While Curtis Veeder’s house at One Elizabeth Street in Hartford has been preserved as the home of the Connecticut Historical Society, that structure was not Veeder’s only house. About 1911, he acquired a large tract of land straddling the town line between Bloomfield and Simsbury on Talcott Mountain, just down the ridge from Heublein Tower. There, he built a cottage that he called Penwood. The land that was once his today is Penwood State Park.
In addition to being an industrialist and engineer who took an active role in designing his house in Hartford, Veeder was an avid nature lover with a special interest in forestry. In 1916 he hosted the annual meeting of the Connecticut Forestry Association at Penwood, where, according to The Hartford Courant, his love of nature was evident to all. The foresters were intrigued by the changes he had made to the property. He built a road over Talcott Mountain that used an unusual construction technique where the road sloped down towards the center instead of having a raised crest. The purpose of this design, which by all accounts was successful, was to ensure that automobiles would not slip off the road in the rain or in icy conditions. The foresters were also interested in the trees Veeder had planted on the property. These included native white and red pines, imported Scotch and Austrian pines, and English walnut trees.
Following Veeder’s death in 1943, the land was given to the State of Connecticut for use by the public. Penwood State Park opened in 1945 and has given public access to the former estate ever since, so that, as Veeder himself said, “Those who love nature may enjoy this property as I have enjoyed it.”
Curtis Veeder’s love of nature is also evident at his former Hartford residence, where today many of the trees remaining on the property were planted by him.
The Connecticut Historical Society will be offering “Secrets of the Veeder House” tours on August 23rd at 11:00 am and 1:00 pm. Visit chs.org for more information.