In 1882, New York City art collector Erwin Davis became enamored with a particular still-life painting by a young American painter named Julian Alden Weir. According to the National Park Service website, Davis offered the artist his 153-acre Connecticut farm in exchange for the painting and $10.
Weir shook hands on the deal, and for three generations, the farm was home to artists inspired by the property's magnificent New England landscape. Linda Cook, superintendent of the Weir Farm National Historic Site, says Weir Farm now boasts its distinction as the only national historic site dedicated to American artists.
During the 37 years he spent at the farm, Weir became a leader in American art and served on the board of directors at New York's Metropolitan Museum of Art.
Weir Farm National Historic Site welcomes thousands of artists and visitors each year. Although the park will provide art supplies, Cook says, visitors often bring their own, and with careful brush strokes, they seek to capture the site's visual treasures, including the Weir House, gardens and pond.
Pat Hegnauer is one such artist and frequent visitor to Weir Farm. Hegnauer says she visits the Weir Farm property two or three times a week, captivated by the year-round landscape.
"It's just a magical place," Hegnauer says. "My favorite time of the year is always the time I'm there."
For the non-artist, there are plentiful hiking trails around Weir pond, and regular tours of the site's landscape are offered. Specialty tours also are given on themes such as the Weir family's Civil War history and the architecture of Weir Farm.
About the park
Size: 110 acres
Visitors: 22,415 in 2011
History: Weir Farm has been home to three generations of American artists, beginning with Julian Alden Weir, his daughter Dorothy Weir Young and her husband, Mahonri Young, and later, Sperry and Doris Andrews. It's the only national park site dedicated to American painting.
When visiting: Weir Farm National Historic Site is at 735 Nod Hill Rd. in Wilton, Conn. The visitor center is open from 10 a.m. until 4 p.m. Saturday-Sunday from January through March, and 10 a.m. until 4 p.m. Thursday-Sunday from April through December. The grounds are open all year
from dawn to dusk. Park entrance and programs are free. Visitor info: 203-834-1896.
Of note: Guests can visit more than 250 painting sites, sharing the same vantage point as the artists.