Categories: Everyday Life, Sharon, Sports and Recreation, Who Knew?

The Rise of the “Second Home” Community in Sharon – Who Knew?

Clock tower and Sharon Inn, Sharon, ca. 1930s
Clock tower and Sharon Inn, Sharon, ca. 1930s – Connecticut Historical Society

…that after the Civil War and through the 1930s, recreational pursuits attained ever-greater importance, until they ranked among the region’s most significant characteristics. Such activities included amenities that served local residents as well as those that attracted enormous crowds of visitors, summer vacationers, and estate owners.

Sharon attracted a substantial vacation community and between 1880 and 1920, wealthy visitors refurbished several older homes or built Colonial Revival-style mansions on the South Green. New residents included diplomat Paul Bonner, editor and architectural critic Montgomery Schuyler, financier C. Stanley Mitchell, and Dr. Charles Tiffany, Episcopal Archdeacon of New York, as well as famed surgeon William Coley and electrical inventor Frank Sprague. At the same time, Romulus Riggs Colgate hired architect J. William Cromwell to design “Filston,” an enormous Italianate palazzo set on nearly 300 acres. Nearby in New York State arose “Hiddenhurst,” a great Georgian mansion, with huge stables accommodating 35 horses.

The very factors inspiring affluent families to create substantial vacation homes also underlay establishment of a thriving resort hotel trade. The large-frame Sharon Inn stood at the south end of the town green across from the clock tower and did a brisk business, attracting the rich and famous; for example, Thomas Edison visited in 1907 with an entourage of 14. The inn remained a popular train and auto destination through the 1920s but was demolished in 1954. Many locals worked in the various hotels and inns throughout Sharon, and numerous residents built small cottages on their properties so that they could rent their homes in the summer to wealthy visitors.

A version of this article first appeared on the Sharon Historical Society Web site.

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