Ronda burns tract

Property Information

The Ronda Burns Tract

The Ronda Burns tract consists of about 35 wooded acres west of Wyoming Avenue, behind the old Extend-A-Care facility. It is contiguous with a 6-acre easement Heritage has on Keystone Place, an assisted living facility in Newberry Corners. There is a trail that begins near the end of Winesap Road, which offers the best place to park. (Winesap is off Heights Drive, which is off Aetna Ave.) 

Garden Heights Development

The Ronda Burns tract contains about 35 wooded acres with some wetlands west of Wyoming Avenue. Ronda (no “h”) Burns was the wife of Realtor Harold Burns and donated most of this property to Heritage. The property borders a nursing home facility on Wyoming Avenue, the old Extend-a-Care, and the assisted living facility in Newberry Corners, known as Keystone. 

This land was once a part of a development by the American Land Company, known as Garden Heights. (Two thoroughfares in Torrington, Marion Avenue and Visconti Avenue, were named after principals of that company.) The planned development occurred about a hundred years ago now. Most of the planned roads in Garden Heights were never built, but some paper roads are still owned by the city. This property was a part of Litchfield until 1865/66.

Ernest Ceder, the late municipal historian of Torrington, was fond of saying that Torrington was the only town in Connecticut that increased in size from its founding, not just once or twice, but three times. The third and last time was in 1951 when Torrington gained the Hall Meadow section from Winchester. The second time was in 1923 when it gained the northwest corner of Harwinton after that town found it “could not afford to carry the corner district.”

The “Annexation”

The first transfer, simply known as the “Annexation” by Torrington historians, began in 1865, and it involved Litchfield losing ground to Torrington. The land in question lay south of downtown Torrington, which itself was known as Wolcottville for most of the nineteenth century.

The original line separating Torrington from Litchfield ran surprisingly close to Center Bridge. The line ran through where the Maria Seymour Brooker Memorial is now to about 300 feet south of Coe Park. The railroad tracks where Litchfield and New Litchfield Street meet were actually in Litchfield. One complaint made about this situation was that those living within a stone’s throw of Wolcottville were forced to travel all the way up to Litchfield to vote.

How did Torrington end up with northeast Litchfield? It started with a petition from a farmer on South Main Street, Frederick L. Taylor, who tended a flock of five hundred lambs on his property. More important to our story, he was the son of Captain Uri Taylor, a key player in the development of Wolcottville. The proprietor of a hotel at the five points intersection, Uri was responsible for constructing many of the buildings downtown, notably overseeing the building of the Center Congregational Church almost by himself.

Among those living just south of the Torrington line were the Hungerfords, Coes, and Brookers, all important names in Torrington history. An argument can be made that the Annexation took place because of the interests of Wolcottville industrialists. Besides their residences, included in the Annexation was about a mile and a half of railroad tracks and the land where the Turner and Seymour factory would soon be built.

Litchfield Objection

Litchfield tried to stop the Annexation. There was a Town Meeting on May 3rd, 1866, during which the inhabitants voted to oppose it and instructed their State Legislators to oppose it as well. Litchfield seemed to be on the verge of coming apart at the time. During the same meeting, the inhabitants were also voting down the Petition of John Catlin, who wanted to form a brand new town by paring Northfield away from Litchfield and merging it with a part of Plymouth.

Despite Litchfield’s opposition, the State Legislature approved the Annexation on June 1, 1866. They instructed Torrington to pay several thousand dollars to settle debts to Litchfield and Torrington had to agree to take on 20 percent of that town’s paupers. The new town line ran from the west bank of the Naugatuck fifty rods south of Frederick Taylor’s and headed northwest to Newberry Corners.

The Corners are named after the family of Joseph Allen Newberry and Paulina Maria Wilcox Newberry. They were farmers and had seven children, two of whom served in the Civil War, and one of them, Pvt. Nelbert Platt Newberry, lost his life on April 18, 1863, at Fort Worth, Alexandria, Virginia. Joseph also served as a town assessor and selectman in Torrington.

Weed Street at Newberry Corners and Weed Road in the western part of Torrington are named after Willard Weed and his son Clark. Many of the roads in Garden Heights seem to be named after states but are in fact named after old battleships.

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