This past weekend friend, Coors, and I visited the Hill-Stead Museum for their Rooms in Bloom event. The entire property was decorated with floral arrangements from local designers while you walked through on a self-guided tour. In each room there were volunteers ready to discuss the Pope family, the original owners, and their amazing art collection. This was my first time visiting and I instantly fell in love with the house and surrounding landscape.
I discovered my new feminist icon on this trip. Theodate Pope Riddle came to Farmington in the 1880’s to attend Miss Porter’s, which was then a two year finishing school. After her schooling was complete, Theodate traveled for a year in Europe with her parents and defied norms of the era by moving permanently to Farmington, upon her return to America, and redesigned an old farm house. Her parents, Alfred and Ada then moved to Connecticut as well and Theodate designed her second house, Hill-Stead.
Later on, she became fascinated with psychical research, amassing a large collection of interesting books I got to see in the Pope’s beautiful library. Obviously, the library was my favorite room. Theodate did not marry until her 50’s and then fostered children while continuing to travel the world. I could go on all day about Theodate, I did buy her biography, but you should visit the Hill-Stead yourself and talk to the volunteers.
The last thing I wanted to mention is the artwork. The house is filled with artwork Alfred collected during their European travels. Theodate donated the property after her death with the stipulation that no artwork would ever leave the walls. These pieces include original works by Monet, Degas, and Whistler just to name a few. Pictures cannot do justice, standing inches away from a Degas literally gives you goosebumps.
While we weren’t allowed to take photographs of the inside, Coors and I braved the snow and explored the yards around the house. If we ever get spring weather I’ll be returning to explore the site’s trails and hopefully see the sheep I heard so much about. The grounds are absolutely breathtaking. Of course afterwards, we HAD TO make the trip to Blue Plate Kitchen, located twenty minutes away in West Hartford. Their s’mores pancakes and fresh squeezed juice were just what we needed after running around in the snow.