 film “Christmas on Honeysuckle Lane,” starring Alicia Witt and Colin Ferguson, based on the novel by Mary Elizabeth McDonough.
Robbins, an owner of the Johnson, Robbins and Company seed business, built the home in 1873. Shireen and John Aforismo purchased the home in 2001and spent six-and-a-half years lovingly restoring it to its original grandeur and splendor as the Silas W. Robbins Bed and Breakfast.
The Colonial-era First Church of Christ (250 Main Street), was built around 1760 as a meetinghouse with a spectacular steeple, and like Wethersfield, is over 375 years old. It hosted George Washington and John Adams before they became this country’s first two presidents, on separate occasions.
“The congregation was founded in 1635, and the present brick Meetinghouse was built in 1761–1764 with its distinctive white steeple. The church cemetery also dates from the 1600s. The congregation was affiliated with the United Church of Christ from 1961 through 2004. The interior of the Meetinghouse was built as a crosswise room altered considerably in 1838 and 1882, and returned to the original layout in 1971–1973,” according to Wikipedia.
The Ancient Burying Ground, with tombstones dating back to 1648, is located behind First Church of Christ.
We saw the charming Greek-Revival Chester Bulkley House Bed and Breakfast (circa 1830, 184 Main Street), the Federal-style Old Academy (built in 1801-04 and now housing The Wethersfield Historical Society at 150 Main Street) and the Keeney Memorial Cultural Center (built in 1893 as a public high school and after a million-dollar renovation in 1985, renamed as a cultural center in honor of Navy Ensign Robert Allan Kenney) on 200 Main Street.
I was so inspired by this trip “back in time” I rushed home and Googled Old Wethersfield to delve more into our local history and the impact Old Wethersfield and its residents had on the shaping of our country.
How do you spend the perfect autumn day?
Drop me a line. I’d love to hear from you.