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Connecticut Scenic Drives: Connecticut State Route 169

        Adventure | North

Highlights of Connecticut State Route 169
© Historic architecture is abundant along Connecticut State Route 169.
┬ę Historic architecture is abundant along Connecticut State Route 169.

As visitors drive Connecticut State Route 169, they are taken on a tour of provincial Connecticut with all its natural and cultural charm. The scenic qualities of the road are further enhanced by the extraordinary number of antique 18th- and 19th-century structures that have survived along the whole length of the highway.

Each town and village along the way has its own subtle, unique character in the buildings and people that live there. Between villages, the north/south running ridges of hills provide frequent vistas, sometimes in two directions, and a gentle, undulating path of travel. The natural flora is mingled with a still viable agricultural heritage, delighting the eye with changing patterns.

The wooded hills are covered with many varieties of trees and shrubs, including some giant and very old trees of varied species. These trees fade into vast cornfields and occasional wooded areas that come right to the edge of the road to envelop travelers with a sense of deep forest and life. Travelers also see well-groomed hay fields, picturesque apple orchards, rustic farm scenes, and an abundance of wildflowers.

The catalog of delights to be found along the road is endless. Beneath a canopy of tall trees, each village has a significant number of early houses, one or more churches, a library (often in an antique building), a grassy common or green, and all the other features thought of as New England. In the villages, or along the road, visitors will find graveyards with carved gravestones dating from earliest times. Students of gravestone carvers come from all over the country to see the stones found in this region.

Lining the edges of the roads are stone walls of amazing variety and fences and gates. If travelers wish to stop and leave their cars, they can see and hear countless species of birds, insects, and other fauna and rare wildflowers. All of these are free for any who come and look. For those who wish to shop a bit, there is an assortment of gift shops, good restaurants, and very pleasant bed-and-breakfast accommodations.

One extraordinary feature of this byway is that there is so little intrusion of commerce, industry, or development along the route. Nowhere along the 32 miles is there a stretch more than half a mile in length that can be said to be dull or unsightly. As of this date, there is not one strip mall, and the only modern office buildings of more than one story are the Woodstock remnants of a defunct college. These are in a lovely, parklike setting that is now owned by Data General. About a mile away, Linemaster Switch, one of the largest employers in Woodstock, has a large frontage property on the road with not a single building in view.

Though only a brief distance, this scenic byway is long on history with charming villages dating back more than 300 years. This itinerary covers some of the natural and historic highlights of your journey along Connecticut State Route 169 as you travel from north to south.

Roseland Cottage: Begin at the Roseland Cottage/Bowen House Museum in Woodstock. This home with Gothic Revival architecture was constructed in 1846 and hosted elegant summer soirees attended by the elite of the day, including numerous Presidents. Containing original furnishings, bowling alley, and garden, guided tours are available on the hour.

Connecticut Audubon Center: Though Pomfret has many historic churches and homes, it is the natural features of the area that are highlighted at one of northeastern Connecticut's newest attractions. The Connecticut Audubon Center is a new nature center that offers educational programs and bird walks. It is also the gateway to the adjoining 700-acre Connecticut Audubon Bafflin Sanctuary.

Brayton Grist Mill and Marcy Blacksmith Museum: Just west of Pomfret on Route 44 is the Brayton Grist Mill and Marcy Blacksmith Museum, located at the entrance to the Mashamoquet Brook State Park. It is an 1890s mill with the original equipment. The Marcy Blacksmith Museum has exhibits that detail more than a century of blacksmithing and three generations of the craft.

Mashamoquet Brook State Park: This park offers camping, hiking, and picnicking. The most famous feature is the Wolf Den into which, on a night in 1742, Israel Putnam crept and shot a wolf that for years had preyed upon local sheep and poultry. Putnam later gained fame as a major general in the Continental Army during the Revolutionary War. Near the Wolf Den are the Table Rock and Indian Chair natural stone formations.

Brooklyn Historical Society Museum: This museum houses a collection of 18th- and 19th-century artifacts and Brooklyn memorabilia. Additionally it features historic items about the life of Revolutionary War hero Israel Putnam and special annual exhibits. The law office of Putnam's great-grandson, Daniel Putnam Tyler, is also open to the public.

Putnam Elms: Yet another Putnam family site is Putnam Elms. Constructed in 1784 by the Putnam family and still maintained by Putnam descendants, the house is open for tours and contains exhibits about the history of Colonel Daniel Putnam and his father, General Israel Putnam.

Finnish American Heritage Hall: Built in the 1920s, the Finnish American Heritage Hall in Canterbury is not only a social hall for those whose families immigrated and contributed to the melting pot of America; it is also the site of the Finnish American World War II memorial dedicated to Americans, including all the Finnish Americans, who fought in the war. On April 10, 1998, the Finnish Hall, along with numerous other buildings and residences on the Canterbury Green, was entered onto the National Register of Historic Places.

Prudence Crandall Museum: This museum is located on the site of Prudence Crandall's home, the first academy for black women in New England. Crandall's activities were not without controversy. Admitting Sarah Harris, a young black girl, to the women's academy outraged parents and townsfolk and caused an angry mob to ransack the school. Fearing for the safety of her students, Crandall closed the academy. Today this National Historic Landmark features three period rooms, changing exhibits, and a research library.

John Bishop House: At the end of the byway the John Bishop House in Lisbon was built in the early 1800s. The structure features doors that are butt-hinged, nails that are machine cut and headed, and a framed ridge in the attic. The house also has seven fireplaces. A shaftway leading from the buttery down to a dug well, where water could be obtained without leaving the house, is a unique feature.

Connecticut State Route 169 winds its way through the best in Connecticut history past Colonial homesteads, churches, stone walls, covered bridges, and quaint museums as it connects several classic New England towns.

Find more useful information related to Connecticut State Route 169:

  • Connecticut Scenic Drives: Connecticut State Route 169 is just one of the scenic byways in Connecticut. Check out the others.
  • Connecticut State Guide: Find out about other things to do in Connecticut, and see Mobil Travel Guide-rated restaurants and hotels in the state.
  • Scenic Drives: Are you interested in scenic drives beyond Connecticut? Here are more than 100 scenic drives throughout the United States.
  • How to Drive Economically: Fuel economy is a major concern when you're on a driving trip. Learn how to get better gas mileage.
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