194 Perry Avenue Norwalk, Connecticut 06850 (203) 847-4558 E-Mail:  

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Silvermine History
Walking Tour

The Silvermine Tavern - Norwalk, CT


A Short Walking Tour
(Approximately 2 Miles)


Go out the front door of the Tavern to Perry Ave. and turn right.  At the stop sign turn right on to River Road.  Head down past the parking lot.


Go out to dining-room entrance (opposite the parking lot) and turn right on River Road.

Silvermine is a community with a unique and interesting heritage.  It has been settled since colonial times and has evolved through many phases to what you see today.  Water powered mills, agriculture, artist colony, and suburban living are all part of the Silvermine story.  Silvermine is not a town, but part of three towns, Norwalk, New Canaan, and Wilton.

As you go down River Road, you will be walking parallel to the Silvermine River.  In the eighteenth century when water power drove the engines of industry, this river had a good fall and terrain for building dams to power mills.  There were 12 or 13 mills covering several miles along the river in Silvermine.  Silvermine mills included a leather tanning works, sawmill, and a spool works.  The Tavern pond is created by a dam you will see at the end of the walk.

The River and area are called Silvermine or Silver Mines on very old maps of the area, but to our knowledge, there was never any silver found.  There are several sites that  purport to be the silver mine, but none are convincing.

Down River Road, the first house on the left, on what was a strawberry farm, is about 125 years old.  Before Silvermine was a suburban residential area, it was typical family farmland, not covered with trees as it is now.

The third driveway on the left is the Gates Moore lighting  workshop.  It's famous colonial reproductions are sent all over the country to enhance authentic restorations.  Gates began by creating the chandeliers and wall sconces for his uncle, John Kenneth Byard, who owned the Tavern.

The light brown house, very close to the road, is a converted barn.  The town line between Norwalk and New Canaan passes through the living room.  As you stand with the house to your back and look across the river you are looking into Wilton at the point where the boundaries of the three towns come together.  Norwalk once included what is now Wilton and most of New Canaan.  Originally church parishes, those towns were formed in the early 1800s by the Connecticut General Assembly.  At that time, they each wanted some of the industrial land along the river.

When you cross into New Canaan, River Road becomes Mill Road.  Along Mill Road, which was a winding lane for horse and wagon that served the mills, are many homes representing colonial, Greek revival, modern and eclectic styles.  Numerous artists, architects, and writers live along here and enjoy the natural beauty of the Silvermine valley.

In the summer you will see beautiful gardens and landscaping all along the walk.  In winter, after the leaves fall, you get a clearer view of the river and the water falls that still remain.

Up the rise and down the hill, there are two barn red buildings on the right.  These are the remnants of the Buttery Sawmill, built in 1672.  Operated by Fred Buttery until the flood of October 1955, it was the last water powered sawmill in the area.  Long after steam and electricity had made water power obsolete, Buttery continued to operate the mill.  Henry Ford offered to buy the mill and set it up at his Greenfield Village Museum, but Buttery wanted to keep it going in Silvermine.   The original heavy wood guard rails on the Merritt Parkway were cut here at the Buttery mill.  In the flood, the dam was wiped out and the mill damaged beyond repair.

Over the next hill on the right is a glass A frame house which is the top level of a multi story house.  Although only the entrance is visible from the road, the living area goes down the river bank, offering unparalleled views both up and down the river.

Just past the A frame is the waterfall most easily seen from the road and visible year round.

At the stop sign take a brief detour to the right onto the Borglum Road bridge.  Beyond the steep hill straight ahead is the studio of Solon Borglum.  Borglum was an internationally known sculptor most famous for his portrayals of the American West.  Studies in the American West and Paris led to a very successful career in New York.  He began spending time away from New York and moved to Silvermine in 1906.  From his Silvermine studio, known as Rocky Ranch, he created works now in museums and private collections around the world. 

Borglum's presence drew other artists to the area. They eventually founded the Silvermine Guild of Artists from an informal group that met in his studio to discuss each other's work.  The comments were honest and not always kind so the group became known as the Knockers' Club.  Solon was visited in Silvermine by his brother Gutson, also a sculptor, who went on to carve the presidents on Mount Rushmore.  The studio is NOT open to the public.

Head back across the bridge where you came from, and go back to the intersection.  Go straight to continue on Mill Road.  Across the pond there is a large white house where Johnny Gruelle, another Silvermine artist and creator of Raggedy Ann lived for a time.  Murals painted by Gruelle's younger brother Justin are in the collection of WPA art at the Norwalk City Hall and Norwalk Library. 

Johnny Gruelle is best known for creating the Raggedy Ann characters and stories for his daughter Marcella.  She died at age 13, but the Raggedy Ann stories continued and are still popular today.  At the corner of the property is a large rock extending in to the river known as Raggedy Ann's Rock, a site that is portrayed in several of the original stories.  Gruelle, his wife, and Marcella are buried in the Silvermine Cemetery which you will see later in the walk.

The same house was later occupied by Marion Telva Jones, a singer at the Metropolitan Opera.

Just past the Gruelle / Jones house the river takes a turn to the north and leaves the road.

At the stop sign go left on to Silvermine Road continuing around the block  Traffic here can be busy, so please be careful.

Next, on the left, is the Old Silvermine Community Cemetery.  Here you can see many of the old Silvermine names including Hyatt, Louden, Buttery, and Guthrie (original owners of the Tavern and mill property).  In the back right corner of the cemetery is the grave of Solon Borglum.  Closer to the street on the same side is the grave of Cliff Meek, who was known for his wrought iron creations made at the Silvermine Forge.  The unmarked graves of the Gruelle family are also here.

Along Silvermine Road are many beautifully kept antique homes as well as newer ones. 

As you head down hill, the Silvermine Guild of Artists is on the right.  The guild was founded in 1922 by Solon Borglum and his fellow "Knockers", known then as the Silvermine Group of Artists.  The Guild and the artists who founded it drew more artists to Silvermine and created a substantial art center.  Today the Guild has an active artist membership, is a busy school, and holds exhibits of members work and an annual juried show in the Spring.  The galleries are open daily from 12:00 to 5:00.  Please feel free to drop in.

Across the street is the Silvermine Market, originally operated by the Guthrie family. Behind it was the community ice house.

Turn left at the stop sign heading down the hill and back into Norwalk.  Many of the old homes on the left side were the businesses of colonial Silvermine including the post office and blacksmith.

The Silvermine Tavern Country Store was originally the general store for this area.  It has unusually high ceilings for a building of its' age.  Above the store, where the guest rooms are now, was the local temperance meeting hall.  The store used to sit closer to Silvermine Ave. but was moved back and added to in the 1930s.

At the Tavern corner, go straight across and past the Tavern.  At the bottom of the hill, stop on the bridge and look north to the water fall and mill.  This is the best waterfall view of the walk.  The mill was operated by the Guthrie family and made wooden knobs for furniture and dowels for post and beam construction.  In the 1930s it was operated as a waffle shop. Spencer Tracey holds the record for eating the most waffles at one sitting.  Take a look down the river to the south toward the top of the next dam. The dark building beyond it to the left was also a mill.

Finish your trip in the Tavern office or Country Store where a map of Silvermine drawn in 1945 by John Vassos (a well known industrial designer, patron of the Guild, and Silvermine resident) shows the homes and studios of the Silvermine Artists at the time.  This was the peak of the artistic community in Silvermine.

Luxurious Guest Accomodations - Silvermine Tavern, Norwalk, CT

Read about our 200+ year history - Take the Walking Tour


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