The Stratford Historical Society
Stratford Historical Society Box 382
Open Hearth Cooking January 30, 2016
  (Move cursor over the slide show to pause the presentation.)

Open Hearth Cooking January 30, 2016
By Dolores Hoctor

Saturday afternoon on January 30 was time well spent at the Woodbridge Historical Society's Thomas Darling House where members of the Networking Group were treated to a taste of open hearth cooking.

The House is easily reached from the Merritt Parkway Exit 59. A left turn at the bottom of the ramp puts you on the Litchfield Turnpike (Rte. 69) headed north. The road runs along the side of the house less than a mile from the Parkway.

Attending from the Stratford Historical Society were Barbara Firisin, Peggy Haborak, Dolores Hoctor, Gail Liscio and Laureen Pekar. Also attending, in addition to the Amity/Woodbridge group hosting the event were members from Historical Societies in Milford, Monroe, Orange, Derby, North Haven, Cheshire and in addition, Perry House.

Guests were treated to a bowl of soup cooked in a pumpkin with pieces of pumpkin and potatoes slightly sweetened; bread from a dough of wheat, rye and corn flour also cooked on the hearth, gingerbread, mulled cider, tea and a variety of home baked cookies. Unfortunately, the beehive oven now houses the furnace chimney and is not available for baking.

A short presentation about Thomas Darling by Don Menzies from the Amity and Woodbridge Historical Society, explained that Thomas Darling was educated at Yale to be a minister, but preferred business. He became a merchant, was involved in the Triangular (slave) Trade, owned slaves, served in the Revolutionary War by running a commissary, went into the printing business, developed a correspondence with Benjamin Franklin and ended life as a farmer. Several letters written to him by Franklin were found in the Darling House and now reside at Yale.

He built his house in 1770. It is early Georgian architecture with a center hall and two chimneys. The front of the house faces south, has two front rooms, one a formal parlor and one a sitting room. The kitchen and fourth room are at the rear. The house is furnished with period pieces, is beautifully paneled on the interior walls and painted in a variety of Williamsburg colors, has crown molding around the nine foot ceiling and large twelve over twelve replacement windows in the two front rooms. Upstairs are one furnished bedroom one child's room, one room with artifacts from a later period, a bathroom and a workroom. The house was occupied by family descendants until 1971. Some later furnishings belonged to them.

A short meeting was held in the parlor following the House tour and refreshments. At that time each Society shared information regarding fund-raising. Although other Society houses are owned by their respective towns, the organization is responsible for utilities: heat, water and electricity. Most Societies have given up walk-in tours in favor of events. Woodbridge offers three or four hearth cooked meals a year with beer from a local distiller and musical accompaniment for $40.00 a person. Other Societies provide a variety of events.

Two special guests both from the Cheshire Historical Society, were a librarian, Christine Pittsley, from the Connecticut State Library, a Collections Specialist and Diane Calabro, President of the Cheshire Historical Society and President of the Connecticut League of Historical Associations (, both of whom supplied useful information and contacts that might be of help.

The Connecticut Office of Tourism (COT) is sponsoring the 12th annual Connecticut Open House Day on Saturday, June 11th. This one-day event is designed to showcase Connecticut's diverse world of history, art and tourism to Connecticut residents. Last year around 200 participants rolled out the welcome mat to Connecticut residents with special incentives, such as free or discounted admission, special activities or exhibits and/or free gifts. COT is dedicating a section of the website to Connecticut Open House Day which will include event information and a listing of participating venues.

Rosemary Bowe
Connecticut Office of Tourism

Jean Hebert
Connecticut Office of Tourism