Owner Michael Konover talks about the history of the Talcott Mountain estate in Avon, which was first developed by Daniel Wadsworth in the early 1800s.
When Michael Konover first saw the 115-acre estate atop Talcott Mountain on Montevideo Road, he immediately fell in love with it.
So, he bought it in 1987 for $6 million from Katherine Vidal Smith, the stepmother of American writer Gore Vidal, who died on July 31.
“When I saw this with the beautiful views and its own 12-acre lake and all of this acreage, I couldn’t believe that it even existed this close to Hartford and West Hartford and Avon,” said Konover, who is retired and owns Konover Development Corporation in Farmington.
Konover and his wife – now empty-nesters – have decided the property is too much for two people and have put the entire estate on the market for $19.99 million. About 87 acres is in Avon and the other 28 is in Bloomfield, Carrington said. They hope to sell it as one piece of land, according to Konover.
“The property has seen weddings and all kinds of nice events. People come up here and fall in love with it like I did,” Konover said. “I do think that the ultimate buyer is someone that has to fall in love with this kind of property.”
Daniel Wadsworth – the arts patron who founded Hartford’s Wadsworth Atheneum in 1842, according to the museum’s website – designed the original main house on the estate in the early 1800s.
Konover and his family moved from Deercliff Road in Avon – where he also enjoyed beautiful views – in 1991. He knocked down the original main house at 333 Montevideo Road to build a new 6,964-square-foot home, according to land records.
"It was built to reflect the many nuances of the Arts and Crafts Movement while incorporating some of the eyeliftying grandeur found in the Gothic Period," said Bif Carrington, Konover's real estate broker from the Litchfield Hills branch of Sothby's International Realty.
The four-bedroom house includes a 1,000-square-foot studio where his wife makes ceramic art. The home, made predominantly of brick and steel, has tall ceilings and is filled with natural light from big glass windows. A patio overlooking an expansive lawn and pond makes for a good place to entertain.
There are also three cottages, built in the early 19th Century, on the estate – known as The Parsonage, Stone Cottage and North Cottage – that are rented out to three families. The tenants will continue to live there after the property sells, but will just have a new landlord.
Horses used to be kept on the property, which also has three Victorian-era barns built between 1813 and 1815. The estate continues to be animal-friendly, as all of the tenants have pets.
Every day, Konover brings his people-loving labradoodle, Marley, to the dock on Hoe Pond – the 12-acre, 22-foot-deep pond on the estate. If the weather’s nice, they go for a swim or take one of his un-motorized boats for a ride. The dock is a peaceful place to sit and gaze at picturesque reflections of the landscape. There is also a raft further out in the water and a boathouse alongside the pond. A nature-lover at heart, Konover enjoys sharing the space with wildlife, such as two geese — called Hank and Henrietta — that migrated back there for seven years.
The spot is rumored to have been Mark Twain's "favorite swimming hole," and Carrington said that information in The Correspondance of Thomas Cole and Daniel Wadsworth, published in 1983, and the Connecticut Historical Archives said he used the pond.
The pond – which once was the location of a girls summer camp – is named after Robert Hoe, who came to own the land in 1890. He used the main house as his summer home and the property title was transferred to Cornelia Whitehead when he died. When she passed away, her husband, Owen Roberts – Katherine Vidal Smith’s father – inherited the property. He left the estate to her.
The pond and mountains are what Konover loves most about his land. His estate borders Talcott Mountain State Forest, with private access to trails that lead to the iconic Heublein Tower. He frequents the other hiking trails on the property and often walks down to the West Hartford Reservoir with his wife. He enjoys views of the valley below and can spot both Riverdale Farms and Avon Congregational Church from his ridgeline property.
So, it’s no wonder that American painter Thomas Cole, a friend of Wadsworth’s, captured the Montevideo landscapes in some of his paintings. One known spot where he painted is called South Rock.
Teddy Roosevelt and Woodrow Wilson both visited the Montevideo estate on their way to see the Heublein Tower, Carrington said the book of letters between Cole and Wadsworth and historical society arhives indicate.
The abundance of trees along Montevideo afford Konover much appreciated privacy.
There are about 20 houses in total on his one-mile stretch of private road and the residents all have easements to use the road. Narrow and wooded, Montevideo Road stretches from a dead end that used to connect to Route 44 to the Bloomfield town line. Parsons Way is now the only access to the neighborhood off Route 44.
The houses on Montevideo are spread out, but that doesn’t mean the residents aren’t neighborly. During the October snowstorm last year, Konover took in some people to stay with him because he had a generator.
“When we lose power or can’t get out of the road when trees are down, we all come together and usually have a potluck dinner or something,” Konover said.
Konover hopes the next estate owners will enjoy the privacy and the beauty of the land as much as he did. As he and his wife consider renting in West Hartford Center or Avon when they are not at their Florida home, he sees it as time for a new chapter in the estate’s history.
“Enjoy,” he said. “It’s very special.”
Mr. Afraid of Hawk, a performer with Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show, was traveling through Danbury when he became ill and died at age 20 in Danbury Hospital.
He was buried across the street at Wooster Cemetery in an unmarked grave — until Wednesday, that is, when the state archaeologist, Nicholas F. Bellantoni, dug down into the six-foot grave and had “a eureka moment.” He had unearthed the performer’s skull, to the cheers and tears of four of Mr. Afraid of Hawk’s family members who had come from the Cheyenne River Sioux Reservation in South Dakota for the disinterment.
“It was a moment of joy unlike any other,” Dr. Bellantoni said on Thursday as he continued to gingerly sweep away dirt in search of more remains. “To know Albert is still here and will be going back to his rightful home gives you goose bumps.”
Marlis Afraid of Hawk, 55, a grandniece, wiped her tears and gave gifts to the people involved in finding her beloved ancestor. She said no one in the family had known the whereabouts of Mr. Afraid of Hawk’s remains until Bob Young, president of the Danbury Historical Society, reached out to them.
Mr. Young found documents in 2008 in the cemetery’s archive mentioning Mr. Afraid of Hawk and became determined to discover his history.
“I used to work here at the cemetery, and we were trying to get accurate maps of things,” Mr. Young said.
In the 110-acre graveyard, there are still thousands of unmarked graves. Mr. Young tracked down the records of Mr. Afraid of Hawk’s burial and the purchase and location of his grave. Then, using a census that said the performer had lived in the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota, he was able to contact the family. “All of these little pieces serendipitously fell into place,” Mr. Young said.
Mr. Young said he was amazed to learn that Mr. Afraid of Hawk’s father, Emil, fought with Crazy Horse at the battle of Little Big Horn. In 1898, Mr. Afraid of Hawk was hired as a rider in traveling shows run by Buffalo Bill, whose name was William F. Cody. The show popularized the American frontier image for the settled states of America.
“We are all so deeply grateful,” said Wendell Deer With Horns, 56, a distant cousin who lives in Watertown, Conn.
“You can feel Albert’s spirit right here,” he added, handing out rocks from Mr. Afraid of Hawk’s grave. “This is his eternal energy.”
Ms. Afraid of Hawk shared pizza with her relatives and Mr. Young, Dr. Bellantoni and the workers whom she called her “newfound family in Connecticut.” She gave Mr. Young a quilt designed with stars as a symbol of fulfilling his promise.
“He accomplished what he promised to, and we are forever grateful,” she said, adding that she was also grateful to her reservation, which paid for her family’s expenses to come to the disinterment. Mr. Young and Dr. Bellantoni donated their time.
She gave Dr. Bellantoni a rock and a special Indian name: “He Looks for Good.”
“Somehow along the line of my life, somebody’s been missing,” Ms. Afraid of Hawk said. “Now I feel lighter, like a feather.”
Earlier in the day, the family had a ceremony with a peace pipe, burning sage, drumming and chanting.
John Afraid of Hawk, a grandnephew, blew an eagle-bone whistle, and Ms. Afraid of Hawk looked up. “There was a hawk,” she said. “That symbolizes to me that he has completed the journey, that he is free.”
By Thursday evening, the scientists, using delicate bamboo chopsticks, had also found Mr. Afraid of Hawk’s pelvis and six handles of his coffin. They planned to watch over the site overnight and, hopefully, finish their work on Friday.
The family will take Mr. Afraid of Hawk’s remains to South Dakota and bury them at the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation.
Dr. Bellantoni said he was surprised to find the remains because the soil had a high acidity, and remains did not usually last long under such conditions.
“What I would like to think is that he was waiting for the family to come back to get him,” he said. “There are some things that even science can’t explain.”
Bidders at Mystic auction snap up items from captain's home
Mystic — Mystic's 19th century maritime history, pieces of everyday life of the social elite, paintings of noted locally built ships and portraits of the seafaring Mallory family who brought it all to the southeastern Connecticut shoreline went up for sale Saturday.
Generations of Mallorys lived in the house at 35 Willow St. in Mystic from 1828 to 2010, including Capt. Charles H. Mallory, whose shipyard property later became Mystic Seaport.
Paintings of ships, portraits of the Mallory family and period lithographs were among the highlight of Saturday's auction, with sale prices routinely reaching tens of thousands of dollars, drawing cheers from the packed and wet banquet tent erected on the backyard lawn of the estate, as auctioneer Dan Russ competed with pounding rain on the tent roof throughout the day.
The house and contents were inherited by family members in Wisconsin after the last Mallory occupant, yachtsman Thayer (Pete) Mallory Kingsley, died in 2010.
Bidding was spirited for an early 19th century portrait believed to be of Charles Mallory as a boy. Russ tried to start the bidding at $30,000 to save time and his own voice, but no hands went up.
He gave in and started at $5,000. Seconds later, the price skyrocketed to $40,000 as the tent went silent but for the rain. The portrait sold for $43,000.
Bidder No. 8, who said he was too busy concentrating on the auction items to discuss his interest in the paintings and lithographs, posted winning bids on several large and small paintings that drew some "wows" from spectators and bidders alike.
It became evident that the paintings would be the top draw as soon as members of the Russ family raised an oil painting of a Mallory ship that sold seconds later for $15,000, drawing the first round of applause.
"That's one of many great paintings to come," Russ said.
A few minutes later, a painting of Mallory's Civil War ship "Varuna" sold to Bidder No. 8 for $29,000, drawing another round of applause.
Later, the bidder declined to discuss his bids or identify himself. Another bidder, who purchased wooden half-hull ship models for several thousand dollars, also declined to identify himself.
It was unclear Saturday whether or not Mystic Seaport bid on any of the items.
Some of the smallest items in the auction also drew strong interest, especially silver eating utensils, platters and accessories. A small set of inkwells sold for $500.
"You thought you had it all," Russ said at one point. "You don't have this. A silver asparagus server."
Someone soon owned it for $1,050.
But no winning bid was posted for the largest item of the day, the 12-room Greek revival Mallory home with a half-acre lot. Only one bid for $475,000 was posted, but it did not meet the family's minimum requested price. Russ said the house would now be put on the market.
The auction of local sailing and whaling history was a historic event for Russ Antiques & Auctions of Waterford as well. Bonnie Russ and her husband, Paul Russ, own the company that has been in business for 100 years.
Bonnie Russ said more than 800 bidders registered for the auction in advance, and 35,000 bids were cast on the Internet before Saturday's auction even started. She was up all night Friday night into Saturday morning taking dozens of calls from as far as California and from potential foreign buyers.
This was the first Russ auction that featured live online bidding coinciding with bidding by the tent crowd, Bonnie Russ said. She enlisted family members and Russ company employees to handle the phones and online clients as the auction sped along.
The Russ family spent much of the summer sorting, appraising, and numbering items for the auction. Dealing with such historic materials is nothing new for the Russ family, but she quickly realized the value of the Mallory family history to southeastern Connecticut.
"We're trying to be as sensitive to the Mallory family and to Mystic Seaport as possible," Bonnie Russ said.
CHESHIRE, Conn. — Connecticut Light & Power has reimbursed a woman almost $10,500 after acknowledging it billed her for 25 years for the electricity used to power streetlights near her home.
Grace Edwards tells the Hartford Courant she discovered the billing error after a prospective buyer for the house in Cheshire asked for a history of utility charges.
The bills included line items for "9500 Lumen HP Sodium" and "6300 Lumen HP Sodium" – two sodium vapor streetlights.
When she inquired about those charges, Connecticut Light & Power said a developer who previously owned the home had agreed to pay for the streetlights.
The company removed the charges from her bill but initially refused to reimburse Edwards for past charges. She said they relented when the state's Office of Consumer Counsel got involved.
"I called CL&P, wrote letters, did it all, but they were unresponsive to any kind of reimbursement," she told the New Haven Register. "I really thought I was going to have to sue CL&P."
CL&P spokesman Mitch Gross said the company has acknowledged that the service was below the company's standard and has apologized to her for the error and the inconvenience.
"We have reimbursed her in the amount that she was incorrectly billed plus interest and will be using this case as a learning experience to identify process and customer service improvements to be sure this doesn't happen again in the future," Gross said.
The company cut Edwards a check for $10,491.21, which is about $35 for each month she was overbilled. The company said the actual overcharges were about $5,800, which is about $19 a month.
Connecticut may be one of the smallest states in the nation, but it has been full of Olympic contenders for several years. At the 2012 London Games, Olympic hopefuls from Connecticut like Donn Cabral, Amanda Clark, Charlie Cole and Rob Crane all have their eyes set on the gold. They could join the following five Olympic athletes that hail from the state.
UConn Woman's Basketball Team
Fans familiar with the UConn woman's basketball team dominating the NCAA tournament can see them do the same in London. The 2012 Olympic team may be the most impressive yet, with Uconn woman's coach Geno Auriemma at the helm.
Former Huskies players on the woman's team include Swin Cash, Tina Charles, Sue Bird, Asjha Jones, Maya Moore and Diana Taurasi. They have proven to be some of the best female basketball players in the world.
Bruce Jenner - Decathlon
Bruce Jenner may be known more now as part of the Kardashian clan, but he will forever be known as an Olympic decathlon hero from the 1976 Summer games in Montreal. Jenner spent his younger years in Connecticut, where he attended Newtown High School. After the Olympics he quickly became famous and has never looked back.
Butch Johnson - Archery
In the small town of Woodstock, residents can find Butch Johnson practicing his archery. The Connecticut archer has competed in multiple Olympic events, taking a team gold back in the 1996 Atlanta Summer Games. Johnson returned in 2000 where the USA archery team won a Bronze medal. Johnson has also won several other medals in archery competitions around the world.
Taylor Ritzel - Rowing
Olympian rower Taylor Ritzel may not have grown up in Connecticut, but she spent several years here while attending Yale University. After wining multiple NCAA championships, Ritzel won a gold medal in London during the woman's eight rowing race. She is one of the most recent success from Connecticut and will likely return for the 2016 Summer Games.
Marie Corridon - Swimming
Michael Phelps may be making all the headlines today, but back in 1948 it was Norwalk's own Marie Corridon that came back to Connecticut with a gold medal. Corridon dominated 4x100 freestyle relay with a team that set a world record at the time.
1.) Former Nicknames: Before it became the University of Connecticut, the school was known as the Connecticut Agricultural College. During this time, the mascot name was the "Aggies," but this needed to be changed.
2.) Student Voting: UConn students actually got to vote on their mascot, and after a poll was sent out with the student newspaper, the "Husky" was officially chosen.
3.) Jonathan the Husky: The real-life husky mascot was named Jonathan, along with every other husky that followed it. This was based off of Connecticut's first governor, Jonathan Trumbull.
4.) Homer the Husky: In the 1960s, the mascot suit Homer the Husky was introduced and served as a way to make appearances when a real couldn't. Homer still attends UConn events today.
5.) Officially Recognized: Even though the Husky name was long-used, it finally was recognized by the board of trustees in 1989.
6.) The UConn Husky Statue: In 1995, a husky statue was built and set up on campus. Students rub on the dog's nose for good luck.
7.) Washington Huskies: The University of Washington also uses a husky mascot, but its black and white, a stark difference to the pure-white UConn dog.
8.) Connecticut Jr. Huskies: Many local organizations use the husky mascot to represent sports and events in Connecticut. One of them is the Connecticut Jr. Huskies, a youth hockey team.
9.) Junior Husky Club: The Junior Husky Club was established for young UConn fans. When they join, children get Huskies merchandise, free game tickets, and a birthday card featuring the mascot.
10.) Animal-Therapy Program: The husky has become a predominant figure in animal-therapy at UConn. When a husky dog retires as a mascot, he is used to help blind and special needs people through training.
(June 7, 1921 – May 18, 1989) was the daughter of Babe Ruth and his mistress Juanita Jennings. She married Daniel J. Sullivan, a Brooklyn employee of the Railway Express Agency, on January 7, 1940. She had a son, Daniel J. Sullivan Jr., (Ruth's first grandchild) in October 1940, and later had 5 other children. Dorothy's marriage to Sullivan also produced two daughters, Genevieve and Ellen, before the union ended in 1945. Dorothy later married Dominick Pirone,. She lived in Durham, Connecticut and raised Arabian horses, and wrote My Dad, the Babe. She died on May 18, 1989 at the age of 68 in Durham, survived by four daughters, a son and 12 grandchildren.
LEUTERSHAUSEN, Germany -- Strolling the cobbled lanes of this Bavarian village, Martin Jendretzke recalls the local hero he thinks history snubbed.
"Here," he said, pausing before a garage door, "is where he grew up."
Until the 1940s, there was also a house. But Allied planes bombed it in World War II. Today, the only reminder of Gustave Whitehead -- the man some believe flew the world's first airplane over Bridgeport 111 years ago -- on Aug. 14, 1901 -- is a pole sticking up with his name on it.
Following a trail of yellow airplanes painted on the sidewalk, Jendretzke arrived at the bus stop. Gazing up at a 20-foot obelisk, he admires the ancient aircraft on top, its wings spread like a pterodactyl.
"We built it one-to-one after the original," the 73-year-old said. "Just as high as Weisskopf flew it."
Moving up a slight hill, he noted the local elementary school -- "Gustav Weisskopf Volksschule" -- before winding his way to the town's four-story museum, the entire third floor of which is a shrine to its favorite son.
"When you live in the city of Weisskopf," Jendretze said, "you're in some way connected with Weisskopf."
Jendretzke is more connected than most. As vice chairman of the 39-year-old "Historical Flight Research Committee Gustav Weisskopf," he and his friends have argued for decades that Whitehead piloted the skies two years before Orville and Wilbur Wright.
But they're battling headwinds. People at institutions like the Smithsonian in Washington say their version of history simply won't fly. And while most here would disagree, to the rest of Germany -- to say nothing of the wider world -- Whitehead's feats carry about as much weight as the air through which they doubt he flew.
"Did he really fly before the Wright brothers? Anything is possible," said Doris Unger, a gift store clerk, who only learned of Whitehead after moving here to be with her husband. Asked if he's convinced, she answers: "I would put money on it."
SMALL TOWN BOY,
BIG TIME PLANS
Spread out over 30 square miles of rolling countryside, Leutershausen today is home to about 6,000 people. The heart of the town is a collection of vibrantly painted homes, ringed by mostly intact city walls, with two stone towers reaching for the sky. About half its residents, though, actually live in nearly 50 hamlets that poke up through the surrounding fields and farmlands like so many red-roofed, steeple-crowned islands.
Whereas some haunts along Germany's "Romantic Road" command tourists by the busload -- such as King Ludwig II's fairytale castles or nearby medieval Rothenburg -- Leutershausen's biggest draw for most visitors are its elegant bicycle paths. Once here, though, visitors often get caught up in the mystery of Whitehead.
"I must get asked about him four times a day," said Unger.
Born here in 1874, Gustav Weisskopf grew up so enamored with flight, the story goes, that he often tied string to the feet of birds so he could study how their wings work. Adept at the technical trades as a youth, he made his way to Hamburg as a teenager and soon landed aboard a ship headed for sea. Plying the Atlantic waters, he was able to observe a rich variety of bird life.
He landed in Boston in 1894, and quickly moved to Buffalo, N.Y., then Pittsburgh (where, it's said, he crashed a prototype flier into a building). After finally settling in Bridgeport -- and changing his name to Gustave Whitehead -- he worked late into the nights in the summer of 1901, putting final touches on his fateful plane, "Number 21."
Early that Aug. 14, as the Bridgeport Sunday Herald then reported, he flew that plane half a mile. Using a different model the following year, he's said to have flown seven miles in high circles over Long Island Sound.
"This accomplishment," says the 20-minute film at Leutershausen's museum, "ranks as one of the most important milestones in the history of mankind."
Ranking at the other end, then, would be Whitehead's inability to market himself. With that, he yielded the pioneering crown in 1903 to Orville and Wilbur Wright.
True or not, the museum itself has the power to transport you across the Atlantic. A Connecticut state flag hangs by the door. Hundreds of photographs, news clippings and books such as "A Pictorial History of Bridgeport" peer out of glass cases. Front and center stands a replica of plane "Number 21," which actually flew here at a nearby airport in 1997.
Only one thing is missing.
"We are constantly searching for a photograph of Weisskopf in the airplane," says Hans-Guenter Adelhard, 72, chairman of the Historical Flight Research Committee.
"We know it's out there."
Over coffee in the flower-filled backyard of Peter Nicklaus, Adelhard and Jendretzke discuss with their host how far the HFRC has come.
It is a fitting location -- Nicklaus, the group's 73-year-old "chairman emeritus," lives right across the street from the Gustav Weisskopf Volksschule.
In the old days, HFRC members responded to requests for information by mailing packages of Whitehead material everywhere.
"China, Brazil, all over the world," said Nicklaus says, lifting a forkful of his wife's pastry.
In the early '80s, Nicklaus took his family on a vacation to Fairfield County. He caught a bluefish in Long Island Sound ("Where Weisskopf flew!"). He rode a plane that took off from Sikorsky Memorial Airport in Stratford. And he made a pilgrimage to Whitehead's grave in Bridgeport's Lakeview Cemetery.
Since 2010, Adelhard, a retired executive, has injected new energy into the group. For one thing, he is the only board member with an active email account. But he has also found new ways to spread Whitehead's legacy, like installing signs about the museum along the Autobahn, or getting the Deutsche Post to create a Gustav Weisskopf stamp.
The first one sold for 55 cents and no one bought it. The second one sold for a fraction cheaper -- market rate -- and sold like hotcakes. "That is so typical German," he said wryly.
Last August, he helped orchestrate a video conference call between HFRC members and Whitehead enthusiasts at Bridgeport's Discovery Museum. He remembers Mayor Bill Finch declaring that the Park City would put up a Whitehead memorial.
When shown a picture of that statue -- dedicated in May at the intersection of Fairfield Avenue and State Street -- Adelhard is floored.
"That is magnificent!" he said, printing off a copy to rush to the mayor's office. Moments later, standing before Buergermesiter Siegfried Hess, he reads aloud the inscription: "First. In. Flight."
Hess, one of about 50 inactive HFRC members, listens attentively.
"Bill Finch said he would build it," Adelhard continues. "Of course, mayors promise a lot of things."
For half an hour, the men huddle over the printout. First they wonder why no one from Bridgeport informed them the memorial went up. Then they simply admire its features, at one point noting its spinning propellers.
"Ours had those too," Hess said of the statue by the bus stop. "But neighbors complained that it made too much noise."
Adelhard peers at the spouting water.
"Look," he tells the mayor. "Maybe Leutershausen needs a fountain, too."
For the Whitehead faithful here, Bridgeport's sculpture affords a ray of hope that the rest of the world might one day rethink history. Within the hour, news of the sculpture was posted on the town website.
The reason is simple: Monuments have power.
Later, over drinks in a cellar pub, town employee Madeline Horndasch, 24, recalled a Christmas party a couple of years back. She phoned her boyfriend, asking to get picked up at the Whitehead memorial. David Gruzlo, then living in a village six miles south, had never heard of it.
When he arrived, though, he was so impressed that he devoted his English project at a Nuremberg technical school to the memory of Whitehead.
"Of course, no one knows of him," he added dryly. "So no one would know if I said something wrong."
He earned the equivalent of a B.
Today, Horndasch's sister lives in that same village to the south. Recently, while visiting Leutershausen, she took her 6-year-old son to the monument. The boy studied the inscription, turning names over in his head. Finally he blurted out: "You lie! In my book, it says it was the Brothers Wright!"
"She had to explain that in Leutershausen, we are of a different opinion."