Weir Farm National Historic Site
Weir Farm is one of those places that you just never hear about until you start looking into American artists. I certainly had never heard of it before making plans to visit it.
Weir Farm National Historic Site is located outside Danbury, Conn., on a hill surrounded by complicated, expensive homes. By contrast, the Weir House and surrounding farm buildings look to be something from a century ago… Certainly, from some time simpler.
The historic site was created in 1990 after 20 years of grassroots preservation by local residents and artists alike. It preserves the farm where American Impressionist J. Alden Weir fell in love with the “quiet plain little house among the rocks.” Weir traded a painting he had bought and $10 to a friend for the land.
I can certainly see why he fell in love with the farm. The stone fence lines and gentle, sloping fields are about as New England pastoral as can be had outside of one of his paintings.
The home itself was incredibly well-preserved, having passed to Weir’s daughter, Dorothy, and her husband, Mahonri Young. Young, a sculptor, is most famous for his piece This is the Place, a frieze depicting the Mormon’s move to Utah. Young built his own studio at Weir Farm and lived there until his death, when it passed to another artist couple, the Andrews, whom preserved much of the house for posterity.
The farm is still used by artists to this day. The artist-in-residence offers classes in painting, with an emphasis on the Impressionistic style Weir so loved. One day, I might have to come back here and try my hand at easel and brush… Until then, cameras and the written word will have to do.
Springfield Armory National Historic Site
The second stop today was about as far removed thematically from the first as could possibly be… Springfield Armory National Historic Site.
Springfield Armory was one of two national armories that produced weapons for the United States. The other, Harpers Ferry, was destroyed at the beginning of the Civil War. Springfield Armory started operation in 1794 and kept producing mostly rifles until 1968. Many of the finest rifles ever made, including the 1903 Springfield, the M1 Garand and the M14, which is still in service today, were designed and produced at the armory.
Most of the armory was long ago converted for use as the Springfield Technical Community College, but the main armory building and a pair of the officer’s houses remain preserved as part of the historic site.
The exhibits display many of the weapons, variants and experiments attempted at the armory over the years. They also display the tools and techniques used to produce the weapons going back to shortly after the Revolutionary War. Regardless of your thoughts on guns, this site offers a very interesting look into how they have evolved and the craftsmanship that went into every weapon produced.
One of the reasons we have made a point to visit not just National Parks, but all of the different units of the National Park Service, is what we were able to see today: a farm dedicated to art and a factory dedicated to implements of war. That is one of the things we love so much about our goal to see every NPS site in the country… The amazing stuff you learn tucked away in the smallest places.