THIS STORY HAS BEEN FORMATTED FOR EASY PRINTING
CLOSE-UP ON LITCHFIELD, CONN.

First and foremost

Town has beauty, brains, and a lot of historic relevance

Lee's Riding Stable offers a traditional way to see the area.
Lee's Riding Stable offers a traditional way to see the area. (Paul Kandarian for The Boston Globe)
By Paul E. Kandarian
Globe Correspondent / August 20, 2008
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LITCHFIELD, CONN.
DISTANCE FROM BOSTON: 135 miles
POPULATION: 8,300
WEBSITES: www.townoflitchfield.org, www.litchfieldhills.com
ODD FACT: In 1776 the Sons of Liberty pulled down the statue of King George III on Bowling Green in New York and shipped the pieces to Litchfield, where women and children melted them into 42,000 bullets in the orchard behind Oliver Wolcott's home on South Street.

Litchfield is one of Connecticut's most picturesque, historic, and conservation-conscious communities. Located in the rolling Northwest Hills, it is home to some of the most spectacular public land in New England, including the White Memorial Conservation Center, a whopping 4,000 acres in a town of 56 square miles. Historic Litchfield Common is where you'll find one of the state's most photographed houses of worship, the First Congregational Church. Besides having been a "safe town" for the Continental Army during the Revolution, Litchfield is home to several notable educational and agrarian firsts, including the country's first law school, Tapping Reeve House and Law School, whose first student was Aaron Burr; Sarah Pierce's Litchfield Female Academy (1792-1833), one of the first important schools for women in the nation; and Echo Farm, the first dairy to commercially bottle milk.

Do
A walking tour of historic Litchfield would keep a buff quite busy with nearly 50 historic buildings and other points of interest in one area, including Tapping Reeve (82 South St., 860-567-4501, litch fieldhistoricalsociety.org), which besides Burr schooled the likes of John C. Calhoun and Horace Mann. Stop by the information booth on Litchfield Common for a brochure. Also check out the Litchfield History Museum (corner of Routes 118, 202, and 63, 860-567-4501, www.litchfieldhistoricalsociety.org), where now through Nov. 26 is an astounding exhibit of locally made antique furniture. White Memorial Foundation (80 Whitehall Road, 860-567-0857, www.whitememorialcc.org) is a 4,000-acre conservation area with an abundance of places to camp, boat, picnic, watch birds, or hike nature trails. Its natural history museum is quite popular, and coming Sept. 27 is the 27th annual Family Nature Day. While in the area, don't forget Topsmead State Forest (Buell Road, 860-567-5694, ct.gov/dep/ cwp/view.asp?a=2716&q=325076& depNav_GID=1650), the former summer estate of Edith Morton Chase and home to a gorgeous English Tudor cottage built for her. Flower lovers will go wild over White Flower Farm (Route 63, 860-567-8789, www.whiteflowerfarm.com), a nursery renowned for its massive catalog and impressive fields, hothouses, and displays of perennials, shrubs, bulbs, and specimen plants.

Play
If you like playing in the great outdoors, the place to go is Connecticut Outdoors (20 Main St., Oakville, Conn., 860-274-6213, www.4ctoutdoors.com). It's a few miles up the road from Litchfield, but it rents and delivers gear from kayaks to snowshoes through places like White Memorial and the Litchfield Inn. Take in the sights on two wheels with a rental from the nearby Bicycle Tour Co. (9 Bridge St., Kent, 860-927-1742, www.bicycletours.com), the region's premier cycling and touring center which delivers rentals to Litchfield. Or you could try seeing the countryside on four feet, starting at Lee's Riding Stable (57 East Litchfield Road, 860-567-0785), with riding through open and wooded trails. The biggest theatrical venue in the county is on the Litchfield/Torrington line: Warner Theatre (68 Main St., Torrington, 860-489-7180, www.warner theatre.org), a Warner Brothers movie house built in 1931 that was restored to its original gilded splendor in 2002. The 1,772-seat theater hosts some 180 shows a year, including "Magic Tree House: The Musical" in September and the seasonal favorite "The Nutcracker" in December.

Stay
A popular place to call it a night is the Litchfield Inn (432 Bantam Road, 860-567-4503, www.litchfield innct.com), a classic Colonial inn with 32 guest rooms and gigantic 9-foot chandelier in the well of its main staircase. The Tollgate Hill Inn & Restaurant (571 Torrington Road, 860-567-1233, www.tollgate hill.com) started serving guests in 1745 as the Captain William Bull Tavern, and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Tiny and quaint best describe the two-bedroom Abel Darling B&B (102 West St., 860-567-0384, www.abeldarling.com), built in 1782. Its owner, Colleen Murphy, roiled the historical commission in 1998 when she put up window boxes that incurred the commission's aesthetic wrath, a story that made The New York Times. She and the window boxes are still there.

Fuel
Fine dining abounds in Litchfield, such as at West Street Grill (43 West St., 860-567-3885, www.west streetgrill.com, entrees $22-$37), featured in local and national publications and on television, serving food in booths, banquettes, and on the sidewalk to locals and the occasional New York glitterati and literati. Terrific pub fare is found at the Village Restaurant (25 West St., 860-567-8307, entrees $18-$28), facing Litchfield Common, including great burgers, salads, and seafood. Looking for a down-home breakfast? Try Pattie's (495 Bantam Road, 860-567-3335), particularly the cheddar, salsa, and scallion omelet, a tangy way to start the day. Very low key and funky best describes Bohemian Pizza (342 Bantam Road, 860-567-3980, pizza $13-$22, entrees $12-$20), which caters to the younger set and serves not just pizza, but bar fare like jalapeño poppers, chicken wings, and pulled pork.

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