Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Weir Farm National Historic Site

Not far off the route from Boston to our home is a unique place run by the National Park Services--Weir Farm National Historic Site. When J. Alden Weir married Anne Baker the 1880s, they moved to the farm. He loved the landscape and was a painter (from the American Impressionist school), so he produced many works here. He also invited artist friends like Childe Hassam, John Twachtman, and Albert Pinkham Ryder to the farm. They shared his love of painting outdoors. Weir died in 1919. His eldest daughter married a sculptor and painter. They kept up the artistic tradition and built a second studio in 1932. They died in the 1950s and the house, barn, and studios were bought by Sperry and Doris Andrews, who continued to make art here. Eventually sixty acres of farmland, sixteen buildings, and seemingly endless stone walls became part of the National Park Services. Weir Farm is the only NPS site dedicated to American painting.

Weir Farm National Historic Site sign--a dead give-away

Gathering information at the parking lot

The first building we came to was Burlingham House, named after Weir's youngest daughter, Cora Weir Burlingham. The house was part of a neighboring farm that Weir bought in 1907. She lived there from 1931 to 1986.

Burlingham House

On the porch of the house is one of the many encouragements to try out artistic endeavors. Small paint kits are provided for visitors to make their own art. The bison that my son worked on has more significance than is immediately obvious. The farm has several painted bison at locations where the artists painted their more famous paintings.

Painting supplies

My daughter at work

The preschooler works in waterpaint

His bison

Her flower

Cora Burlingham studied interior design and horticulture. With that expertise, she designed the garden terraces and the sunken garden next to the house.

Terraced gardens

Sunken garden

South of the house is Weir Preserve, a section of the farm donated to the Connecticut Chapter of The Nature Conservancy. When we visited the house, the ranger gave us a scavenger hunt and a guide to the painted bison. We found our first bison here.

To the Weir Preserve

Painted bison in the wild!

We discovered more gardens and some fantastic stone walls.

Walking through a garden

Trying to climb the wall

Another well-assembled wall

We went down a long path and crossed a road to the other part of the farm where the Weir House and nearby studios are located.

Approaching the original farm buildings

The first house on this farm was built in 1780. When Weir moved there a hundred years later, he made many expansions and additions to the house, including the front porch for the artists to hang out on hot summer days.

Weir House

Nearby is the stone picnic table which Weir's daughters used to host tea parties for friends and guests at the house.

Picnic table

We spotted another bison near the art studios.

A nice field by the art studios

Painted and unpainted bison!

The area was a working farm even in Weir's day, though he was more interested in the visual atmosphere created by the farm. Animals roamed this area, along with carts and other rustic accoutrements of 19th century farming. He built a "Secret Garden," probably named after the Deutzia bushes that hid the interior. The farm was a bit of a whimsy for Weir. One of his friends nicknamed the area "The Land of Nod," referring to the dream-like state of life on that particular farm. The garden became overgrown after his death but efforts by the Park Service have restored it to its 1940s look.

Secret Garden

Inside the garden

Part of the scavenger hunt!

The garden does have some original equipment, like this sundial that seems a bit useless, or at least poorly situated.

According to this sundial, it's always nighttime

Doorway to the garden

Just outside the garden we spotted another bison!

Field bison

We explored one of the art studios where resident artists still work. We visited on a weekday so there was not much going on.

Various tools and works in the studio

The high ceiling means a high chimney for the stove

Going west relief

Books upstairs

Flowers and painting of flowers

An exhibit off limits for now

After a brief interview with one of the artists, my children had done enough activities to merit a Junior Ranger badge. We went back to the Burlingham House Visitor Center where they were sworn in.

Swearing in ceremony

We were on our way from Boston back to Maryland, so we didn't stay too long. We missed out on Weir Pond, a pond created by Weir with a picturesque dam and a small island. The hike is about a mile and a half and would have used up a lot of time. Maybe we'll stop by again to create some more art and happy memories.

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