Dan Lester & Stevens tracts

Property Information

The Dan Lester Tract

The Dan Lester tract is on Lover’s Lane and includes 10 acres on the east side of Lovers Lane. The old “Mill Brook”, now called Lover’s Lane Brook, courses through the property. It is nearly across from the two-acre Leland Stevens tract. Both are near the entrance to the Country Living Condominiums.

Property Information

The Stevens Tract

The two-acre Leland Stevens tract is on Lover’s Lane nearly across the road from the Dan Lester Tract.

History of the Properties

Hidden by just a few trees off Lover’s Lane is a remnant of a plan to help supply the borough of Torrington’s water needs. The land under question was once owned by Elijah Cowles (pronounced Coals). The Cowles family was quite prominent in the area that was first known as Poverty Hollow, then Cotton Hollow and finally West Torrington. The family homestead was located a little east of the corner of Goshen Road and Lover’s Lane and is still standing today.

Cowles, according to Samuel Orcutt (author of History of Torrington), came to town about 1800 and established himself as a hatter. This being a family affair, his wife Chloe made bonnets from rye straw. This was a decent way of making money, for a “leghorn style” bonnet fetched $15 back then, making it worth over $200 in today’s currency.

Elijah died in 1855 at 78 years, and Chloe passed in 1859 at age 82. They had a son, Albro, born in 1799. He and his wife Eliza (Talmadge) were involved with Erastus Hodges’ wood clock industry in West Torrington, their job was to “figure, ornament and finish complete 1,000 clock faces.” Albro performed woodworking while Eliza painted the clock faces, each with a unique scene. (A good source of knowledge about this industry can be found in Erastus Hodges 1781-1847, by Theodore B. Hodges).

The Water Company

By 1900 the property had been handed down to their grandson, Willard Albro Cowles, and a cousin of his, Angeline Abbott. Meanwhile, the Torrington Water Company was looking for ways to augment the nearby Crystal Lake Reservoir. Their plan was to divert Lover’s Lane Brook into Crystal Lake. Property was purchased from the Klug family, but the problem was that Cowles was still using water from the brook for his farm. So, the Company agreed to dam the brook and to hand dig and install a pipe of “not less than 2 inches in diameter” all several hundred feet to Cowles’ house.

The Water Company went so far as dictating how the piped water could be used, approving its use for “domestic purposes, including water closets or baths, and at the barns, outhouses, stables or in the fields….for the use of their stock, also for the washing of their own carriages and wagons and wherever needed in butchering their own stock on their farm, and for use in case of fire… with the understanding and on condition that it should not be left, after proper use, running to waste.”

Interestingly, Cowles was also allowed to water his lawn, provided there were no active watering bans in place in the borough. So, it seems as soon as it was possible, people developed the habit of watering their lawns.

This two-acre property was donated in 1977 by the family of Leland Stevens, former owner of the Torrington Ice Company.

Although a dam was built and the pipes reputedly laid, the brook was never diverted into Crystal Lake. It continues on its way to the Nickle Mine Brook, just as it always did. It courses through the 10-acre Dan Lester tract just across the street, near the entrance to the Country Woods condos. Lester was a president of Heritage during the 1990s and early 2000s, making him the longest-serving president the organization ever had. He and Trustee Jim Febbroriello are the ones who had the vision of turning the Coe Brass property into a park.

Lover’s Lane Brook

Lover’s Lane Brook had an important role in the early history of Torrington. It was called the “Mill Brook” by Orcutt, but even before that it was called the “Lyman Brook”. Its waters begin near where Allen and Klug Hill Roads meet, at the first settlement in town. One of the first things the settlers decided to do, back in October 1745, was to establish a grist mill on the brook, alleviating the need to turn wheat into flour by pounding it by hand with rocks. Ebeneezer Lyman was given permission to build and operate the mill where his property met a public road, providing the mill did not extend more than 30 feet into that road. The use of the mill was to be available to all citizens of the town.

Why Lover’s Lane is called that seems to be self-explanatory, but while we welcome visitors to the property, we know they will keep in mind the Puritan modesty of our historic ancestors.

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