In Miss Edith’s day, Topsmead cottage was closed up by election Tuesday in the first week of November. Miss Edith would have departed Topsmead and returned to Waterbury with Lucy and Mary Burrall in time to do her civic duty and vote. With Topsmead cottage closed for the winter season and Miss Edith and the Burrall sisters settled in Waterbury for the winter, Miss Edith would regularly send her chauffeur up to the Locker in Litchfield with a list of items to bring back to the house in Waterbury. Often on the list were the results of canning Topsmead’s summer and fall produce as well as frozen meats from the farm animals and, on occasion, butter from the milk of the Topsmead cows.
Topsmead cottage may have been closed by November, but it was designed for central heating with a furnace in the basement and elegant metal heating duct plates throughout the cottage that looked like the criss-crossed dough lattice on the top of an apple pie. In addition to central heating, architect Charles Henry Dana had insisted that there be a fireplace in every room. This was not only a heating backup, but also a luxury and a nod to Miss Edith’s value of all things hand-built and rustic!
With the cooler temperatures and shorter days of the approaching November, the ladies surely enjoyed cheerful fires. I imagine them warm and cozy enveloped by the heat of a fire built in the large, almost walk-in fireplace of the great room, perhaps absorbed in their reading or a game of canasta or perhaps enjoying their pre-dinner evening cocktails because it was too chilly to have cocktails on the veranda.
One late, chilly afternoon in the last rays of an early November sun, I was walking around the outside of the cottage with my head tipped back and my eyes focused on the roofscape in order to do a chimney count. Ah, situated solidly on the cottage roof were three stone chimneys with multiple circular masonry flues, one for each fireplace. One chimney had two flues; the other two had four flues each.
Then I looked at the dovecote roofscape—no chimney. Hmmm…wasn’t sure what to think about that discovery. I know that it was built a few years after the cottage as a men’s guest house, and it was not designed or built by Charles Henry Dana. Perhaps Miss Edith felt that her male guests could rough it?
At any rate, let’s not rough it. Let’s bask in the warmth of outdoor fire pits and indoor wood stoves and the companioinship of family and friends as we move into November and its season of Thanksgiving.