Habitat: Historic tavern turned home in Washington
WASHINGTON — Most people in town probably already know the story of the white colonial known as Cogswell Tavern, where George Washington once ate breakfast nearly three centuries ago.
But only a few have likely gotten the chance to see inside the historic home — at least until now.
The tavern-turned-home will be one of five featured this weekend in the Washington Environmental Council’s House and Farm Tour, a scholarship fundraiser that offers visitors the opportunity to visit and learn about significant properties in towns.
“I think, like all of us, many people wonder what’s behind (Cogswell) doors,” Karen Silk, one of the council’s directors, said. “We thought that would be the linchpin because it is such a famous house.”
The tour will let attendees visit the homes in any order and talk with council representatives at each property.
At Cogswell Tavern, they can see many of the site’s original features that have been maintained since it was used as a rest stop for travelers in the 18th and 19th centuries.
Paula Krimsky, whose family has been close friends with the owner’s family for generations, will be on hand to discuss the home’s expansive history. Krimsky had helped the family sort through a collection of artifacts and papers found in the attic during a restoration in the early 2000s.
“Like typical New Englanders, they never threw anything out,” Krimsky said. “They had unbelievable treasures up there.”
The tavern was built in 1756 by Maj. William Cogswell, who served with Gen. George Washington in the Revolutionary War and was one of New Preston’s first settlers. Cogswell bought the property from Chief Waramaug, a prominent Native American leader at the time.
Cogswell was a justice of the peace, a selectman in New Milford, a member of the 1774 Committees of Correspondence, a moderator for Washington’s first town meeting, the town’s first selectman and a representative on the General Assembly.
Perhaps the home’s most notable claim to fame occurred on May 25, 1781, when George Washington stopped by with his troops on their way to West Point, which is noted in Washington’s diary.
“Anna Whittlesey Cogswell was about to sit down for breakfast when a rider came and said General Washington is on his way and that she would have to feed 300 troops,” said Sally Woodroofe, who lives in the home and is an eighth-generation descendent of Cogswell.
The fireplace that Cogswell likely used to cook for guests can still be seen when entering the home, along with antique pots and a Revolutionary War musket hanging above it. It is believed the floors, ceilings and other features in the house are part of the original structure.
Krimsky and Woodroofe said family stories attribute the home to other brushes with history — including as a stop on the Underground Railroad — though it is difficult to confirm many of the exact details.
Other properties to be featured on the tour include Back 40 Farm, a ranch renovated by two notable designers, a house built from a Sears Roebuck kit and an arts and crafts house with solar panels that produce 24,000 kilowatt hours of electricity per year.
All proceeds from the $50 tickets, which include a reception at Gunn Memorial Library, will go toward scholarships to students studying the environment.
The tours and reception will be from 1 to 5 p.m. Saturday.