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The Van Sinderen Legacy

Building Rossiters, preserving land



Tucked on a sloping hillside of Devereux Glenholme School in Washington is an unprepossessing house designed by Ehrick Rossiter—the 19th-century architect responsible for the assemblage of 40 colonial revival summer cottages and civic buildings in Washington. Compared to many of Rossiter more impressive residences, the two-story, stucco cottage barely raises an eyebrow among the cognoscenti.

It has wonderful lead-glass and mosaic windows, a curiously curved porch, and the sort of filmy, left-alone look that comes with old houses. Close your eyes and imagine the crunch of a four-horse carriage pulling up over the gravel drive. But few know the “hidden” Rossiter exists, or how the family who built it would shape the town. 

The story begins in the late 1890s when New York City industrialist William Leslie Van Sinderen purchased 110 acres along Sabbaday Lane, overlooking the Shepaug River Valley.  “He and his wife had just returned from a honeymoon in Scotland and the rolling hills reminded them of the glens,” says Maryann Campbell, executive director at Devereux Glenholme for the past 39 years. In 1898, Van Sinderen commissioned Ehrick Rossiter, a graduate of the The Gunnery School who had designed grand summer cottages for a sophisticated circle of friends in Washington, to build a cottage for him.

Eventually, the Rossiter cottage would prove too small for Van Sinderen’s growing family. In 1919, William’s son Adrian Van Sinderen, a banker, philan-thropist, and avid horse showman, who had inherited the property upon his father’s death, would build more impressive Colonial Revival house on the summit of the property. 

The new 11,000-square-foot house had 13 bedrooms, two sleeping porches, and ten bathrooms, a nursing station, three dining rooms, two living rooms, a library, and a full organ and chamber. The cottage became servant housing. Another architect designed the larger home, but the bond the family formed with the Rossiter was significant.

Adrian and his wife Jean became immersed in the Washington social life. In his expansive wood-paneled library, Adrian penned 30 books, largely about his travels around that world.

In 1966, after Adrian Van Sinderen died, Jean, gifted all their property and buildings to the Devereux School of Devon, Pennsylvania, to be used as a boarding school for children with special needs. The Rossiter cottage was eventually renovated into a girl’s dormitory, and the structure remained intact: the arched, recessed porch, the two-level round porches, the stucco exterior, and the gambrel roof. The stable was renovated into the school’s dining area, and an adjoining trophy room was converted into a freezer room. The grand house was reconfigured into administrative offices and housing.

  The story of Van Sinderen’s influence could easily end there, but they would have a more far-reaching impact on the town of Washington, fostered, in part, by Rossiter.

Today, hikers scrambling up the densely wooded hillsides of Hidden Valley, a section of Steep Rock Preserve that partially borders Devereux Glenholme, often find themselves following Van Sinderen’s Loop. The trail leads to a rocky high point and offers a panoramic view of the unfurling valley below. At the top, the summit is crowned by a plaque honoring Adrian Van Sinderen, who in 1963 donated the 650 acres to Steep Rock Association, the single largest donation in the preserve’s history. 

The association between Van Sinderen and the Steep Rock Association began in 1925. Rossiter had donated land he had purchased along the Shepaug River to a carefully chosen group of trustees who would act as financial stewards, Adrian Van Sinderen among them. Four years later the trustees purchased the area known as the Clam Shell, and so preserved one of the most panoramic views in the area.

As president of Steep Rock, Adrian Van Sinderen helped it become a public land trust. Since then, many landowners have deeded land to the Steep Rock Association.

While Adrian preserved land, his brother, Henry (“Harry”) focused on building. In 1919, he renovated the former Ridge School—also designed by Rossiter—into The Mayflower Inn. In 1933, First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt was among the dignitaries who visited. Harry willed the Mayflower Inn and its 33 acres to The Gunnery School, which sold it 1976—the existing building, now the Mayflower Grace Inn and Spa, re-opened in 1992.

Then, following the great flood of 1955, which wiped many historic buildings in the Depot, Harry Van Sinderen established a non-profit foundation, making it possible for the town to apply for federal funding to rebuild the commercial center. Today, only a handful of gravestones bare the Van Sinderen name. But on a clear day at the top of Van Sinderen’s Loop, with its sweeping view of the town and countryside below, you get a broader sense of their legacy.

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September 2018

The Macedonia Trail Race is scheduled for Sunday, September 16 in Macedonia Brook State Park in Kent, CT.  With its unparalleled single track and lush forest trails, challenging...

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Cost: Free

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Cost: 10 per class

Where:
New Morning Market
129 Main St North
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Sponsor: New Morning Market
Telephone: 203-263-4868
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Cost: Free

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Cost: free

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Sponsor: Loft Gallery at The Smithy
Telephone: 860-868-9003
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Cost: Free

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Byrde + the b
10 Titus Road
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Sponsor: Byrde + the b
Telephone: 212 255 6247
Contact Name: Steven Miller
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Cost: $250.00

Where:
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Telephone: 186-056-78302
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Sponsor: Oliver Wolcott Library
Telephone: 860-567-8030
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Cost: Free

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Telephone: 860-567-8030
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Cost: free

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Cost: Free

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Washington Art Association
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Cost: $99.00 pp

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Litchfield Community Center
421 Bantam Road
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Telephone: 186-056-78302
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Cost: free

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Sponsor: Loft Gallery at The Smithy
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Cost: Free

Where:
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Telephone: 860-567-8030
Contact Name: Victoria Kiszka
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Cost: free

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Telephone: (860) 000-0000
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Cost: Free

Where:
Oliver Wolcott Library
160 South St
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View map »


Sponsor: Oliver Wolcott Library
Telephone: 860-567-8030
Contact Name: Victoria Kiszka
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The Loft Gallery welcomes an exhibit of large-scale landscape and gardenscape paintings by South Kent CT artist, Lisa Brody. This show opens on Saturday, September 1st, and runs through Sunday,...

Cost: free

Where:
Loft Gallery at The Smithy
10 Main Street
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View map »


Sponsor: Loft Gallery at The Smithy
Telephone: 860-868-9003
Contact Name: Susan Newbury
Website »

More information

Scott Bond is pleased to announce three events to be celebrated with an opening reception on Friday August 24 from 6-8pm at “Byrde + the b” a full service hair salon, art gallery and...

Cost: Free

Where:
Byrde + the b
10 Titus Road
Washington Depot, CT  06794
View map »


Sponsor: Byrde + the b
Telephone: 212 255 6247
Contact Name: Steven Miller
Website »

More information

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Where:
Washington Art Association
Gallery 4 Bryan Memorial Plaza
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View map »


Website »

More information

Washington Photographer Philip Dutton’s dramatic photos document The Chief Bigfoot Memorial Ride of 1990, a momentous event that helped commemorate the 100th anniversary of the Massacre at...

Cost: Free

Where:
Gunn Memorial Library
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View map »


Sponsor: Gunn Memorial Library
Telephone: 186-086-87586
Contact Name: Sharon Morrissey
Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...

Joan Morosani and Susan Spencer are excited and honored to be showing together for the third time at OWL. They draw from different approaches and traditions, but feel that their paintings perfectly...

Cost: Free

Where:
Oliver Wolcott Library
160 South St
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View map »


Sponsor: Oliver Wolcott Library
Telephone: 860-567-8030
Contact Name: Victoria Kiszka
Website »

More information

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Cost: free

Where:
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West & Woodruff Street
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Sponsor: Litchfield Farmers Market
Telephone: (860) 000-0000
Contact Name: Kay Carroll, Market Master
Website »

More information

The Loft Gallery welcomes an exhibit of large-scale landscape and gardenscape paintings by South Kent CT artist, Lisa Brody. This show opens on Saturday, September 1st, and runs through Sunday,...

Cost: free

Where:
Loft Gallery at The Smithy
10 Main Street
New Preston, CT  06777
View map »


Sponsor: Loft Gallery at The Smithy
Telephone: 860-868-9003
Contact Name: Susan Newbury
Website »

More information

Scott Bond is pleased to announce three events to be celebrated with an opening reception on Friday August 24 from 6-8pm at “Byrde + the b” a full service hair salon, art gallery and...

Cost: Free

Where:
Byrde + the b
10 Titus Road
Washington Depot, CT  06794
View map »


Sponsor: Byrde + the b
Telephone: 212 255 6247
Contact Name: Steven Miller
Website »

More information

Opening Reception: August 11, 4-6pm. This event is free and open to the public. MAQUETTE: The Art of the Model is an exhibition of maquettes or models by many of the sculptors currently...

Where:
Washington Art Association
Gallery 4 Bryan Memorial Plaza
Washington Depot, CT
View map »


Website »

More information

Washington Photographer Philip Dutton’s dramatic photos document The Chief Bigfoot Memorial Ride of 1990, a momentous event that helped commemorate the 100th anniversary of the Massacre at...

Cost: Free

Where:
Gunn Memorial Library
5 Wykeham Road
Washington, CT  06793
View map »


Sponsor: Gunn Memorial Library
Telephone: 186-086-87586
Contact Name: Sharon Morrissey
Website »

More information

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Cost: donation

Where:
Hunt Hill Farm
44 Upland Road
New Milford, CT  06776
View map »


Sponsor: Hunt Hill Farm
Telephone: 860.355.0300
Contact Name: John C. Maxwell III
Website »

More information

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Cost: free

Where:
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West & Woodruff Street
Litchfield, CT  06759
View map »


Sponsor: Litchfield Farmers Market
Telephone: (860) 000-0000
Contact Name: Kay Carroll, Market Master
Website »

More information

The Loft Gallery welcomes an exhibit of large-scale landscape and gardenscape paintings by South Kent CT artist, Lisa Brody. This show opens on Saturday, September 1st, and runs through Sunday,...

Cost: free

Where:
Loft Gallery at The Smithy
10 Main Street
New Preston, CT  06777
View map »


Sponsor: Loft Gallery at The Smithy
Telephone: 860-868-9003
Contact Name: Susan Newbury
Website »

More information

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Cost: $20.00

Where:
New Morning Market
129 Main St North
Woodbury, CT  06798
View map »


Sponsor: New Morning Market
Telephone: 203-263-4868
Website »

More information

Joan Morosani and Susan Spencer are excited and honored to be showing together for the third time at OWL. They draw from different approaches and traditions, but feel that their paintings perfectly...

Cost: Free

Where:
Oliver Wolcott Library
160 South St
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View map »


Sponsor: Oliver Wolcott Library
Telephone: 860-567-8030
Contact Name: Victoria Kiszka
Website »

More information

Scott Bond is pleased to announce three events to be celebrated with an opening reception on Friday August 24 from 6-8pm at “Byrde + the b” a full service hair salon, art gallery and...

Cost: Free

Where:
Byrde + the b
10 Titus Road
Washington Depot, CT  06794
View map »


Sponsor: Byrde + the b
Telephone: 212 255 6247
Contact Name: Steven Miller
Website »

More information

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Where:
Ives Concert Park
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Western Connecticut State University
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View map »


Website »

More information

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Cost: FREE

Where:
Hunt Hill Farm
44 Upland Rd
New Milford, CT  06776
View map »


Sponsor: Hunt Hill Farm
Telephone: 860-355-0300
Website »

More information

Opening Reception: August 11, 4-6pm. This event is free and open to the public. MAQUETTE: The Art of the Model is an exhibition of maquettes or models by many of the sculptors currently...

Where:
Washington Art Association
Gallery 4 Bryan Memorial Plaza
Washington Depot, CT
View map »


Website »

More information

Washington Photographer Philip Dutton’s dramatic photos document The Chief Bigfoot Memorial Ride of 1990, a momentous event that helped commemorate the 100th anniversary of the Massacre at...

Cost: Free

Where:
Gunn Memorial Library
5 Wykeham Road
Washington, CT  06793
View map »


Sponsor: Gunn Memorial Library
Telephone: 186-086-87586
Contact Name: Sharon Morrissey
Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...

Joan Morosani and Susan Spencer are excited and honored to be showing together for the third time at OWL. They draw from different approaches and traditions, but feel that their paintings perfectly...

Cost: Free

Where:
Oliver Wolcott Library
160 South St
Litchfield, CT  06759
View map »


Sponsor: Oliver Wolcott Library
Telephone: 860-567-8030
Contact Name: Victoria Kiszka
Website »

More information

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Cost: free

Where:
New Morning Market
129 Main St North
Woodbury, CT  06798
View map »


Sponsor: New Morning Market
Telephone: 203-263-4868
Website »

More information

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Cost: donations graciously accepted

Where:
New Morning Market
129 Main St North
Woodbury, CT  06798
View map »


Sponsor: New Morning Market
Telephone: 203-263-4868
Website »

More information

Since 2007, the Litchfield Hills Farm-Fresh Market has hosted over 15 vendors, farmers, bakers, chefs, artists and makers from throughout Northwest Connecticut. Visitors to the market will find...

Cost: free

Where:
Center School, Litchfield
West & Woodruff Street
Litchfield, CT  06759
View map »


Sponsor: Litchfield Farmers Market
Telephone: (860) 000-0000
Contact Name: Kay Carroll, Market Master
Website »

More information

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Cost: $100

Where:
Hunt Hill Farm
44 Upland Rd
New Milford, CT  06776
View map »


Sponsor: Hunt Hill Farm
Telephone: 860-355-0300
Website »

More information

The Loft Gallery welcomes an exhibit of large-scale landscape and gardenscape paintings by South Kent CT artist, Lisa Brody. This show opens on Saturday, September 1st, and runs through Sunday,...

Cost: free

Where:
Loft Gallery at The Smithy
10 Main Street
New Preston, CT  06777
View map »


Sponsor: Loft Gallery at The Smithy
Telephone: 860-868-9003
Contact Name: Susan Newbury
Website »

More information

Scott Bond is pleased to announce three events to be celebrated with an opening reception on Friday August 24 from 6-8pm at “Byrde + the b” a full service hair salon, art gallery and...

Cost: Free

Where:
Byrde + the b
10 Titus Road
Washington Depot, CT  06794
View map »


Sponsor: Byrde + the b
Telephone: 212 255 6247
Contact Name: Steven Miller
Website »

More information

he T.E.A.L.® Litchfield Walk is an annual event hosted by Hope Assembly #46, International Order of Rainbow for Girls! The T.E.A.L.® Walk Program was started by two sisters, that celebrates...

Where:
Litchfield Community Field
58 N Lake St
Litchfield, CT
View map »


Website »

More information

Opening Reception: August 11, 4-6pm. This event is free and open to the public. MAQUETTE: The Art of the Model is an exhibition of maquettes or models by many of the sculptors currently...

Where:
Washington Art Association
Gallery 4 Bryan Memorial Plaza
Washington Depot, CT
View map »


Website »

More information

Washington Photographer Philip Dutton’s dramatic photos document The Chief Bigfoot Memorial Ride of 1990, a momentous event that helped commemorate the 100th anniversary of the Massacre at...

Cost: Free

Where:
Gunn Memorial Library
5 Wykeham Road
Washington, CT  06793
View map »


Sponsor: Gunn Memorial Library
Telephone: 186-086-87586
Contact Name: Sharon Morrissey
Website »

More information

The Farm-Fresh Market was created in 2007 with 15 local vendors, and has grown over the years to become a staple of the Litchfield Hills community throughout all seasons. We were so proud to be...

Cost: FREE

Where:
Center School Parking Lot
Woodruff Lane
Litchfield, CT  06759
View map »


Telephone: 860-567-3871
Website »

More information

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Archive »Related Content

Old House, New Tricks

Local architects who have worked on renovations of period houses understand the need to educate on the importance of preserving a town’s history through its buildings.
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