Old Wethersfield

Whenever I’m heading home from New Jersey or New York or points south, I always like to stop in at Old Wethersfield, Connecticut:  it’s a beautiful village just off the highway and just outside Hartford:  a convenient respite for a weary traveler. Old Wethersfield is a National Register Historic District, comprising 100+ houses from the seventeenth, eighteenth and nineteenth centuries situated along a main thoroughfare and a slender rectangular green, which is part of the larger town of Wethersfield. I had two restless guys with me yesterday but they still let me stop for a bit, to take pictures of some of my favorite houses and briefly run into Comstock, Ferre & Company, which has been selling heirloom seeds for two centuries. Wethersfield is known not only for its colonial architecture, but also for its venerable seed companies, including Comstock and the Charles C. Hart Seed Co. in the present and a whole host of provisioners in the past. The most profitable product of these companies, a red “Wethersfield Onion”, even gave the old town the nickname “Oniontown” for a while. I am also compelled to mention Wethersfield’s fascinating/notorious founder, John Oldham, who was exiled from the Plymouth Colony for “plotting against pilgrim rule” and went on to establish settlements in Hull, Gloucester, and Watertown, Massachusetts, and eventually Wethersfield, the first English settlement in Connecticut. (Oldham seems to have rubbed shoulders with Salem’s founder, Roger Conant, on more than one occasion). Travel and Leisure magazine just designated Old Wethersfield one of America’s “prettiest winter towns”, and it certainly appeared so yesterday afternoon with snow lining the brick sidewalks and artfully draped on the colorful colonial houses.

Just a small sampling of Old Wethersfield, New Year’s Day 2013:

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The plaques and signs refer to the house above, as in the case of one of Old Wethersfield’s most famous houses, the Webb House, pictured below with its neighbors.

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More!!! And as you can see, there are “newer” houses in Old Wethersfield too.

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The Comstock building, obviously a livelier place in the summer but still very much open, and an 1899 seed catalog cover featuring the Wethersfield Onion, the “greatest onion on earth”,  from the Smithsonian Institution Libraries’ Collection.

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Wethersfield Onion Smithsonian

10 responses to “Old Wethersfield

  • thesalemgarden

    We’ve driven by a million times and had no idea that this would be a fun place to stop. Next time we head to Pennsylvania we’ll have to visit Wethersfield!

  • cecilia

    Every time we go for a walk around your area I am astounded once again, it is all so comparatively new out here, I loved that grey window, when I worked in film we would go to great lengths to get that deconstructed look! Never as good as the real thing ..c

  • informationforager

    Very Good. Very Beautiful. Very Historic. Thanks. Keep Blogging. Keep Writing.

  • markd60

    Great photos.. I wish more historical buildings were preserved everywhere.

  • Laura Wrightson

    Hi Donna,
    so timely! I just started reading Witch of blackbird pond- a book my 5th grade students will be reading. It is set in Wethersfield in 1600s.
    Have never been, but will but it on our travel agenda next time we are headed to Md
    Happy new year!

  • Sarah

    Loved your photos of old Wethersfield, but I must admit a very strong bias for Glastonbury, CT . . . right across the river from Wetherfield!

    We are just as old and just as charming as lovely Wethersfield! We also boast the oldest continuing running ferry and an historic cider mill. We have pick-your-own berry and apple orchards, horse farms and historic inns.. I highly recommend a stop in Glastonbury, too!

    • daseger

      Sarah, I’m so glad you chimed in for your beautiful town! Believe me, I would have gladly spent the entire afternoon in your area but my passengers were eager to get home. A visit to Glastonbury is definitely in my near future.

  • Down East Dilettante

    I once took that exit—and got wonderfully lost—rather than winding up in Wethersfield, I wound up in a time warp—fields of pumpkins along the Connecticut River, ancient farms, and yet the skyline of Hartford was just beyond the trees. Finally, a trip down a dirt road (!) led me to a one car scow ferry, which took me across to Wethersfield—years later, I still wonder if I dreamed it.

    • daseger

      Happy New Year, DD! I LIVE for experiences like you describe, and once had a similar (but not quite so magical) one on the OTHER side of Hartford. Connecticut is an interesting state, once you get away from the New York suburbs.

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