The town of Toland, named in 1715, is the seat of Toland County, which occupies most of northeastern Connecticut.
In the past, Tolland held executive and judicial positions, signs of which are still present on picturesque Town Green.
Tolan has an active historic society, opening centuries-old properties to the public during the summer, including the Old Courthouse and Greenfield Prison.
Natural spaces abound in Tolland, where you can walk through the treetops at Storrs Adventure Park or climb Soapstone Mountain at Somers for views across the Connecticut River Valley.
1. Tolan Green Historic District
At the heart of Tolland’s narrow Town Green is a historic neighborhood with more than 50 buildings, most of which are fine 18th and 19th century homes.
For nearly three centuries, the green space has had the same basic footprint, and in its earliest years the southern end was home to the first Congregational Church, housed in a log cabin.
Opposite the southern end are the Old Town Hall (1879) and the current Town Hall (1909). As the county seat, Toland is granted the County Courthouse and Prison, both administered by the Toland Historical Society, with access (later) in the summer. With no fences and curbs, the greens look the same as they did 200 years ago, save for the asphalt on the road.
Stop by Tolland Red & White at No. 46, a cute little shop selling penny candy and antiques.
2. Daniel Benton Homestead Museum
The Toland Historical Society operates three museums in the town, the first of which is located in the southern countryside.
This is the Daniel Benton Homestead, where six generations of the Benton family lived from the first half of the 18th century to 1932. The sons of its founder, Daniel Benton, fought in the French and Indian wars, and five of their sons acted and fought in the Revolutionary War, spurred by the Lexington Alert Letter (1775).
Daniel Benton will still recognize his homestead today, right down to the pale Prussian blue wood paneling in the living room.
The kitchen has an original walk-in fireplace with a rear oven, while the cellar was used to hold British and Hessian prisoners during the Revolutionary War.
Visit on Sunday afternoons from June to September.
3. Old Toland County Jail and Museum
As we will see, in the 19th century Tolan was the judicial center for the entire county.
Anyone awaiting trial for a felony charge, or sentenced to up to a year in prison, will spend their time in this 1856 prison (the fourth of its kind). The prison was in operation from this time until 1968, and the decorative wardens’ residence at the front was completed in 1893. The Toland Historical Society will take you on a tour on Sundays from June to September from 13:00-16:00 pm, although you can book appointments for other times.
The 32 cells remain as they were when the prison closed, and you’ll hear stories about former inmates, as well as the County House, a hotel attached to the prison that provides accommodation for those who do business with the court.
4. Toland County Courthouse Museum
It’s worth combining a visit to the old Toland County Jail with the historic courthouse opposite, also owned by the Toland Historical Society.
Built in 1822 (replacing one in 1775), this stately building is where all Toland County courtrooms will be held for the next 70 years.
From the green, the most striking part of the building’s silhouette is the bell tower, which is topped by a circular dome.
The courtroom, which has been restored to its 19th-century façade, is located on the second floor with fine Palladian windows and bay ceilings.
On the back is an information panel explaining the history of the building and the influence of the county courthouse and prison on the development of Tolan in the 18th and 19th centuries.
5. Storrs Adventure Park
In the woods southeast of Toland, there is a high ropes course with eight different trails.
You will travel between the treetop platforms through more than 80 different transitions made of rope, wood or cable.
All courses have at least two ziplines, and the Pine Rush trail has six, including the park’s tallest and longest zipline.
If this all sounds scary, we’ll provide you with seat belts and all the safety equipment, and will get a safety briefing to show you how to deal with all those bridges and ziplines.
6. Crandall Park
Tolland’s 300-acre town park is a treasured local facility that hosts a variety of outdoor activities.
First, with five miles of wooded trails, Crandall Pond has a beach open for swimming during the school summer.
There is a fee, but even non-residents can afford it.
In addition to swimming lanes, the beach has diving boards and rafts.
Elsewhere, there are tennis courts, a children’s play area, three baseball/softball fields and a mixed-use field for soccer and other sports.
For special occasions, the town also rents out gazebos and cottages in the park.
7. Birch Hill Pottery
At 223 Merrow Road, Tolland, you’ll come to the shop and studio of potter Susan Gerr, who has been working in clay for 3 years.
She makes handcrafted functional pottery (casseroles, mugs, sushi sets), all using contrasting elements such as smooth or textured surfaces, or glazed or unglazed areas.
If you’re in the area, you can leave your name and take Susan’s evening classes for eight weeks, starting in September, January and April.
These cater to beginners, intermediate and advanced potters and teach techniques and methods such as handcrafting, wheel casting and decorating.
8. New England Motorcycle Museum
Motorcycle enthusiast Ken Kaplan has opened a museum at the 200-year-old cavernous Hockanum Mill in neighboring Vernon, which houses dozens of items from more than 25 brands. bicycle.
These are set up on two tiers, one dedicated to older brands like Harley-Davidson and India, and another for off-road bikes like Honda and Kawasaki.
These gleaming machines are all on display alongside an extensive library of magazines and memorabilia related to some of motorsport’s biggest events and people.
As we write this in September 2019, a motorcycle-themed bar, restaurant and microbrewery is under construction on the ground floor.
9. Cassidy Hill Vineyards
Escape to the Connecticut hills for a while and sample reds, whites and rosés at Cassidy Hill’s hospitable winery.
It’s a rustic pine log cabin with live music on the porch every Friday night in the summer.
Tasting five wines costs $7, and for $10 you can take home a Cassidy Hill signature class.
Pink Catawba, made from America’s oldest native grape variety, won the “Best of Show” award at the 2018 Connecticut Wine Society’s Amenti del Vino.
10. Shenipsit State Forest
Beyond Tolland’s west side, you can reach the Blue-Blazed Shenipsit Trail, which runs south for 50 miles along the eastern edge of the Connecticut River Valley to the Meshomasic State Forest.
The highest point on the trail is local, Soapstone Mountain in the Shenipsit State Forest.
At the top of the mountain, you can climb a new observation tower that rose in 2018 and overlook the entire Connecticut Valley to the skyline of Springfield, Massachusetts.
Shenipsit State Forest is 11 parcels of land in Somers, Ellington and Stafford, totaling nearly 7,000 acres, primarily planted with red oak.
Forest headquarters in Stafford, the last survivor of 21 Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) barracks in Connecticut, is preserved here as a museum about this Depression-era organization.
11. Fox Hill Tower
You can drive 5 miles west to Rockville, a historic site with stunning views of the Connecticut River Valley.
Fox Hill’s first building was a wooden observation tower built in the 1870s, but fell victim to a blizzard in 1880 and deteriorated over the following decades.
In 1939, as a Depression-era employment initiative, the Works Progress Administration completed a new octagonal stone structure.
The 22-meter-tall monument and its 67-meter long promenade are a tribute to all of Vernon’s war veterans.
Near the top is a viewing platform that, on a clear day, crosses the valley to see Talcott Mountain, Mount Holyoake and Mount Tom at Metacomet Ridge.
12. Nye-Holman State Forest
Stroll along the Willimantic River on this 50 acres of riverside meadows and sloping woodlands in Toland.
In 1720, the land was awarded to an Ebenezer Nye for building a homestead and building a toll bridge over the river.
The land was passed down through six generations in the same family before Nye’s great-great-granddaughter Alice Holman Hall passed it on to the state as a farm in 1931. From the gravel forest trail, you can descend to an unmarked trail that winds half a mile along the riverbank, surrounded by ferns and wildflowers in spring and summer.
This length of Willimantic is a trout management area popular with anglers for catch and fly fishing.
13. Stafford Motor Speedway
When you need some high-speed action, the answer to that craving is just a few miles away at the short-track Stafford Speedway.
Before the racing era, the track was a racecourse, built in 1870. Stafford Speedway is a certified NASCAR Whelen All-American race track that hosts three Whelen Modified Circuits between May and September.
Outside of the weekend, when the tour is in town, there are exciting races every Friday night for the bill in the modified stock car department, and there’s room for 8,000 spectators, so you can always find a good seat.
14. John Cady House
If you are driving through the Tolland countryside, there is an important building on the corner of Mile Hill Road and Cedar Swamp Road.
This is the John Cady House (circa 1720), thought to have been built by John Cady Sr. from Massachusetts, which may explain why this Georgia Colonial house is stronger than the Connecticut home from other houses in the neighboring state more similar.
On a timber frame, the 2.5-story structure is five bays wide and has a portal traced by Greek Revival pilasters.
An interesting detail is that what is now Mile Hill Road was diverted from the west side of the property to the east in the late 18th century, and in the late 1700s John Cady House was used as a bistro.
The house is private property, but worth keeping an eye out for as you pass by.
15. William Benton Museum of Art
The University of Connecticut’s Storrs campus is nearby and has a well-regarded art museum named after the university’s former trustee and Connecticut senator.
Opened in 1967, the Benton Restaurant is located in a building that dates back to 1920 and was originally the University’s main dining room.
Since then, the museum’s inventory has grown to more than 6,500 pieces.
The collection is most notable for its American art, by Childe Hassam, Emil Carlson, Mary Cassatt, Edward Burne-Jones, and Ellen Emmet Rand, but there are also works by the likes of Gustav Klimt and Käthe Kollwitz.
Fall 2019 Reginald Marsh Tropical Watercolors and African Art Acquired by Former Sociology Professor Emeritus Josef Gugler and his wife Janine Gugler The product hosts fascinating temporary exhibitions.
Where to Stay: Best Hotels in Toland, CT (CT)
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