GUILFORD >> For a town known for its agricultural roots, Simeon Chittenden was in a class by himself. With a fortune made in the Manhattan textile industry he maintained a 10-acre summer estate on Broad Street in the mid-1800s.
The property included horse stables, a water fountain, a bowling alley and a domestic stone water tower with a windmill on top to supply fresh water to the estate.
The water tower, known as Cranbrook Tower, contains a 4,000 gallon water tank encircled by an iron staircase. It was in use until Guilford established its own water system in 1915 and the windmill was removed in 1927, according to the Guilford Keeping Society.
“During the Second World War they had a glass greenhouse on top for civil defense spotting,” says Dr. Richard C. Lewis, current owner of 29 Broad St., which today includes four acres, a barn with horse stables, the bowling alley and stone water tower.
It has been many years since Lewis has been inside the tower.
These buildings, plus many more throughout town are included in the “Mystery Buildings Tour,” sponsored by The Guilford Keeping Society, owners of the Thomas Griswold House Museum and the Medad Stone Tavern Museum.
The self-guided tour, 10 a.m. – 3 p.m., Saturday, Oct. 1, is $10 and free for children under 16 years old.
Advance tickets are available at various Guilford locations including Breakwater Books, 81 Whitfield St., the Guilford Visitors Information Kiosk, 32 Church St., The Thomas Griswold House Museum, 171 Boston St. and the Medad Stone Tavern Museum, 197 Three Mile Course. On the day of the event, programs and tickets will be available at the Thomas Griswold Museum.
Standing in front of the 65-foot Cranbrook Tower, Keeping Society Board Member Fran Swietlicki marvels at the design.
“One of the doors, it’s a Romanesque style arch and you’ve got the Ionic pillars,” she says.
Today, the tower stands as a monument of days gone by. A curiosity to most people traveling along River Street.
The bowling alley, described by the Keeping Society as a “charming Gothic style bowling alley which matches the architectural elements of the 1868 Barn at 29 Broad Street,” also sits unused.
The last time Lewis remembers playing a game of American Ten Pins there was 2000. He recalls the sound of the wooden bowling ball rolling down the wooden alley sounding like “rolling thunder.”
There are plans to replace the roof of the bowling alley and Lewis remains committed to preserving these pieces of Guilford history. “That’s what you do,” he says. “You’re a steward of these houses, I think.”
It is appropriate that the “Mystery Buildings Tour” starts at the Thomas Griswold House. Built in 1774, the property includes a working blacksmith shop with demonstrations, a three hole privy, otherwise known as an outhouse, corncribs and a barn.
Thirteen of the buildings included on the tour are barns, some in the English tradition and nine of which are on the list of “Historic Barns in Connecticut,” says Swietlicki.
Members of the community will serve as docents for the day, greeting visitors and available for any questions.
Swietlicki applauds the local residents who have preserved these buildings and are opening them up for the day’s event.
“So many people in town feel that they are stewards,” says Swietlicki. “Their responsibility is to take care of the property in the best possible way they can and pass it on to the future.”
For further information, visit the Guilford Keeping Society’s website: http://www.guilfordkeepingsociety.com or call 203-453-3176.