Behind the Scenes at Hill-Stead Museum, Farmington


I hadn’t been up to the Hill-Stead Museum in years and recently had the good fortune to have a behind-the-scenes tour with the director, Anna Swinbourne. This magnificent mansion, filled with masterpieces by Degas, Monet, Manet, Mary Cassatt, Whistler, and more, makes for a fantastic fall outing. 

The home is exactly as it was when Theodate Pope, the visionary female architect who designed it, at her passing, left it “for the benefit and enjoyment of the public.” In her will, she directed that the house and its contents remain intact, not to be lent, moved, or sold. It has been meticulously preserved, and walking through the grand rooms, with a Manet here and a Degas there, you can envision what it must have been like to live in the house at the turn of the 20th century. 

The history of Hill-Stead is as fascinating as the treasures inside it. Pope, a student at Miss Porter’s School, was enamored with the countryside of Farmington. An abiding interest in architecture became her life’s passion at a time when few women worked in the profession. She convinced her wealthy parents to retire to Hill-Stead, and adorned the walls with her father’s Impressionist art collection, both French and American, amassed on frequent trips to Europe,

Currently, Hill-Stead sits on 150 acres in Farmington, and the sprawling campus is a favorite outdoor space of the community. The recent completion of a capital improvement project turned the Pope’s carriage barn into an airy new gallery and interactive media space. The formal garden and incredible vista from the top of Mountain Road are glorious. Make plans to head up on a bright fall day and take advantage of the 3 miles of walking trails through farmland, orchards, pastures, and forest.

Open Wednesday thru Sunday from 10 – 4, with guided tours of the Museum every hour on the hour. Or book a private tour with the curator (48-hour advance purchase) for a behind-the-scenes peek at Pope family life. 

Upcoming events: Get details here:

3rd Annual Knitting in the Company of Sheep 

Outdoors at the Sheep pasture at Hill-Stead: September 19, 12 – 2pm

Calling all knitters!

Join Clatter Ridge Farm outdoors at the sheep pasture at Hill-Stead to break their own record for “The Most People Knitting in the Company of Sheep.” 2019 saw 15 knitters and 30 sheep. 2020 brought 47 knitters and 32 sheep. What will 2021 bring?

If you’re a knitter and you’d like to join, please register and kindly donate $10 to support Hill-Stead. Bring your knitting needles and a chair. 

Hill-Stead After Hours September Stroll, September 26, 4 – 7pm

Meet your friends, enjoy a drink, stroll the breathtaking gardens & grounds at sunset in the cool of the evening, spend a night at the Museum, and take home a memento of your visit from the Museum Shop.

Sign up for a Silver Membership and receive an exclusive guided tour after the sun goes down for a rare nighttime visit inside the Museum with the chance to see the world-class paintings glow under evening light.

Sign up for a Gold Membership and receive a special VIP experience that evening, including wine & cheese on the terrace.

First Sunday at Hill-Stead 

October 3, 10am – 4pm

Visit Hill-Stead Museum on the first Sunday of the month!

Families are invited to explore Hill-Stead and enjoy quality time outside and inside.

  • Self-guided tours from 1 to 4 pm. Browse the collection at your own pace and engage in the ever-popular scavenger hunt challenge.
  • Enjoy beautiful melodies on the Steinway piano from 1 to 3 pm.
  • Romp in Hill-Stead’s natural playground of hiking trails, gardens, and walking paths.
  • Check out the Learning Page for more activities and learning opportunities during your visit!
  • Purchase a treasure in the Museum Shop, stocked with art supplies, toys, children’s books, Hill-Stead’s own honey, and much more.
  • Don’t miss the First Sunday Estate Tour at 2 pm.


October 13, 6:00 pm
Dark Tales Come to Life with Edgar Allen Poe Readings.

Halloween on the Hill
October 30, 12:00 pm – 4:00 pm
Enjoy an incredible day at Hill-Stead as you stroll through the gorgeous grounds all gussied up for All Hallows’ Eve.

Hill-Stead After Hours – October Costume Stroll
October 30, 5:00 pm – 8:00 pm
Dress up in your Halloween best, meet your friends, enjoy a drink, stroll the breathtaking gardens & grounds at sunset.


edgar allen poe