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Victorian Days this weekend – house tours, high tea, carriage rides

May 31, 2012 Arts & Entertainment, Local News No Comments

Horse-drawn rides past historic Victorian homes are part of the 14th annual Victorian Days activities that run from Thursday, May 31 through Sunday, June 3 (most events are Saturday and Sunday). Photo courtesy of the Willimantic Victorian Neighborhood Association

Willimantic, Connecticut will invite visitors into some of its 600 Victorian-style homes listed on the National Register of Historic Places during the 14th annual Victorian Days events, which begins Thursday, May 31 and continues through Sunday, June 3.

This very popular event, which draws people from throughout New England, also includes garden tours, unique museum exhibits, live music, art exhibits and Victorian teas that sell out every year.

Victorian Days is sponsored by the Willimantic Victorian Neighborhood Association, which promotes the preservation of Willimantic’s Victorian past.

Most events take place on Saturday and Sunday.

Willimantic’s Hill Section abounds with old Victorian homes. It is “sort of a hidden treasure,” says event manager Lynn Duval. “It was built when the textile mill industry was at its prime.”

During that era, immigrants came from France, Poland, Ukraine, Ireland and other countries to work at the thread mills, and “their families are still here,” Duval said.

The George Tiffany House on Prospect Street is one of the Victorian-style homes that will be open for tours during the 14th annual Victorian Days, the weekend of June 2-3, 2012. Photo courtesy of Wilimantic Victorian Neighborhood Association

“They all left something here in the community,” she said, and so the Victorian Days weekend also celebrates the diversity of Willimantic’s history.

“People come from all over New England,” Duval said, and “when we bring the people here, they see that Willimantic is kind of a cool town.”

New to this year’s festivities will be Saturday tours of five churches with historically interesting stained glass windows and organs.

“They’re all historic. They all have magnificent stained glass. It’s going to be a beautiful tour,” Duval said.

Thursday – with cooler and less humid weather in the forecast – will start the three-day event with a walking tour of historic Main Street that will include a viewing of the old Franklin Hall Vaudeville Theater.

Friday night, the public can attend a free Classic Brass Band Concert at the First Congregational Church, 199 Valley St. Following the performance will be a large buffet.

The Connecticut Eastern Railroad Museum will take part in the 14th annual Victorian Days the weekend of June 2-3, and will offer 1.5-mile train rides in an open car with benches. Photo of the "round house" courtesy of the Railroad Museum

Saturday and Sunday, visitors can tour Victorian homes, the Willimantic Camp Meeting Association (Saturday, only), the Elks Lodge, the Old Willimantic Cemetery, Windham Mills, the magnificent Garden on the Bridge neighboring the renovated mills and ArtSpace, Wright’s Pleasant Street Garden and the Windham Town Hall with its newly installed exhibit, “Connecticut’s Connection to the Titanic.”

The Windham Textile & History Museum/Visitor’s Center, the Windham Historical Society at Jillson House and the Connecticut Eastern Railroad Museum (set back from Bridge Street) will also feature exhibits and other activities.

The railroad museum will offer 1.5-mile train rides in an open car with benches. “The kids will love it,” Duval said.

The Victorian Teas are “real high teas,” using real china, silverware and linen napkins and tablecloths. Sandwiches, handmade scones, pastries and tea are served in one of the Victorian homes. The tea gatherings sell out quickly. “We tell people to reserve ahead of time, and they have to,” Duval said.

For information on where to buy tickets or to make advance reservations for tea on Saturday or Sunday, call (860) 428-7573.

To download a brochure detailing all the events and a map, visit the Willimantic Victorian Neighborhood Association Web site at http://www.victorianwillimantic.org/events/victorian-days-in-willimantic

Posted May 31, 2012 as edited by HTNP.com Editor Brenda Sullivan

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