Explore historic, well-preserved architectural gems of yesteryear – all for a great cause.
Imagine living in an elegant Victorian era home during a time of peace and prosperity.
Envision walking through a Tudor Revival house that overlooks a majestic 28-acre hillside, built during the tumultuous decade of the Great Depression.
Step back in time to see where an abolitionist hid escaped slaves in a Federal era farmhouse that was part of the Underground Railroad.
Now’s the opportunity to experience and appreciate these antique homes with historical significance that are rarely open to the public.
For two days only, the Torrington Historical Society and the Northwest Connecticut Chamber Education Foundation are teaming up to feature six Torrington homes, and to raise money for their respective educational programs.
The 2018 Torrington House Tour includes two separate events – a preview party early evening on Friday, September 21, and a daytime house tour on Saturday, September 22.
Together, all six homes span over 200 years of Torrington’s rich history and culture.
Five of the selected homes range in age from 1780 to 1954. The tour also includes a Colonial era home built by an early settler named Samuel Ferguson and a mid-twentieth century home made from cut-granite.
The one contemporary home that leads to Timber Lake on the scenic Bantam River was built in 2004. Susan Smith, spokesperson and committee member, said “this house has a spectacular lakeside garden that the owner developed himself. There’s a boardwalk through it and a little bridge. It’s simply breathtaking.”
Each year, the Torrington House Tour draws 200 to 300 people. Mark McEachern, executive director of the Torrington Historical Society for 33 years, said the event has wide appeal. “Anyone interested in history, architecture, gardens, home décor, and learning more about this community and supporting the work that we do, will enjoy attending.”
All of this year’s profit will be split 50 / 50. The proceeds help fund Torrington Historical Society lectures, school programs, special events (such as the WWI living history day), exhibits and historical research for the general public.
The Northwest Connecticut Chamber Education Foundation provides initiatives and educational programs that benefit the region and the profit will go toward programs like Leadership Northwest, Read Aloud and the WOW! Forum.
What McEachern especially looks forward to is meeting the homeowners and discussing the history of their homes. “The historical society researches each of the house tour houses. In the process, we have added valuable information to our database of historic homes in Torrington. I also love the positive response of house tour visitors who are always impressed with the beautiful and interesting homes featured on each tour,” he said.
JoAnn Ryan, president and CEO of Northwest Connecticut Chamber Education, said, “I love the variety of homes that each have a distinctive feature and beauty. I look forward to welcoming many visitors so that they, too, can appreciate the wealth of beauty surrounding us.”
Both McEachern and Ryan came up with the idea to start a Torrington House Tour because they once attended the same Torrington Historical Society fundraiser at a beautiful home, which inspired them.
McEachern said, “we were both so impressed with the craftsmanship, attention to detail, and the furnishings that we decided then and there to organize a Torrington House Tour to showcase other Torrington homes of architectural and historical interest. Our goal was to raise awareness of Torrington’s rich history and its architectural variety while raising funds for our organizations. The collaboration is important because both organizations bring volunteers, sponsors and staff to help organize and support the effort.”
Their appreciation for antique homes is deep-rooted. McEachern lives in a 1930 Colonial Revival home in the north-end of Torrington. “My wife and I have lived there for 10 years and are still busy restoring it, inside and out.”
Ryan grew up in a historic home on Hotchkiss Place. “It was very special to all of us with woodwork throughout created by the Hotchkiss brothers. Mom filled it with beautiful pieces she discovered on her shopping sprees.”
The House Tour Preview Party on Friday, September 21 includes a bus tour of the 2018 homes followed by a reception with music and refreshments. The preview party will include a fun scavenger hunt with prizes donated by local businesses. It will be held at the Torrington Library where attendees can see the first floor of the recently renovated library. The Preview Party bus tour is from 5 to 7 p.m. and the Preview Party is from 7 to 9 p.m.
Tickets for the preview tour and party are $75 each.
The House Tour on Saturday, September 22 begins at 10 a.m. and ends at 3 p.m. Participants will start at the Chamber of Commerce, 333 Kennedy Drive, where they will receive a program guide and map. Shuttle buses will circulate between the Chamber and featured homes. Participants may also drive their own cars and park near each home.
Tickets are $30 per person in advance and $35 per person on the day of the tour.
HOW TO GET TICKETS:
This is a rain or shine event. Tickets can be purchased online at www.torringtonhousetour.org Or, in person, at the Torrington Chamber of Commerce and the Torrington Historical Society.
This year’s sponsors include Eastside Electric, Torrington Savings Bank and other local businesses.
This feature by Alicia Sakal originally appeared in the special HOME insert of Republican-American on September 15, 2018. This daily regional daily newspaper covers 36 towns and cities in Litchfield County and Greater Waterbury, Connecticut. Photos: Contributed