Waterbury, Connecticut’s fifth largest city, has distinguished public buildings and distinctive monuments. It also has two unusual museums. The Mattatuck focuses on local history, from immigration and manufacturing (there’s a reason it’s nicknamed the Brass City!) to wartime memorabilia. It also has collections of 18th, 19th and 20th century art.
Best (or at least strangest) is the museum within this museum, located on the top floor, consisting entirely of buttons.
The Timexpo Museum looks like a just another preserved brass mill, except for the huge Easter Island statue, or Moai, standing out front. It wears a perturbed expression, as if wondering what it’s doing in the corner of a shopping center parking lot, but inside the museum you’ll learn the connection between the ocean voyages of explorer Thor Heyerdahl and the history of Timex (formerly the Waterbury Clock Company).
From Waterbury, head west and south to Oxford, through the small town of Middlebury, on Routes 64 and 188. Stop on Route 67 at . The existence of this enhanced ice cream stand, tucked away up a hill, won’t be news to anyone who lives nearby (witness the lines.) But those who come from farther afield will be pleasantly surprised at the variety of flavors and the rustic dairy farm setting.
Stop in Beacon Falls at the intersection of Route 42 and Rimmon Hill Road to see the tiny one room Rimmon School House, c.1779, sitting incongruously across from a distribution center.
Continue on to Seymour, through one of the most rural and beautiful parts of “The Valley.” Take Old Drive back to Route 67 and enjoy the twisting, sloping roads and sweeping views of rolling hills.
Seymour’s vibrant, compact downtown area is chock-a-block with boutiques and antique stores. At the Seymour Antiques Company, you can browse multiple floors full of almost anything you could want, from beds to hatboxes. Unlike many antiques emporiums, which are organized by vendor, this one groups objects together, with all the bird cages in one place and all the vintage license plates in another, making shopping here particularly appealing.
Leaving Seymour, Route 115 takes you to Ansonia’s Main Street business district. Take a short detour on Elm Street to see an older section of town, including the house of David Humphreys, aide-de-camp and friend of George Washington, ambassador to Spain, and importer of Merino Sheep. Another historic building, the 1760 home of Captain Joseph Riggs, looks less like a typical Colonial house and more like a pioneer cabin.
Continuing on Route 115 towards Derby, you’ll see the Olde Uptown Burial Ground, said to be the oldest public burial ground in the country.
Cross the river on Route 34 into downtown Derby. This is Connecticut’s smallest city but that doesn’t mean there’s nothing of interest there. The Sterling Opera House, a uniquely designed 1889 building located across from the Green with its gazebo, memorials, and churches, was the first building in Connecticut to be listed on national Register of Historic Buildings. It’s also rumored to be haunted, and was investigated on the TV show Ghost Hunters. And after driving all the way here, you might want to take a stroll (or bike ride) along the Derby Greenway, a continually expanding trail that links three cities and six bridges across the Naugatuck and the Housatonic.
That’s just one itinerary, of course. I could have mentioned the restaurant in the airport, where you can eat while watching planes take off. Or the diminutive village hidden in the woods, which (sub)urban legend once claimed was inhabited by fairies. Or the monument to the brave citizens who protected their town’s pork from an invading army. Or any number of waterfalls. Chances are that whatever route you take through the Lower Naugatuck Valley, it will be full of curiosities worth exploring.
If you go:
144 West Main Street, Waterbury
Tues – Sat, 10am – 5pm; Sun, Noon – 5pm. Adults $5, Seniors $4, Children under 16, Free
For more information call 203-753-0381 or visit their Web site.
175 Union Street, Waterbury
Tues – Sat, 10am – 5pm. Adults $6, Seniors $5, Children $4, Children under 5, Free.
For details, call 203-755-TIME or see their Web site.
Daily, 11:30am – 9pm
Seymour Antiques Company
26 Bank Street, Seymour
Wed – Sun, 10am – 5pm
For more information call 203-881-2526 or visit their Web site.
Open sunrise – sunset