I talk a lot of about weekend do-it-yourself projects in this column, but what good is summer if you don’t take advantage of the opportunity to relax and enjoy all that Connecticut has to offer?
This past weekend, a friend introduced me to a spot to do just that. Just 30 minutes away lies Topsmead State Forest which just so happens to be a dream destination for people like me who love to enjoy nature while exploring exactly what makes a house a home.
Topsmead State Forest is comprised of the estate and surrounding land once owned by Ms. Edith Chase, heiress to the Waterbury-based Chase Brass and Copper Company. Ms. Chase came upon the land by inheritance and decided to build a summer retreat for herself in 1923. She hired New York City architect Richard Henry Dana, Jr. to help her create the home of her dreams which to this day sits perched high on top of fields that stretch as far as you can see.
It is becoming exceedingly rare to see a house that looks like it was built to last for generations, but Ms. Chase’s English Tudor is one of them. The exterior of the home is stucco and brick, with woodwork made from cypress beams that while weathered with time, have not lost any of their original beauty. The roof is comprised of thick cut slate that still looks stately and has apparently kept the home well protected after more than 90 years of Connecticut winters. It’s hard to walk around and not admire the craftsmanship of the home, and the more than 500 acres that surround it.
The home is only available for tours on certain weekends in the warmer months, but picnics are allowed on the grounds any time from dusk til dawn. Visiting the house is free and you can bring food and drinks to enjoy on the tables scattered amongst the trees. The small gardens are filled with dozens of flowers, much to the delight of local butterflies, and there are many spots to enjoy a quiet few hours of reading or taking in the surrounds, which is exactly what Ms. Chase intended the estate to be used for.
When she passed away in 1972, Ms. Chase bequeathed her property to the people of Connecticut, leaving behind a substantial endowment to ensure it could be looked after for generations to come. Even on a picture perfect Sunday visit, only a dozen cars could be found in the parking lot and the visitors we came across smiled with polite nods while in search of their own little piece of heaven to soak up the sunshine.
With only a few weekends left of the summer, I’d encourage you to check it out for yourself and enjoy a little bit of history right here in our own backyard. Just be sure to bring a picnic and prepare to be enchanted. For more information on Topsmead State Forest, visit the website at http://www.ctvisit.com/listings/topsmead-state-forest.
Bob O’Donnell is the owner of O’Donnell Bros. Inc., a Bristol-based home improvement company established in 1975. Email your questions to firstname.lastname@example.org with the subject line “Ask the Pro.” All questions may be considered for publication. To contact Bob for your remodeling needs, call O’Donnell Bros. Inc. at (860) 589-5155 or visit http://www.odonnellbros.com. Advice is for guidance only.