Following the threads of New Milford’s quilt trail
NEW MILFORD — The town has what might be the state’s first “quilt trail,” intended to open a window into its agricultural past and spur tourism.
The quilt patches — actually quilt-like patterns painted on plywood and mounted on the sides of barns — began appearing on New Milford barns in 2015. As of Tuesday, when the most recent one was installed, eight such patches exist, and the long-planned trail is complete.
More than 43 states from Oregon to Maine have rural areas dotted with patches. The idea came to New Milford when former Mayor Patricia Murphy — an avid quilter — applied for a state Economic Development Grant in 2013.
“We wanted to bring attention to our agricultural history,” Murphy said. “When you see the patches, they suggest that there is a history beyond everybody’s hustle and bustle. They’re big enough to give you pause.”
The town was awarded $7,700 by the state’s tourism office in 2014, and Murphy enlisted the help of locals to get the project done.
It wasn’t easy to organize, she said. The town needed to enlist barn owners, working with them to design and install the patches.
Susan Bailey, whose family has farmed in Connecticut for four generations, was the first resident to put one up, on a Harris Hill Farm barn in 2015.
“Every quilt tells a story,” Bailey said. “It has kind of taken off across the country, and it was our way of tying into the past.”
Bailey’s patch, four colorful cows fixed on a red barn wall, symbolizes her family’s history of dairy farming. Although their farm is no longer active, several barns on the trail are, and Bailey hopes the displays will bring traffic to local farm stands.
“I’m hoping more people take part in local agriculture,” she said.
Volunteers and town officials are working on a web page and brochure for visitors who would like to tour the town patch by patch. They estimate a formal trail map will be published in September.
On Smyrski Farm, on Weantinoge Heritage Land Trust, maple leaves recall the area’s two centuries of making sugar.
Behind Town Hall, Murphy’s design sits on a red barn that historians say likely housed tobacco in the early 1900s, when New Milford’s cash crop was Havana seedleaf.
Out of more than 4,000 designs in a quilt-patch encyclopedia, Murphy picked a blue, green and red one for its name, Mayor’s Garden.
“It’s all blacktop back there,” Murphy said. “I thought it’d be nice to have a garden.”
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