This is the audio-only described version of the Weir Farm National Historic Site self-guided walking tour brochure. The brochure is two-sided.
The front of the brochure features two sections of introductory text with accompanying images. The back of the brochure features the walking tour, with six stops highlighted on the park map. Each stop has a text description and the image of a painting created at that location.
Weir Farm National Historic Site, located in south-western Connecticut, is the only national park dedicated to American painting. Set amid more than 60 acres of picturesque woods, fields, and streams, Weir described his home as the "Great Good Place." Come walk in the footsteps of generations of world class artists, and visit the home and studio of American Impressionist, J. Alden Weir.
To find out more about what resources might be available, or to contact the park directly, visit the "Accessibility" and "More Information" sections at the end of this audio-described brochure.
The front of the self-guided walking tour brochure features six color images of artwork created on site, the color photo of an artist painting at Weir Farm, and the color photo of an artist's paintbrush. The text is divided into two sections. The first section provides an overview of the significance of Weir Farm. The second section discusses Weir's artistic style and that of American Impressionism.
When J. Alden Weir moved to this Connecticut farm in 1882, he began a life-long love affair with the landscape and his “little house among the rocks.” Many of Weir’s friends, including the prominent painters Childe Hassam, John Twachtman, and Albert Pinkham Ryder, frequented the farm during Weir’s 37-year residence. Like Weir, these artists fell in love with the rural landscape and produced countless paintings and sketches of the area.
Weir Farm continued to serve as a creative muse for two more generations of artists following Weir’s death in 1919. Weir’s daughter Dorothy married sculptor and painter Mahonri Young, who built a second studio here in 1932. Following Young’s death in 1957, artists and ardent preservationists Sperry and Doris Andrews purchased the Weir House, barn, and studios.
By the 1960s, development threatened the pond and woodland areas east of Nod Hill Road. The push to preserve the landscape and historic structures began with efforts by Cora Weir Burlingham and Doris Andrews, and eventually culminated in the establishment of Weir Farm National Historic Site, the only National Park Service site in the country dedicated to American painting. The site currently encompasses 60 acres of historic farmland, 16 historic structures, and miles of stonewalls.
Weir Farm National Historic Site is more than a place of artistic inspiration. It is a significant cultural landscape, a place where we can learn how people, painters, and farmers alike have interacted with the land, and how the land in turn, has impacted and influenced those who lived here for over 200 years.
Quote by J. Alden Weir. One cannot help but feel that wonderful something that the landscape in nature suggests, somewhat like the soul of a human being.
Below the text is the color photograph of a paintbrush. The bristles are pointing left and stained with a bright red paint. The metal ferrule holding the bristles to the wooden handle is also smudged with red and yellow paint. The brush handle is pale yellow with a navy blue tip, and is also smudged with red and dark grey paint. Text is stamped on the handle reading, "6, Wilton Flat, Winsor and Newton, N J".
PHOTO CREDIT: NPS
The Grey Trellis, 1891, J. Alden Weir, oil on canvas, 26 inches by 21 and one-twelfth inches. Collection of Mr. and Mrs. Willard G. Clark.
This Impressionist oil painting focuses on the grey wooden trellis inside a garden. The image is dominated by the many vertical, and a few diagonal, grey lines of the trellis in the foreground, and the fence posts at the far edge of the garden in the middle ground. The trellis itself is devoid of any vegetation. Behind the trellis are rows of alternating green vegetation and brown dirt paths, and a small apple tree covered in white blossoms. Off to the left, a bird house sits atop a tall wood post that is leaning over to the right. Beyond the outer fence of the garden, a haze of birch tree trunks and dark foliage fills the background, backed by a grey-blue sky.
Collection of Mr. and Mrs. Willard G. Clark.
George Willoughby Maynard, Untitled, not dated, pencil on paper, 12 and one-quarter inches by 8 inches, Weir Farm National Historic Site Collection.
This black pencil sketch on yellow paper shows the head and shoulders of a man in a three piece suit. A vertical and horizontal line behind his head suggests a window. The man is posed at a slight angle, his right side turned slightly away, and is looking directly at the viewer. He has an oval face and a thick head of hair with a few locks falling over his forehead. He has strong features but wears a relaxed expression. The white edge of his shirt is visible behind a tie and vest. The lapels of his suit coat are also visible, and the artist has signed his work along the right edge of the portrait, G W Maynard.
IMAGE CREDIT: NPS
Artist painting at Weir Farm. National Park Service image.
This color photograph looks through two large tree branches at a woman painting outdoors at a standing easel. The painter is standing with her back to the camera, on the right side of the image. She is wearing jeans and a light grey sweatshirt with hood. The edges and back strings of a canvas apron are also visible. She has shoulder-length dark brown hair, the top layers pulled back in a small pony tail. Her right arm is bent at the elbow and her lower arm and hand are hidden from view. Her left arm is raised as she applies paint to her canvas with a paintbrush. Her wooden easel with canvas and paint palette take up the left side of the image. Her easel is made of a light colored wood and the canvas has been raised to sit at her eye level. Her painting shows trees beyond a meadow, with a blue sky and heavy clouds. Below the canvas, a white palette is covered in paint of different greens, yellows, and a few reds. Framing the image, the thick branches of a tree cut diagonally across the upper right and lower left corners of the photograph.
PHOTO CREDIT: NPS
To Julian Alden Weir and his fellow American Impressionists, creating art outdoors provided an intimate connection to the emotional and spiritual character of the landscape. "One must make a subject part of yourself before you can properly express it to others" Weir wrote, and he followed this philosophy at his Branchville farm. He took ownership of his landscape and cherished its beauty. One visitor recounted: On the way to the fishing place, Weir was "all artist, pointing out to me the manifold beauties of the landscape. When I called his attention to some stately trees, he said with that smile of his, 'those are my trees.'"
Weir's paintings of Branchville strongly reflect this attitude. As art historian Hildegard Cummings wrote of Weir, "his paintings at [the farm] aimed at capturing color, light, and pattern in ways that communicate his personal response to a scene." Weir's friend Duncan Phillips marveled at the "rare intimacy of the pictures, their true delight in little things and familiar surroundings."
These paintings focused on the fundamentals of nature, what artist John Van Dyke, a contemporary of Weir, described as essentially "light, skies, clouds, waters, lands, foliage, the great elements that reveal form and color in the landscape." In the late 19th century, American artists trained in the academies of Europe sought a new expressive style to capture these elements of nature. By painting them with a brighter palette and pure unmixed colors Weir and his fellow artists defined the movement of American Impressionism.
J. Alden Weir, Lengthening Shadows, 1887, oil on canvas, 20 and one-quarter inches by 25 inches, Private Collection.
This painting is of a dirt road through hilly countryside. The road starts at the bottom edge of the image and curves around behind a hill which fills the right side of the painting. There is a brown log lying across the beginning of the road, and three stick-thin trees grow at the bottom of the hill. To the left of the path, flat grassy ground rises into another hill, which is topped with robust maple trees. A stone wall partially cuts across the base of this hill and disappears behind the curve of the hill on the right side of the painting. The grass in the foreground is darker than on the tops of the hills, in patterns that suggest the long afternoon shadows cast from nearby trees.
In the late nineteenth century, American artists trained in the academies of Europe were searching for a new expressive style to capture nature. Impressionism, defined by its brighter palette and pure unmixed colors, proved to be the technique they needed to transform how they painted the American landscape.
Mahonri Young, The Apple Tree, 1934, pastel, 11 and eleven-sixteenth inches by 14 and three-quarter inches, Museum of Art, Brigham Young University. All rights reserved.
This pastel drawing depicts an apple tree standing in a grassy field, backed by a stone wall and dense treeline. The tree's branches stretch across the full width of the image, right to left. The trunk and visible branches are a dark brown, with light grey highlights the left side of the trunk. The leaves of the tree are a mid-green, with the tips of each branch bearing leaves of a darker green. Red apples are concentrated near the center of the tree and cluster around each of the branches. Behind the apple tree, a forest of dark green trees and early autumn colors rises against a blue sky, decorated by fluffy white clouds. Beneath the tree, a carpet of lush green grass stretches back to a stone wall, which lies at the edge of the field, near the distant treeline.
IMAGE CREDIT: Museum of Art, Brigham Young University. All rights reserved.
Sperry Andrews, Untitled, detail view, not dated, watercolor, Private Collection.
DESCRIPTION:This landscape painting depicts birch trees in a field, a dark and distant treeline in the background. The sky is light in color, but the distinct moody blue-grey of autumn, with a few clouds emerging from behind the treeline. The field is predominantly yellow in color, lit by sunlight, with a few patches of orange and green near the bottom edge of the painting. The birch tree on the far left of the painting has deep red foliage, the silhouette of the tree top nearly round in shape. To its right, a taller birch has orange leaves clinging to only the right half of the tree. The horizontal brush strokes give the appearance of movement, as though the leaves are stretched out in the wind. Behind this tree and to the right, three birches with green foliage stand clustered together near the distant treeline. The last birch trees in the field are near the right edge of the painting. One stands behind the other and both are devoid of leaves, their bare branches exposed against the sky.
IMAGE CREDIT: Private Collection.
Julian Alden Weir, Upland Pasture, circa 1905, oil on canvas, 39 and seven-eighths inches by 50 and one-quarter inches, National Museum of American Art, Smithsonian Institution, Gift of William T. Evans.
This landscape oil painting is that of a rocky pasture in late afternoon. The top third of the image is a tree line and bright blue sky with wispy white clouds. In the left half of the treeline, two trees stand much taller than the rest, and in the middle, there is a gap in the treeline. The bottom two-thirds of the painting is a grassy pasture with rocks, trees, and grazing animals. The upper half of the pasture is in bright sunlight, the grass appearing yellow. Five large boulders are scattered in the field and two brown cows and a white horse graze along the distant tree line. The lower half of the pasture is in shadow, the grass painted in darker greens. Varied brush strokes in the bottom right quadrant of the painting give the impression of long grasses and brambles. At the edge of this section, a small group of young trees is clustered between two large boulders. There is a hint of autumnal red and orange in the leaves of these young trees.
IMAGE CREDIT: National Museum of American Art, Smithsonian Institution, Gift of William T. Evans.
The back of the self-guided walking tour brochure features a walking tour of the park, with six stops marked on the park map. Each stop has a text description and the image of a painting created at that location.
Note. Distance from bridge on Pond Trail to Weir Pond has been abbreviated on this map. Actual round-trip distance of Pond Trail starting and ending at the Parking Lot is 1.5 miles.
This map is an artist's drawing of Weir Farm, view from above, done in watercolor and pen and ink. The map is oriented with the top edge at North. A North-South-East-West compass rose lies in the upper right corner of the map. The artist's initials, S E, are in the lower right corner. Two roads meet in a T shaped intersection on the middle of the map and divide the park into three sections. Nod Hill Road runs North to South through the center of the map, with a slight curve to the East at the mid-point of the road, and Pelham Lane runs East to West on the left side of the map, meeting up with Nod Hill Road at the curve. The south west section contains the Burlingham House, Barn, and Woodshed. The north west section contains the Weir House, Studio, Barn, the Young Studio, Secret Garden, and Icehouse. The east section contains the Parking Lot, Caretaker's House and Studio, a wetland and old wagon road, Weir Pond and the Pond Trail.
The lower left section of the map is bordered by Nod Hill Road to the east and Pelham Lane to the north, and contains stops 1 and 2 of the self guided walking tour. Along the south edge of this section, the terraced garden is drawn out to the east, adjacent to Nod Hill Road, and an arrow with the words "To Weir Preserve" is in the southwestern corner. Just north of this arrow, a woodshed sits on the south edge of a path which runs East to Nod Hill Road. North of the path, across from the woodshed, is a red barn. East of the barn, a Sunken Garden and the Burlingham House sit on the north edge of the walking path. Here the southern edge of the path is bordered by a stone wall. Stop 1 is marked on the path in front of the Burlingham House. On the eastern edge of the house, another path intersects the first walking path, and runs north-south parallel to Nod Hill Road. This second path ends at the intersection of Nod Hill Road and Pelham Lane. Stop 2 is marked near the top of this path, at a safe distance back from the road.
The upper left section of the map is bordered by Pelham Lane to the south and Nod Hill Road to the east, and contains stops 3 and 4 of the self guided walking tour. At the intersection of Nod Hill Road and Pelham Lane sits the Weir House. A walking path leads one fork from the road to the porch of the house, another fork leads from the road around the eastern side of the house to the back. To the north and west of the house, sit two more red buildings, Weir Studio and Young Studio. Following the walking path from behind the Weir House, one fork leads around the north end of the Weir Studio and then back down the west side between the Weir and Young Studios, to the door of the Young Studio on the south side of that building. Stop 3 is marked on the walking path in front of the Young Studio. Stop 4 is marked near the northeast corner of the Weir Studio. North of the two studios is the Secret Garden, and west of the Young Studio, an enclosure is labeled "Livestock Pens". Behind the Weir House, a second fork in the walking path leads north along the western edge of the Barn, past the Icehouse and Orchard, where it meets Nod Hill Road and crosses to the east.
The right half of the map is the third section, bordered by Nod Hill Road to the west, and contains stops 5 and 6 of the self guided walking tour. Adjacent to the road, from south to north, are the Parking Lot, a Studio, and the Caretaker's House. To the east of the Parking Lot lies a wetland and remnants of an Old Wagon Road. The Parking Lot is across Nod Hill Road from the Burlingham House and the Caretaker's House is across Nod Hill Road from the intersection with Pelham Lane. North of the Caretaker's House is a meadow. Stop 5 is marked in the meadow just south of the walking path that crossed over from the Weir complex. The walking path continues to the south through the meadow and then turns to the east, crosses a bridge, and continues east to then circumnavigate Weir Pond. Stop 6 is marked along the northern edge of the pond, on the dam.
MAP CREDIT: NPS
Stop 1. You are standing on the broad gravel path in front of the Burlingham House Visitor Center.
J. Alden Weir's Branchville farm was composed of parcels of land from two neighboring colonial farms. Weir first acquired the 153-acre Beers farm in 1882, consisting of property north of Pelham Lane and down to present-day Weir Pond. In 1907, he acquired 50 acres from the neighboring Webb farm, the area where you now stand. In total, Weir's land eventually encompassed 238 acres.
The Burlingham House, part of the original Webb Farm, bears the name of the painter's youngest daughter, Cora Weir Burlingham, who lived in this house from 1931 to 1986. Educated in both interior design and horticulture, Cora created the broad garden terraces nearby, the Sunken Garden, and the adjacent stone potting shed. Much of the stone work was done by local stone mason and neighbor, Joe Knoche.
Walk down the broad gravel path to the woodshed, another structure built from local stone. To the south are fields that border the Weir Preserve. In 1969, Cora donated 37 acres of her land to the Connecticut Chapter of The Nature Conservancy, marking the start of the Weir Preserve. Today, the Weir Preserve includes 110 acres of diverse woodland and wetland habitat owned by the Weir Farm Art Center, a park partner.
Turn back and walk toward the Visitor Center. Follow the path in front of the Burlingham House on your left, in the direction of the Weir House. Note the House's original entrance which faced Nod Hill Road. When you pass through the gap in the stone wall, called a barway, you will be entering a meadow that once served as Cora's productive World War 2 era Victory Garden, pictured below. Note how the stone walls bordered by lilacs, flowering dogwoods, and rhododendrons create a more comfortable private space.
Andrew Ricci, Untitled, 2008, watercolor, Weir Farm National Historic Site Collection.
This watercolor painting depicts the woodshed, the stone wall along a path, and part of the Sunken Garden. A thin strip of light blue sky is visible above a treeline ranging from light yellow-green to dark blue-green. The stone wall and walking path start in the lower left corner of the painting and run diagonally across to the right side of the painting. Here, the wall ends and the red roof and light wood siding of the woodshed stands out from the trees around it. Near the left end of the stone wall, there is a gap wide enough to walk through. Behind the wall, a grassy meadow gives way to the treeline beyond. On the near side of the walking path lies another stone wall. This wall borders the Sunken Garden. It turns toward the bottom right corner of the painting directly across from the gap in the other wall. The garden is full of red flowers, tall arborvitae bushes and other greenery.
IMAGE CREDIT: Weir Farm National Historic Site Collection.
Stop 2. You are standing next to the stone wall where Pelham Lane meets Nod Hill Road.
Stone defines this landscape. "The Great Wall of Cora," commissioned in 1931 by Cora Weir Burlingham, and humorously named for its length by her brother-in-law, Mahonri Young, dominates this crossroads. From here, you can see the narrow winding country roads, the hand split fences, and stone walls of old New England. The houses sit close to the road, a common practice which made neighbors, animal drawn carts, and postal carriers all the more accessible.
Unlike the American artists before them who often focused on majestic landscapes, the American Impressionists, like J. Alden Weir, painted intimate domestic scenes and everyday life. Weir designed features of this landscape and its structures to match his artistic vision of a rural retreat. He altered the land to suit his personal aesthetic tastes, adding rustic fences, stone walls, formal gardens, and a fishing pond.
In truth, J. Alden Weir never intended to own a Connecticut farm. The New York City based artist was actively constructing a hunting lodge in the Adirondacks when he acquired this farm from art collector Erwin Davis.
Across Nod Hill Road is the smaller Caretaker's House, built in the 1830s to house the farmer and his family. The Caretaker's House now serves as home to the Artist-in-Residence Program, managed by the Weir Farm Art Center. The adjacent building, the Artist-in-Residence Studio, was built in 2010. The design of the studio was based on the historic barn that once stood in the same spot. The program hosts 12 different artists throughout the year who live on-site and produce artwork.
Mahonri Young, Connecticut Planters, 1945, watercolor, Brigham Young University Museum of Art, Purchase slash Gift Mahonri M Young Estate.
Stop 3. As you make your way to Stop number 3, you will be walking past the Weir House. This house began as a small colonial dwelling, built in 1780, as part of the Beers Farm. Stop at the green door facing Nod Hill Road. This served as the original front door to the house. Its Greek Revival portico was added in 1830. Now move to your left, and face the larger porch facing Pelham Lane. After Weir acquired the house in 1882, he enlarged and altered it in 1900 and 1901, and again in 1911. He added a new front door, doubled the size of the living room, added a kitchen, formal dining room, and expanded this porch. Referred to as the "piazza", it is where Weir and his friends spent many hot summer days. The stone picnic table to your left was also added by Weir. The stone table was a favorite spot for Weir's three daughters to host tea parties for visiting family and friends.
Retrace your steps to the right, and follow the path around the house to Stop number 3. You are now standing on the former garden terrace to the west of the Weir House, facing the two red historic studios. On the right, you see Weir's 1885 painting studio. The larger building to the left is Mahonri Young's 1932 sculpture studio. The main windows of both structures, not visible from this spot, face north to utilize the consistent northern light that is ideal for creating art. Note the stone trimmed garden terraces, Dorothy's hexagonal tool shed, and the stone wall enclosures that served as pig pens to the west of the Young Studio.
Sperry Andrews, Untitled, not dated, watercolor, Private Collection.
This watercolor painting is a view of the Weir House from the driveway in front of the Caretaker's House. A corner of the Caretaker's House is visible at the right edge of the painting. The red siding is interrupted by one column, the roof line and flooring of the white porch, which covers the front of the two story house. The Caretaker's House mailbox is visible in the lower left corner of the painting. It is white with a red mail flag raised on the side. The Weir House fills the center of the painting. To the left and right of the house, green trees with a touch of early yellow and orange autumn foliage fill the space beside and behind the house. A large oak tree stands as a thick column in front of the house. The sky which is visible through the tree tops is a pale blue and full of fluffy clouds. The Weir House is red with a dark brown roof and three chimneys protruding from the peak. The doors and windows are done in a white trim. The front porch, which spans half of the house, has white columns and trim. There are three dormers along the roof, four windows on the second story, and one window at each end of the porch on the first story.
IMAGE CREDIT: Private Collection.
Stop 4. You are facing the Secret Garden, orchard, and outbuildings. In Weir's time, this landscape would have been alive with the sounds of horses, cattle, oxen, pigs, and chickens. There were fruit orchards and cultivated fields of grain. The Weir Barn and its outbuildings, the tack house, chicken coop, ice house, and corn crib, were crucial to a working farm. But to Weir, farming was more of a hobby than an economic necessity, undertaken for aesthetic reasons. Weir's romantic vision of the landscape extended to his use of oxen, carts, and hand tools instead of the modern machinery available at the time.
The 1915 "Secret Garden", probably so named because of the flowering Deutzia bushes that hide it from sight, was ornamented with perennial plant beds, a sundial, a fountain, rustic fencing, and Adirondack-style arbor and gates. After Weir's death, the garden became overgrown with tree seedlings, the forest expanded, and structures fell into disrepair. Since 1990, the National Park Service has been restoring both the gardens and landscape to its circa 1940 appearance, a date that includes improvements made by Dorothy and Mahonri Young. J. Alden Weir had a whimsical sense of his farm, leading a friend to give it the nickname "The Land of Nod." The word "Nod" likely refers to the realm of sleep and dreams referenced in books, musical theater, poems, and songs of his era.
Move toward the barn. Note the small basin in the rock to your left, Weir drilled into the rock to create a natural-looking birdbath. Turn left, and continue on the path along the west side of the barn. Pass the fenced livestock and chicken pens and head toward the far barway in the stone wall on Nod Hill Road. Cross the road, bear right at the fork in the path, and walk until you are by a wooden post opposite the Weir Barn.
Mahonri Young, Branchville Shed, 1938, watercolor, Brigham Young University Museum of Art, Purchase slash Gift Mahonri M Young Estate.
This watercolor painting is a view of the garden tool shed in front of the Weir and Young studios. In the background, a blue grey sky and full tree tops are visible beyond the roof lines of the Young studio on the left and the Weir studio on the right. Both studios are a brownish red in color and are obscured by the garden shed and a grape trellis, which stand in front of them. The Weir studio also has a green climbing vine which reaches from the ground almost up to the slanted roof line. The garden shed stands in the right half of the painting and has six sides, the roof and sides covered in cedar shingles. The inside of the shed is painted a light blue. The door is open and terra cotta pots are visible on the two inner shelves, as well as a long handled tool leaning against the shelves. To the left of the tool shed, a grey wooden trellis is covered with the bright green leaves of grape vines. Young apple trees are growing at each end of the trellis, their low height giving them a bush like appearance.
IMAGE CREDIT: Brigham Young University Museum of Art, Purchase slash Gift Mahonri M Young Estate.
Stop 5. You are now standing in a low meadow facing Nod Hill Road and a high, long stone wall, called the Platt Wall, built around 1900.
As seen in Weir's painting The Old Rock, now known as The Truants, this meadow exemplifies the dynamic nature of a cultural landscape. Once a large open field leading to the pond, the meadow is slowly reverting back to the encroaching forest behind it. As a result, the meadow is now actively maintained through woodland edge management and annual mowing.
Weir would occasionally paint his farm from his "Palace Car," a studio built with the assistance of his resident farmer, Paul Remy. Set on runners and pulled by oxen, the car had windows on four sides and an oil stove, making it a portable, all-season studio. Immortalized in Weir's painting, Landscape: Branchville, The Palace Car, pictured above, it eventually became a playhouse for his children.
Like other American Impressionists, Weir experimented with pure, unmixed pigments, leaving his studio to paint outside, en plein air, directly from nature. He used quick, colorful brushstrokes to evoke a mood, or to capture a moment in time.
To reach stop number 6, walk to the pond by following the trail behind you that leads into the forest.
J. Alden Weir, Landscape: Branchville, The Palace Car, early 1890s, oil on canvas, Brigham Young University Museum of Art, Purchase slash Gift Mahonri M Young Estate.
This oil painting depicts the palace car sitting in a large meadow, the Weir Barn and House visible in the background. The sky is a moody blue-grey, mostly hidden by the trees in this painting. The meadow fills the bottom two thirds of the painting and slopes down in the center. The grasses in the lower left corner are yellow and light brown, with an outcropping of grey boulders exposed in the center. This rise slopes down to the trough of the meadow which rises again on the far side. The grasses in this part of the meadow are a rich green, patterned by shadows from surrounding trees. Along the far side, a large boulder outcrop sits against a stone wall, which runs the length of the meadow, separating it from the farm buildings. A large apple tree fills the left side of the painting, towering above the Palace Car. The Palace Car is a small four sided building sitting on sled runners in the trough of the meadow. It is a light brown color with one window on each side. Behind it, two trees stand against the stone wall, their foliage obscuring most of the Weir House from view. More trees fill the space beyond the house. The octagonal tack house and the end of the Weir Barn sit behind the stone wall along the right edge of the painting.
IMAGE CREDIT: Brigham Young University Museum of Art, Purchase slash Gift Mahonri M Young Estate.
Stop 6. You are standing on the earthen dam overlooking the pond.
J. Alden Weir was an avid outdoorsman who loved to fish, hunt, and hike. So when he entered his painting, The Truants, in a competition sponsored by the Boston Art Club and won 2,500 dollars, he used his prize money to purchase ten acres of land and construct the "Boston Art Club Pond," known today as Weir Pond. He cleared a 3.6 acre area and constructed an earthen dam that captured water from intermittent streams and springs. Weir dug a stone lined channel to help regulate the pond water level. It allowed him to divert water toward the pond during dry periods, and away from the pond to avoid flooding. He also built a boathouse, dock, and stone steps to a viewing area. On the small island, he fashioned a gazebo surrounded by white birches. Most of the structures are gone today, but the pond, the dam, and the small island still exist, as does a distinct white quartz boulder Weir transported from the Adirondacks to adorn the dam. This setting was a backdrop for many outings, including fishing, painting, boating, swimming, and picnics. In winter, the ice was harvested and stored in the ice house.
By the late 1960s, the surrounding landscape had been left untended for decades, and a second-growth forest took hold. When land near and around the pond was threatened by development, the move for preservation began, eventually protecting the entire cultural landscape known today as Weir Farm National Historic Site.
J. Alden Weir, On the Shore, 1910 to 1912, oil on canvas , Private Collection.
This oil painting depicts a woman sitting on a boulder near the edge of the pond, two row boats in the water at the shoreline. In the foreground, a large boulder fills the bottom left quarter of the painting. Roughly triangular in shape, it is dark grey in color, with shadows along the right side, with dark green grasses at its base. Beside this boulder is another of the same color, roughly one-third its size, upon which sits a woman in a long white dress, a rolled up umbrella leaning against the boulder beside her. The woman is turned to face the right edge of the painting, her body in profile. Her brown hair is pulled up in a bun on top of her head, and she is bent over looking at something in her hands. The ground at her feet is exposed brown dirt. In the middle ground behind her, long light green grasses cover the ground leading to the pond's edge. There is one tree at the shore, on the right edge of the painting, and a group of three trees behind the large boulder, near the left edge of the painting. Their branches and leaves fill the top edge of the painting, stretching across the view of the pond. The shoreline runs in a slight diagonal across the middle of the canvas, from middle right to upper left. The pond water holds a reflection of the sky, showing a pale blue with white puffy clouds. Two row boats sit at the water's edge, bows in against the shore. One is a pale yellow in color, the second, sitting behind it, a light green.
IMAGE CREDIT: Private Collection.
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Weir Farm National Historic Site, 735 Nod Hill Road, Wilton, Connecticut, 06897
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