Barkhamsted Historical Society - Barkhamsted, Connecticut
Only have a few minutes?
Join us below for a short tour of some interesting locations in Barkhamsted,
Connecticut. View the tour on
1. The Center
The Barkhamsted Center Schoolhouse
is now located on Center Hill Road (Route 181)
very near the geographic center of the town. In 1979 the Historical Society
moved it to this site from the original location on what is now the banks of the
Barkhamsted Reservoir in an area not open to the public. During most of the
1800s and into the first couple of decades of the 1900s the town was split up into
a dozen or more school districts. This building was the schoolhouse for District
One- the Center District. Completed in 1824, the building was originally two
stories high to accommodate the large number of students at that time. As
the population of the town declined with westward migration, and with the building
badly in need of repair, it was decided to convert it to a single story structure
in 1880. What you see now was previously the second floor!
2. The Center
The First Congregational Church of Barkhamsted, also known as the Center
Church. Completed in 1845, this church was built to replace the original meeting
house, although the decision to put up a new structure was bitterly fought by a
portion of the congregation. On September 10, 1879 the town's
100 year anniversary was held here on the grounds of the church with thousands
attending. The celebration, called "Old Home Day" is still held annually on
or near September 10.
3. The Farmington River
The Farmington River is an important element in the landscape and history
of the town of Barkhamsted. The river s six-mile run from the Riverton area
down to Pleasant Valley and on to New Hartford has supplied waterpower to 19th century
mills and supplies abundant recreational opportunities to current residents and
visitors to the town. In 1994 the entire course of the river in Barkhamsted
was included in the 14-mile wild and scenic designation, part of the
National Wild and Scenic River System. The stone abutment seen in the
photo was part of a
footbridge built across the river in the 1930 s by the CCC workers. It
is sometimes forgotten that Barkhamsted actually has TWO Farmington Rivers.
Besides the west branch described above, the east branch of the river is now held
back by the Saville Dam to form the Barkhamsted Reservoir.
Conservation Corps - Camp White
This stone chimney and a few other
ruins among the trees are about all that is left of Camp White. Camp White
was a Civilian Conservation Corps camp located in Barkhamsted between Pleasant Valley
and Riverton in what is now American Legion State Forest. It operated from
December 1933 to January 1942 as part of the Federal effort to keep workers employed
on public works projects during the Depression. The camp covered about 7 acres
and was comprised of five large barracks, a mess hall, washroom, officers quarters,
headquarters/recreation hall and several support buildings. The CCC workers
numbered from 200 to 250 during most years. Many of the CCC projects were
improvements in the State Forest land in Barkhamsted, including the Stone Museum,
forest roads, bridges and trails. In 1934 Camp White received the award for
the most beautiful and well-kept CCC camp.
Dam and the Barkhamsted Reservoir
The Saville Dam was completed in 1940
on the East Branch of the Farmington River. It is named for the chief engineer
of the project, Caleb Mills Saville. The Barkhamsted Reservoir is about 8
miles long and extends from central Barkhamsted north into the town of Hartland
almost to Massachusetts. The Reservoir is the primary water supply for the
metropolitan Hartford area, which is about 25 miles away. Many Barkhamsted
farms, houses and the village of Barkhamsted Hollow were located in the area flooded
by the Reservoir. This photo was taken in May 2000 and at the time, just a
little water (barely visible) was coming over the spillway (the spillway is the
long masonry structure behind the pine tree in the bottom center of the photo).
6. Washington Hill Methodist Church
Located near the intersection of Routes
219 and 179 in the eastern part of town, the Church was built in 1834 with bricks
from the nearby brickyard of Truman Case. During the early years here Simeon
Case was the tithing man and was responsible for the good behavior of the congregation.
If the boys whispered during the service, "he would take a hymn book and slam it
down upon a seat back with the greatest of force right during the prayer".
Services are still held here during the summer months and at Thanksgiving.
7. The Hawley
Located in Pleasant Valley near the
bridge over the Farmington River, this brick building was built about 1840 and served
as a hotel for many of its early years. Not one of the oldest houses in town,
but don't you think it has a certain stately aspect? It is now (May 2000)
a private residence.
8. Pleasant Valley Drive-In
One of the few remaining active drive-in
theaters in Connecticut, the Pleasant Valley Drive-In is a fun place to watch a
movie. It has operated since the late 1940's. If you watched movies
here before 1960, could you send us a note regarding your experience? Just
tell us any stories or remembrances that you may have about your visits here. Send
your e-mail to
firstname.lastname@example.org Wonder what the first movie was the
night this joint opened. One comment we have received mentions that when the
drive-in first opened, they did not have in-car speakers. Rather the sound
track was broadcast by area speaker and could be heard throughout much of the Valley!
9. Hitchcock Chair Factory
Lambert Hitchcock built this factory
in 1825 and produced his famous Hitchcock "fancy" chairs here in Riverton, Connecticut.
Actually there is some debate as to whether this is the original factory or one
rebuilt in 1851 after a fire. The village was known as Hitchcocksville up
until the 1860's. Legend says that in the heyday of chair production here,
workers would drop the chairs out of upper story windows into the wagon below, and
if the chair survived intact, it passed the quality control test! The mill
was operated by water power from the Farmington River. Many other businesses
occupied the factory after Hitchcock left. Over the years a variety of products
were made here including carpenter planes, rulers, rubber nipples and lumber.
In 1946 John Kenny bought the old factory and launched the second coming of Hitchcock
10. The Old
The Old Riverton Inn was built about
200 years ago (sources vary as to the exact year). It has been operating almost
continuously ever since, and that covers a lot of time. In the old days, several
stage coach lines went through Riverton, including the route between Hartford, Connecticut
and Albany, New York. Many a weary traveler wet their whistle here at the
Inn and probably at several other taverns located at the time in Riverton.
You can still get a room and a meal at the Old Riverton Inn, but don't wait too
long for the stage coach to arrive!
This peaceful section of Barkhamsted
is part of what used to be call Mast Swamp. Where is it? If you're on
Route 44 coming into Barkhamsted from New Hartford, just after crossing the town
line, Mast Swamp would be on your right, the area down along the Farmington River
and stretching up toward Pleasant Valley. Timber was a big part of the early
Barkhamsted economy, and this area of Barkhamsted was known for big, tall pine trees
of the type favored by the British navy for ship masts and spars. Even before
Barkhamsted was settled in the mid 1700's the timber here in Mast Swamp was being
cut, and not always legally!
12. Soldier's Monument
The large monument in the center of the photo above
is the Soldiers Monument which was originally erected in 1897 at Barkhamsted Hollow.
It was moved to this location at the Barkhamsted Center Cemetery green about 1939
when the Barkhamsted Reservoir was built. With a recent update, the names
of Barkhamsted war veterans from the Revolution to Vietnam are listed. The
stone structure at right holds the bell that formerly hung in the Universalist Church.
The Church was also a victim of the Reservoir. Former residents of Barkhamsted
Hollow remember climbing into the steeple of the Church and ringing the bell as
a Halloween night prank.
13. View of Pleasant Valley
A view of Pleasant Valley taken from the bridge
over the Farmington River. At left is the Pleasant Valley General Store.
The white building is the Barkhamsted Town Hall and at right is a portion of the
Barkhamsted Elementary School.
14. The Arba Alford House
- Riverton section of Barkhamsted
Arba Alford completed this house in 1833.
Alford was a partner with Lambert Hitchcock in the chair business located
across the street from the house.
Hitchcock occupied one side of the house, which actually was a duplex- one
side was the mirror image of the other side.
Eunice Hitchcock wrote in her diary that they moved into the building in
March 1833. Hitchcock
occupied the apartment on the west side and lived here until he moved to Unionville
in 1842. In 1838 the ell
was added across the back.
The ell provided additional room downstairs for Alford and Hitchcock and
also an apartment upstairs for Alford s mother. In 1904 the Alford children
sold the house to their cousin, Carlton Roberts.
Mrs. Roberts was the Riverton postmaster from 1914 to 1922.
She had a door put in
to replace the window on the south side of what had been the Hitchcock living room
and opened the partition between the two apartments, placing mail boxes in the opening
(these were the first mail boxes used in Barkhamsted).
The west room was used as the post office lobby and the east room to sort
the mail. The house was sold to Laurence H. Roberts in 1925 and the Roberts
family occupied the house into the 1970 s.
In the 1980 s the house was purchased by the Hitchcock Chair Company and
converted to a furniture showroom.