Saturday, July 17, 2010

Weir Farm National Historical Site

Our destination today was far from trail related.  Today, we drove to Branchville, CT to visit the only National Park unit in the state--Weir Farm National Historical Site.

Even though the Park Service officially acquired the Weir Farm in 1990, the landowner had a lifetime lease so the property was not available for public use until 2005.  This small historic site commemorates the life and work of American artist Julian Alden Weir.  It is only the second Park Unit dedicated to the visual arts; Saint Gaudens in New Hampshire being the other.

The Secret Garden
Weir was born in 1852.  His father was an artist himself and taught drawing at West Point.  As a young artist, Weir studied the traditional classical method of painting and became an accomplished portrait and landscape artist.

His studio was in New York City and Weir wanted a get-away in the Adirondacks--a place where he could go hunting.  Instead, he traded a painting plus $10 for the 153 acres in Connecticut.  It was on this farm where he fell in love with the simple nature of the landscape that he was able develop his own style of Impressionism, what became known as American Impressionist.

Young Home

Weir and his wife transformed the “farm” into a haven for friends and fellow artists.  Even today, artists still come to the Weir farm to draw inspiration from this rural Connecticut landscape.

Weir Home

Since Weir acquired the farm in 1882, it has remained in the hands of artists.  After Weir’s death, his daughter, Dorothy, inherited the farm.  She was an artist herself, but she was also married to sculptor, Mahonri Young.  In the 1950s, the farm was sold to New England painters Sperry and Doris Andrews.  It was largely through the efforts of the Andrews’ that Weir Farm is now a National Historic Site.  The Park service is continuing this artistic legacy with their Artist in Residency program.

Weir Studio
Since the Park Service acquired the farm so recently, most of the buildings are currently undergoing restoration.  The farm consists of only about 60 acres now, and includes the Weir home, his studio, the home of his daughter Dorothy, and Mahonri Young’s studio, the barn, gardens, and the Weir Pond.

Young Studio

Although it doesn’t look like it did in the late 1800s when the fields were open pasture and you could see Long Island Sound from the top of Nod Hill, it is still a wonderfully peaceful place to spend a few quiet moments in nature.

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