By Kristin P. Havill SUMMER 2008
Why do such disparate audiences as gardeners, artists, dogs and their owners, and students of religious and holocaust history visit the Bellamy-Ferriday House & Garden? This Bethlehem historic house museum and garden, one of 12 properties owned by Connecticut Landmarks (formerly known as The Antiquarian & Landmarks Society), offers a rich history generated by the lives of first owner Reverend Joseph Bellamy (1719-1790) and last owner Carolyn Ferriday (1902-1990) and a collection of 18th– and 19th-century buildings within a beautifully designed and preserved landscape.
As a preacher, writer, and teacher, Reverend Bellamy was an influential figure in American 18th-century religious history. His gift for making theological principles relevant to ordinary lives and the cause of the American Revolution earned him a wide following, including more than 60 theology students who trained with him in his Bethlehem seminary. Three more generations of Bellamys worked and lived on their 100- acre farm.
Carolyn Ferriday’s tenure in Bethlehem began in 1912 when her parents, who lived in New York City, bought the Litchfield county property and transformed it into their summertime country retreat. Ferriday loved this rural land but made her mark in causes reaching into the greater world beyond. She followed in the footsteps of her grandmother’s progressive and politically connected family of seven sisters and one brother during the Civil War. Five of the sisters were actively involved in hospital procedures on the Potomac transport ships, at Gettysburg, and at Fairfax Seminary Hospital in Virginia, while others remained at home organizing packages to be sent to various camps. Inspired by these women, Ferriday supported the French resistance effort during World War II and enlisted a network of help for Polish resistance fighters and survivors of the Ravensbrück concentration camp. For those efforts, the French government honored her in the 1950s the Cross of Lorraine and the French Legion of Honor medal.
Ferriday’s years of dedication to her Bethlehem land laid the groundwork for Connecticut Landmarks to create opportunities for repeated visits to the property. In addition to the guided tour, the museum offers visitors a chance to enjoy the formal parterre garden and learn of the rewards and challenges of maintaining a historic landscape. Throughout the summer the fragrance of the roses and lilacs and a wide variety of other flowering trees, shrubs, and perennials entices visitors to stroll through the grounds and orchards. The annual May Plant Sale offers for sale plants propagated from the museum’s collections. Artist Betsy Rogers-Knox, a talented and enthusiastic advocate of the perfect marriage of botanical art and the Ferriday Garden’s plant collection, offers monthly botanical illustration workshops. Monthly Garden Walks focus on topics such as rose care, edible plants, and pruning practices. Two sessions of Art and Nature Camp are available for children 6-12 in June and July. Every September brings the popular family-friendly Annual Dog Show, where every dog is a winner. Enjoy the house decorated for the holidays during Bethlehem’s annual Christmas Town Festival.
The Bellamy-Ferriday House & Garden, 9 Main Street North, Bethlehem, is open for guided tours May through October on Wednesday, Friday, Saturday, and Sunday from 11 to 4. Connecticut Landmarks will feature Bellamy-Ferriday as its “spotlight” site in July; see page xx for details. For more information call (203) 266-7596 or visit www.ctlandmarks.org.
Admission is $7 for adults; $6 for students, teachers, and seniors; $4 for children 6 to18 $4; free for children under 6 and for members; $15 for families (2 adults with children); $5 per person for groups of 10 or more.