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Spotlight on Farmington

Ask a resident to describe and you might hear the nickname “Charmington.” With a population of about 24,000, this scenic town boasts a top-rated school system, job growth at well-known corporations and scenic views. This fairly large hamlet manages to maintain a quaint atmosphere, as mountains loom in the distance and the Farmington River sparkles in the forefront. From George Washington to 50 Cent, the streets of this wealthy suburb, which borders Avon and West Hartford, have attracted many notables over the years, making its story quite varied and fascinating.

History

Incorporated in 1645, Farmington is one of the oldest towns in Connecticut. Originally referred to as the “mother of towns,” its land was divided and resulted in the creation of nine other Connecticut communities. George Washington called it “the village of beautiful homes” when he traveled through the area during the Revolutionary War. Progressive abolitionists were plentiful in this area in the 1800s, with several homes part of the Underground Railroad. And, after the Amistad trial, the 39 freed slaves were schooled in Farmington. Many lovely colonial homes still dot the downtown, giving the area a distinct New England flair. In the “Old Farmington” section, Miss Porter’s School, is an important historic site. The exclusive private high school for young women, which Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy attended, prides itself on being a prominent member of the community.

Founder Sarah Porter hailed from a well-known Farmington family and opened her school in 1843 with 18 students. Despite an expensive tuition, about $48,000 a year for boarders, the school attracts applicants from all over the world and maintains a small student body of about 300.

Another historic landmark just outside the village is the beautiful Hill-Stead Museum, the former estate of the Pope family, known for its Colonial Revival Architecture and stunning collection of Impressionist paintings. Visitors can tour the 19-room home of industrialist Alfred Atmore Pope and his daughter, Theodate, one of the country’s first female architects. Amazingly, folks can actually walk right up to paintings by Claude Monet, Mary Cassatt or James McNeil Whistler—it’s a rare, intimate setting that allows visitors to appreciate each brush stroke and fleck of color. The Memento Mori Cemetery on Rte. 10, one of the oldest graveyards in the area, dates from 1661. The nearby Stanley-Whitman House Museum, which educates visitors about the early history of the town, manages the cemetery, where devoted volunteers have restored markers dating back to 1685.

Business

Long ago, Farmington’s borough of Unionville was known for its factories, which ran off the water power of the Farmington River. Now, Farmington serves as the world headquarters for several large businesses, including Carrier Corporation and Otis Elevator Company. The American Red Cross, TRUMPF Inc. and Stanley Black and Decker are also large employers in the area. The University of Connecticut Health Center, featuring a School of Medicine and a School of Dentistry, is also a prominent player, employing more than 5,000 people. In fact, more people work in Farmington than live here, unique for a suburb. Route 4 leads visitors into the shopping district by way of a notoriously congested curve in the road, called the “crazy corner.” Known more for boutiques rather than big-box stores, the downtown area sports unique shops, such as Design Forum and Green Dog Market. Popular restaurants, including Cugino’s, Naples Pizza, Apricots, Wood-n-Tap and Matthew’s, tend to be cozy and family-friendly. Greater Hartford’s largest mall, Westfarms, is also technically a Farmington resident, straddling the West Hartford line. Spring will bring new retailers including Athleta, LUSH and Keihl’s to its existing lineup of more than 160 shops and restaurants.

Life

Homes are a mixture of classic, older houses and newer developments with some unique properties sprinkled in, such as Mike Tyson’s former 18-acre compound, which he sold to rapper 50 Cent eight years ago. The town’s seven public schools have stellar reputations. In 2005, Newsweek ranked Farmington High School 125th in the nation. Tunxis Community College, run by the state, boasts almost 5,000 students. Outdoor attractions abound, such as the Winding Trails recreation area, featuring swimming and boating in warm weather, cross-country skiing, sledding and skating in the winter. Many folks also love to make like famous resident Suzy Whaley and grab their clubs for a day of golf. Tunxis Plantation is a 45-hole public course, also a popular spot for weddings. Westwoods Golf Course, a favorite of residents, is a municipal 18-hole option. And for the little ones, the Farmington Miniature Golf and Ice Cream Parlor is a favorite. The town also features a country club and an inn, as well as farm stands filled with homegrown produce.

—Sarah Cody

Check Out Page #2 For local Farmington Businesses

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