Longed-for Long Weekends: Naugatuck Valley Region

As business restrictions and travel mandates lift and the world recovers from the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, Connecticut’s backyard treasures beckon day-trippers to discover —and rediscover— the wealth of sightseeing opportunities that at every turn, turn a day into a weekend adventure.

Sometimes slipped under a traveler’s radar, one of the first signs of hospitality in “Naugy,” as residents affectionately refer to the state’s only consolidated borough and town, just south of Waterbury, is actually a “Welcome to Naugatuck” four-sign display at the entry and exit ramps of Route 8. It’s a “happy accident” that the maroon/yellow signage shares the same color scheme of the renowned Tuttle House, the Queen Anne-style home of the Naugatuck Historical Society (NHS), explains the society’s president Chris Ritton-Stokes.

“We have adopted the maroon and gold color scheme for the society because it does work so well with the house,” Ritton-Stokes said.

Tuttle House prominently situated at the head of Church Street.

The Tuttle house, boasting 30 rooms and eight fireplaces, was built in 1881 for Bronson B. and Mary Ann Tuttle. It is a salute to the Gilded Age and unfettered excess of exotic furnishings, extravagant detail and worldwide curio collections. 

Albeit temporarily closed, visitors are welcome to stroll and view the grounds that include the O’Donnell Memorial Garden commemorating each past president of the Naugatuck Garden Club, not to mention the legacy of trees planted by the Tuttle family. 

Tuttle, along with patron John Howard Whittemore,  former owners of Eastern Malleable Iron, which still exists today as The Eastern Company, planted something even more significant. Naugatuck’s rich architectural heritage stems from Tuttle’s introduction to the City Beautiful Movement, promoting the idea of the urban beautification and its benefits, at the World’s Columbian Exposition in 1893, one of the first world’s fairs held in Chicago.

Naugatuck Green with Soldier’s Monument in the background, dedicated in 1885 to honor local residents who served in the Civil War – Photo courtesy of Naugatuck Historical Society

The Tuttle House is part of Naugatuck’s historic district, which encompasses most of Church and Meadow streets and showcases the largest collection of extant McKim, Mead and White-designed buildings found anywhere in the world outside New York City. A few stops on the architectural masterpiece explorer’s map are the Salem Elementary School, a brick Renaissance Revival structure built in 1893 and Hillside Intermediate School, modeled after Greek Temples and constructed of pink granite and pressed buff brick.

Some other celebrated examples in and around Naugatuck Green include the 1895 Memorial Fountain, Naugatuck Congregational Church, Howard Whittemore Memorial Library and the Thomas Neary Memorial Building, a Neo-Classical Revival structure, one of Ritton-Stokes’ favorites. Also notable is Hop Brook School, designed by Theodate Pope Riddle, one of the first female architects, who also designed her parents home, which is now the Hill-Stead Museum.

The NHS plans to resume downtown walking tours, including a remarkable array of war memorials, for the spring/summer season. It is also organizing its popular Grove cemetery tours in the fall. 

Naugatuck’s World War Monument is located on Meadow Street, northwest of the Soldier’s Monument in the center of the town green – Photo courtesy of Naugatuck Historical Society

The cemetery tours are staffed by actors portraying some of Naugatuck’s famous forebears next to their final resting place. Among the “Who’s Who” list of Naugy’s past residents buried in the cemetery is Peter Paul Halajian, inventor of Almond Joy & Mounds.

In an “old factory town,” Naugatuck Garden Club’s president Gerry McCabe says that one of the non-profit community organization’s missions is the civic beautification of Naugatuck and “making things pretty.” 

The volunteer-driven club’s green touch that includes 11 gardens is “pretty” obvious. Behind the library, check out the Butterfly Garden, Gerry’s favorite. Beyond the pretty lies the practical. The club works diligently to attract bees and other pollinators and direct them from the Maple Street Bridge flower boxes to the town green vicinity and into Linden Park, one of the best-kept area secrets that features a walking path offering panoramic views of Naugatuck River.

Auspiciously, garden club events are beginning to jump start again. Mark June 12 on your calendar for a summer flower sale at the relatively new town green gazebo that debuted about a year ago.

Naugatuck Green: Congregational Church on left | St. Michael’s Episcopal Church on right. Photo courtesy of Naugatuck Historical Society

Hungry? Close to downtown, don’t miss fine dining adventures at Station Restaurant. It goes down in the history books as Naugatuck’s old train station and was designed by Henry Bacon in 1908. Bacon also designed the Lincoln Memorial in Washington. Other nearby eateries include, to name only a few, Coddington’s On Meadow, Jesse Camille’s Restaurant, Loaded Goat Coffee Shop, 66 Church and the Corner Tavern, a landmark since 1911.  

Naugatuck’s former train station in proximity to downtown is now The Station House, a fine dining restaurant. The train station was designed by Henry Bacon in 1908. Bacon also designed the Lincoln Memorial In Washington D.C. – Photo courtesy of Naugatuck Historical Society.

Fortunately, weekend escapes that give you a little slice of Naugy that’s big on memorable flavor are made easy with the number of chain-branded hotel options in town and around the Waterbury area. 

For weekend getaway ideas, including lodging, dining, attractions and so much more, check out WCTD’s website at https://www.ctvisit.com/listings/western-regional-tourism-district

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