You may recall that Topsmead was built as a summer home, and Edith Chase and her friends Mary & Lucy Burrell, during the 1920s and 1930s lived in their homes on Church St. in Waterbury during the winter months. Did you ever wonder if the ladies used Topsmead in the winter?
Bob Orintas reports that after 1925 when Edith’s new Cotswold cottage was completed, the ladies would occasionally spend time at Topsmead in January and/or February. Sometimes they would stay for as long as a week or two. They often went without a maid; cooking and looking after themselves. They read, knit, and took walks to admire the winter scenery. After August 1927 when the Buell Farm was purchased, Topsmead became a working farm, and Edith had a pleasure horse named Mandy. She and the ladies would take Mandy out for sleigh rides through the Litchfield countryside during winter visits. Bob recalls that sometimes when they drove to Topsmead the car would get stuck in the snow and the farm's tractor was used to pull them out. All part of winter fun!
Initially the house had a coal fired furnace and forced hot air system that kept it fairly comfortable. The big fireplace in the great room most certainly was used, and Bob remembers his dad mentioning candle coal (aka cannel coal) that was burned in the bedroom fireplaces. A quick Google search tells us that candle coal was prized as an excellent fuel that burned with a bright flame, was easily lit, and left virtually no ash. It commanded a premium price as a fuel for use in home fireplaces because it burned longer than wood, and had a clean, bright flame.
It’s lovely to know that even in its infancy, Topsmead was appreciated for its beauty year-round.