January 2010: Talbott Mountain


THE PARK Daniel Wadsworth used the money his father Jeremiah accumulated in Hartford commerce to become one of America’s foremost patron of the arts. In 1805 he built one of the country’s first mountaintop estates on Talcott Mountain that he called Montevideo. Its most dramatic feature was a 55-foot wooden viewing tower. Wadsworth was not one to keep views that stretch from Long Island Sound to New Hampshire to himself, however. He freely permitted the public to climb the mountain and use his tower. So many did that the Wadsworth family felt overrun at times. But when the tower blew down in 1840, he built another. In the 1960s Talcott Mountain was slated to be cut up into residential lots when a consortium of private conservationists and public funds mobilized to keep the cherished ridgetop views open to the public.

After a brief, spirited climb on an old woods road the Tower Trail levels out for the ramble across the ridge to the Heublein Tower. Once off the stony road things improve markedly for your dog’s feet on the ridge where the well-worn road turns to dirt. You actually have your choice of two paths most of the time, depending on how close your dog wants to get to the unprotected drop-offs. This road through light woods is wide enough to bring a pack of dogs. The trip to the tower covers about 1.25 miles. There is more traditional canine hiking on Talbott Mountain as well. The crowds will fade away if you dip behind the rock outcropping with your dog to test these knolls and grades with your dog on the single file Metacomet Trail. You can either use this footpath to work your way back down the mountain or combine with the Old Metacomet Trail for a 3-mile loop back to the tower.

In the early 1900s liquor impressario Gilbert Hublein bought large swaths of Talcott Mountain. In 1914 he commissioned West Hartford architect Roy Bassette to build a 165-foot tower modeled after buildings in is native Bavaria. It took two years of hauling and dragging materials up the side of the mountain by horse and wagon to get the job done. The landmark tower was functional as well as decorative - its steel frame is anchored to the mountain to withstand 100-mph winds. After Hublein died the Hartford Times owned the property and legend has it that during a party on Talcott Mountain General Dwight D. Eisenhower was convinced to return to public service and run for President in 1952.

From I-91 North or South: Take Exit 35B, which is the Bloomfield Route 218 exit. This road is also known as Cottage Grove Road. Follow Cottage Grove Road heading west until you hit Route 185. Follow Route 185 heading for Simsbury. At the top of the hill, the entrance to Talcott Mountain State Park/Heublein Tower will be on your left.

From I-84 East or West: Take the Route 44 Exit. Follow Route 44 heading west until you hit the intersection of Route 218. Take a right on Rte 218 and follow north until you hit Route 185 in Simsbury. Take a left on Route 185 heading for Simsbury. At the top of the hill, Talcott Mountain State Park/Heublein Tower is on your left.