363 Years of Farming at the Denison Homestead

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By Jess Brown

(c) Connecticut Explored Inc. Summer 2017

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The Denison Homestead has been a farm for 363 years. Today it is owned by the Denison Society, a family association of descendants of Captain George Denison. Captain Denison received a grant of 200 acres from Governor John Winthrop Jr. in 1654. The Denison Homestead of today includes 160 of the original 200 acres and is currently a farm and a history museum.

The house, known as Pequotsepos Manor, was built in 1717 and this year celebrates its 300th anniversary. The first manor house, built in 1663, burned. Pequotsepos Manor was converted to a museum in 1946 by noted Connecticut architect J. Frederick Kelly and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Each room depicts a different era of American history, including a colonial kitchen, Revolutionary War-era bedroom, federal-era parlor, Civil War-era bedroom, and a 1930s parlor.

Eighty acres of the farm are leased by the Denison Pequotsepos Nature Center. The nature center was created by the Denison Society as an independent entity in 1972. It provides a wildlife habitat and trails for people to explore the woods and meadows.

The Denison Homestead Farm currently produces hay and is also the site of the Denison Farmers’ Market, held Sunday afternoons from noon to 3 p.m. from June to October. It offers top-notch vendors and lots of high-quality Connecticut-grown farm-to-table products. The market also features local chefs performing cooking demonstrations; the corn festival in early August is a favorite of market visitors, and Revolutionary War or Civil War re-enactors often are present in and around the market, too.

The Denison Homestead Farm has projects underway that are inspired by its past. It is working on invasive-species remediation, re-establishment of the orchard, and creation of a chestnut-seed orchard. Captain George Denison’s map from 1666 shows an orchard of almost 7 acres and about a 20-acre pasture. The 1880 census of agriculture shows the farm had a 200-fruit tree orchard. Aerial photos of the farm from 1934 show about 100 fruit trees. The orchard project will clear invasive species from some of the original orchard area and re-introduce the Denison-Redding apple. This was the apple variety brought to the homestead by Ann Borodell Denison in the 1650s. The chestnut-seed orchard is a longer-term (approximately 40-year) project that will be accomplished in cooperation with the Connecticut Chapter of The American Chestnut Foundation. The seed-orchard project seeks to breed chestnut trees native to Connecticut with varieties that are blight resistant in order to produce blight-resistant native chestnut trees.

This year is going to be exciting around the Denison Homestead, so if you’re in the Mystic area, stop by for a tour of the manor house, visit the farmers’ market, or walk the trails.

Jess Brown is a trustee of the Denison Homestead and coordinates the farmers’ market, orchard, and chestnut-seed orchard projects.

Explore!

Denison Homestead Museum
120 Pequotsepos Road, Mystic
denisonhomestead.org, 860-536-9248
Open June to October, Friday, Saturday, and Monday, noon – 4 p.m.
Denison Farmers Market, Sundays, noon – 3 p.m.

Denison Pequotsepos Nature Center
109 Pequotsepos Road, Mystic

Also visit the Nature Center’s Coogan Farm, a 45-acre historic farm, 165 Greenmanville Avenue, Mystic
dpnc.org, 860-536-1216

 

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