A new look at some beautiful old houses and gardens

This article was originally featured in the CT Post on 

Tuesday, June 26, 2012.

You could say Lincoln Sander, president of the Newtown Historical Society, enjoys the organization's annual Houseand Garden Tour, as he's been on every one over the past seven years.

And so it's no surprise that he intends to be on the 16th annual tour, which takes place Saturday, June 30.

"What's fun about it is people are interested in decorating houses and gardens, so they get to see unique homes and beautiful gardens that are not generally open to the public," said Sander, whose own 1748 house has been included in the past.

Residents who this year are opening their homes to the tour for the first time include Barbara and Sean Patrick, whose house was built in 1785.

"We'd like to support the Newtown Historical Society and we absolutely love our home and yard and the history associated with it," Barbara Patrick said. "Having it on the tour is a way to honor the house that has given us such joy in the decade we have lived here."

The self-guided tour will run from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m., rain or shine. It includes six homes dating from the early 18th century to the early 19th century and their gardens, as well as three garden-only locations.

Patrick said her home's old-wood floors are especially interesting, and she said the house is in good condition, considering its age.

"It's very light and open, which is a little unusual," said Patrick, a mother of three. "It seems like everyone who owned this house put a lot of time and energy into it.

The Patricks enlarged their Boggs Hill Road home and created extensive terraced gardens, while keeping the old barn and other outbuildings.

Patrick said she thinks visitors will really enjoy the gardens.

"There is a formal horseshoe garden that's sort of the showpiece of the yard," she said.

Patrick loves to decorate houses and her husband has a passion for gardening.

"He weighs in, though (on the decorating)," she said. "Everything in the house reflects something we both agreed we like."

Sean Patrick is a high school history teacher in Fairfield, while his wife has a small quilting business, Bitty Birdie Design, which she runs from their comfy home.

Those who attend the tour may also see some chickens on their property.

"My son Colin, who just turned 14, raises chickens," Barbara Patrick said. "The younger two spend a lot of time catching frogs in the back of the yard. I think it's the same frog over and over!"

Other homes on the tour include a Taunton Hill Road farmhouse with a great room created from a re-assembled Canadian hay barn, as well as a charming circa 1700 house off Eden Road that some say is the oldest in town.

In the Sandy Hook section of Newtown, there's a home that once was owned by 1930s opera singer and movie star Grace Moore.

A colorful history also surrounds the 1750 farmhouse on the Ram Pasture that town benefactress Mary Hawley bought and renovated for her chauffeur in 1927.

Finally, there's an early-19th-century farmhouse off High Rock Road that was built atop a bedrock ledge.

Ginnie Carey, publicity chairwoman, said some of the gardens on the tour feature antique well pumps, old grinding stones, corn cribs, or forged-iron farm implements.

In one case, whimsical metal sculptures decorate a space that was once a common grazing ground for homesteaders' sheep.

Also on the tour will be the Historical Society's Matthew Curtiss House Museum Dooryard Garden. Located on Main Street, it features historically correct herbs and perennials. Just across the street are the fabulous gardens of a landscape designer and master gardener.

The third garden on the tour is a shade-filled perennial garden with a koi pond, designed with an artistic eye by its owner, a professional nature and landscape photographer.

Tour tickets may be purchased in Newtown at the circulation desk of the Cyrenius H. Booth Library, 25 Main St. Tickets are also at Everything Newtown, 61 Church Hill Road and the UPS Store, 261 S. Main St. On the day of the tour, any remaining tickets will be sold only at the Matthew Curtiss House, 44 Main St., from 10 a.m. to 1:30 p.m.

Proceeds benefit the Newtown Historical Society and are used to maintain its museum and support its educational programs.

Newtown Historical Society 16th Annual House and Garden Tour, Saturday, June 30, 11 a.m.- 5 p.m., rain or shine. Advance tickets $25, day of tour tickets $30 at 44 Main St. from 10-1:30 p.m. 203-426-5937, www.newtownhistory.org