And then there was slivermine
We’ve changed our mind a few times already on our little adventure. Each time we change our minds at the last minute we find ourselves making memories & finding things we didn’t expect. While changing plans can cause stress and anxiety we are learning to open our eyes and welcome what is in front of us with gratitude. One of these things is something I’ve experienced before, but never really took the time to really embrace the beauty, history & story.
My sister lived in NYC for 12 years. I spent a lot of time visiting her & collage friends for years. I attribute my aggressive driving nature to these trips to NYC, down the FDR and battling for good parking spaces. When she got married and moved to Connecticut I moved from visiting her in NYC to making a lot of trips into Norwalk. While I still lived in Ohio I flew from Cleveland for Christmas parties or occasionally drove there. When I lived in Denver and worked for the airlines I would work a double shift and fly to LGA on the redeye, take the bus to Grand Central and take the train up to Norwalk. I took Jackson on the same trip for his 2nd birthday. Needless to say, we frequented CT as much as we could. When we made our last minute decision to go to Ohio we assumed that traveling to New England made sense. After all, Maine was on our list. As we thought more about it we realized that we would be missing quite a bit of things we want to do during the short summer months and decided not to head East. Maine will have to wait, the copious amounts of lobster and crab that I planned on devouring will be eaten by someone else & we won't be enjoying one of the best fireworks shows in Bar Harbor on the 4th. We changed direction, but we did decide to take the truck sans camper to Connecticut to visit Amy & Mike in Norwalk (double the gas millage – until you drive 2 hours in the opposite direction – another blog on mistakes). This, of course, created a lot of awesome memories. Jordan met the Ocean at the Long Island Sound.
The kids played in the sand and rocks at Calf Pasture Beach, collected shells & played in the sun at a few pools including the Shorehaven Golf Club (they are so spoiled rotten right now – another blog). We did take some time to see the area since this was Tyler's first visit. Let me give you a little history – I always loved history: Norwalk is located on the Long Island Sound less than an hour north of NYC. It was purchased around 1640 from the Native Americans. We spent some time on Calf Pasture Beach where hundreds of years ago the largest Revolutionary War battle in CT started in 1779. A few years before in 1776 an American Spy, 16 year old Nathan Hale, was sent out to spy on the British at Long Island. He was discovered and killed. This among several other events angered the British Major, General Henry Clinton, who became intolerant of the American interferences on the Sound & ordered a retaliation. That July of 1779 General Clinton sent 2600 British troops to Norwalk, landing on Calf Pasture Beach & burning down the town.
What I learned is there are only about 6 houses still standing that were older than 1780s. I was able to see a few of these homes. One pictured here, is the Jacob St. John House dated 1724.
A saltbox style home with it's original door and fieldstone chimney - I would have loved to go inside the house. My brother in law once stopped by to admire the owners car & he was invited into the house for a private viewing - unreal!
Part of Norwalk and the neighboring towns of New Cannan & Wilton together form a unique area called Slivermine. In the triangle of the 3 towns 8 houses are marked as “ancient” meaning 18th century & are still standing. Many that are plaqued with their date are in the area 19th century. I loved looking at each dated house and taking in the history.
The character of these old houses is really amazing. The older they are the more simple they are, yet most of the 18th century houses have their original doors, which I personally loved like the Jacob St John house above.
Back to the history - Silvermine was settled in the late 1600s. Here the Slivermine River was used for 12 mills in the area because it created strong water power that could be harnessed. By 1912 most of those mills closed causing poverty of the area. This made this beautiful area affordable which attracted artists who restored the old mills into homes and studios. Sculptor Solon Borglum created a place for artists to gather, The Guild of Artists nicknamed "The Knockers" because they would get together to knock on each others work. He eventually started the Slivermine Arts Center which still exists today with 4500 annual students.
While hanging out on the deck having cocktails and talking with the family I noticed the neighbor’s house. I stared at the unique shaped windows, the gorgeous stone lower level, & the upper level of the house which is textured & covered with winding stick vines throughout (which you can kind of see pictured below).
The contrast was really interesting and it’s history was noticeable, yet I had never paid attention to it before. This is house that generated questions about it’s history & the history of Silvermine to write this blog. Mike told me about the Slivermine area of Norwalk and how it was populated by artists in the early 19th century & he believed there as an opera singer that lived in this particular house, I was even more interested to hear stories about early owners of the house. The morning of Memorial Day Jax was riding his bike, American flags hanging of each handlebar, around the cul-de-sac and Jordan & I were chasing them in the stroller while they yelled and laughed at each other.
The woman who currently lives in the house came over to meet us. She had heard the laughter & loved that it was filling the quiet neighborhood. In talking to her about her house It turns out an opera singer, Annie Louise Cary, lived in the house during this historical time when artists flocked to the area.
Cary actually had an amphitheater behind her house where she would perform. Seriously how cool is that?! While the amphitheater is no longer there some rubble is left as a reminder. I wanted to learn more so I did what any normal 21st century person would do – I Googled her name. . . It gets better . . .She happened to be one of the most popular singers of her time. While she traveled the world performing she retired in 1882 when she married a man from NYC. She went on to perform only in church choirs and in charitable entertainment – which I like to think was at the amphitheater behind this gorgeous home.
If you’re ever in the Norwalk area you should absolutely take a stroll on the streets of Slivermine. The trees form lofted canopies over the gorgeous narrow streets which have very few sidewalks to preserve the charm and history of the town – & it works. Visit the Tavern which is also a B&B overlooking Slivermine Falls. It recently reopened after being close in 2009.
Before it closed I had brunch there on the deck overlooking the falls - I highly recommend it. It was fantastic and worth the expense. We didn't experience the beauty of the fall here on this trip, however, it is absolutely breathtaking. It's true what they say about New England & the fall colors. So if you have a choice come in October. When you do visit look for an open house & GO! You won’t regret it. The charm and beauty of this area & the history will stay with you forever.