Categories: Avon, Environment, Everyday Life

Talcott Mountain: A View of Early New England

Thomas Cole, View of Monte Video, Seat of Daniel Wadsworth Esq., 1878
Thomas Cole, View of Monte Video, Seat of Daniel Wadsworth Esq., 1878, oil on wood, Wadsworth Atheneum

The Talcott Mountain range lies in the northeastern section of Avon and is arguably the town’s most prominent geographic feature. From an elevation of 1,000 feet, the mountain offers views that reach as far as New Hampshire’s Mount Monadnock to the north and Long Island Sound to the south and encompass more than 50 cities and towns in the surrounding area.

Daniel Wadsworth was the mountain’s most famous resident. Wadsworth was a member of Connecticut’s financial elite, thanks to the efforts of his father, Jeremiah, Hartford’s wealthiest merchant. Daniel was a collector of fine art and known best for founding the Wadsworth Atheneum, the first public art museum in the US.

Wadsworth purchased land on Talcott Mountain in 1805 and turned it into a lavish estate he named Monte Video. Like most luxury estates of the era, Monte Video had gardens, a boat house, an ice house, and ample land for farming. What was different about Monte Video, however, was that Wadsworth opened his property to the public. Wadsworth’s mountain estate became a resort for tourists who strolled the grounds so freely that Wadsworth’s wife, Faith, often complained of feeling like a prisoner in her own home.

In order to take advantage of the mountain’s spectacular views, Wadsworth made two attempts to build observation towers at Monte Video. The first tower, built in 1810, actually blew over, and the second, built in 1840, burned to the ground.

While much of Monte Video is still private property, in 1965, builders eyed 557 acres of the mountain for development. Thanks to private conservation efforts, and intervention by state and federal agencies, however, the property, including portions of the former Monte Video estate, came under public ownership and is today Talcott Mountain State Park, which extends from Simsbury into Avon.

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Places

“Talcott Mountain State Park.” Department of Energy & Environmental Protection, 2016. Link.
“The Wadsworth Atheneum,” 2017. Link.
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