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Living in History

A very old house with a very new spirit



By Tim Lee

Owning the oldest house in Litchfield is both a privilege and a major commitment. Bruce Schnitzer and Alexandra Champalimaud live in the house built by Oliver Wolcott in 1754. Wolcott was one of the original signers of the Declaration of Independence, the first governor of Connecticut, and yes, one evening in 1781, George Washington was his houseguest.

Schnitzer, a Texan by birth, and his first wife discovered Litchfield 32 years ago. “The agent who showed us the house said that we were the first people to get past the kitchen—that’s how much work needed to be done,” says Schnitzer. “We were interested in history and historic houses and weren’t daunted by the restoration effort. But I can tell you it was more of a challenge than we bargained for.”

By the time Champalimaud came on the scene eight years later, Schnitzer was a single parent with two small children, and the living-room décor consisted of an oriental carpet and a pup tent. Champalimaud is an internationally celebrated interior designer, specializing in commercial spaces. For her, the challenge was to update and make the house livable for all concerned. “With a house like this, heritage is more important than decoration. This was not a place on which to put a big ego stamp. It’s not about ripping everything out; it’s about quietly fitting new pieces in,” Champalimaud says.

The rooms speak for themselves. The paints used have been mixed according to the original formulas. Period pieces share space with comfortable upholstered chairs that evoke the warmth and coziness of the original rooms. Oliver Wolcott was well traveled and the house reflects the European tastes he developed. The 1754 Colonial was upgraded to Federal style, but by the 1790s the house had been “tarted” up a bit.

One disadvantage to having a house on the main thoroughfare is that it is close to the road and invites passersby to stop and stare. “I have a particular aversion to a real hedge. It just seems unfriendly and not in keeping with the history of the house. So, over time, we moved mature shrubs from the back to the front. The desired result is to still allow views of the house from the sidewalk, while providing a reasonable degree of privacy,” Schnitzer explains. Now, clusters of greenery or blossoms, depending on the season, escort visitors along the path leading to the red front door. Many of the original 15-acre plots along North and South Streets have been broken up, but Champalimaud and Schnitzer still maintain their house’s original acreage. It stretches out the back and includes a serene pool area, various walking paths and plantings, and a vegetable garden—all within walking distance of the village green.

Schnitzer and Champalimaud are actively involved in local conservation and preservation. As one of the founding members of the Greater Litchfield Preservation Trust, Schnitzer was instrumental in preserving the post-office building, as well as the agricultural building on the green that now houses Talbots. Champalimaud and Schnitzer have also purchased and restored the West Street Yard, a series of commercial buildings on Route 202. One building houses Charym, a wellness-and-spa–integrated health center that Champalimaud created and about which she is passionate. “Charym means beauty in Bhutanese,” she explains. “As I was spending more time in Litchfield, I envisioned a place that could offer an entire lifestyle regimen. We offer yoga and Pilates classes, fitness, body work, and skin care. It’s all about beauty based on a more holistic philosophy. We want to add nutrition, special cooking classes, a detox program—and to respond to the community’s needs.”

Since they love to entertain, the South Street house is invariably filled with family and friends whenever Schnitzer and Champalimaud are in residence. “Bruce’s daughters grew up in this house and, of course, it is very special to them. His daughter Annabel recently had her wedding reception on the property. My sons were young teenagers when they came here and have now made it part of their lives as well. All the children have come to love this house for its history, and respect Litchfield and they are here to stay,” Champalimaud says. The couple appreciates the quiet and solitude to be found in Litchfield. “I love walking over mountains and valleys with my dogs, while Bruce tends to end up in the garden.”

Schnitzer feels they have been blessed with this piece of history and he and Champalimaud hope it will always be preserved as such. “At the moment, the children want to carry on the tradition and maintain what we have put together,” he says. “It’s important that these significant Litchfield houses are kept in good hands

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September 2018

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...

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Telephone: (860) 000-0000
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Sponsor: Litchfield Farmers Market
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Cost: Free

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Sponsor: Byrde + the b
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Cost: Free

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Telephone: 186-086-87586
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Sponsor: Litchfield Farmers Market
Telephone: (860) 000-0000
Contact Name: Kay Carroll, Market Master
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Cost: Free

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Oliver Wolcott Library
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View map »


Sponsor: Oliver Wolcott Library
Telephone: 860-567-8030
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View map »


Sponsor: Oliver Wolcott Library
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Cost: Free

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View map »


Sponsor: Byrde + the b
Telephone: 212 255 6247
Contact Name: Steven Miller
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Cost: Free

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Gunn Memorial Library
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Sponsor: Gunn Memorial Library
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Telephone: 186-056-78302
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Where:
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View map »


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Cost: free

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


Sponsor: Litchfield Farmers Market
Telephone: (860) 000-0000
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Sponsor: New Morning Market
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Join us for a special evening as Nancy Schuler returns to perform three new plays. Letters Home is actually two short pieces. The first half is a monologue. Meet Margaret Griffin Carey born in...

Cost: Free

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View map »


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


Sponsor: Oliver Wolcott Library
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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
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View map »


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


Sponsor: Gunn Memorial Library
Telephone: 186-086-87586
Contact Name: Sharon Morrissey
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Show More...
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Cost: free

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


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

More information

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Cost: Free

Where:
Byrde + the b
10 Titus Road
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View map »


Sponsor: Byrde + the b
Telephone: 212 255 6247
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Cost: Free and open to the public

Where:
Gunn Memorial Library
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View map »

More information

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Cost: Free

Where:
Gunn Memorial Library
5 Wykeham Road
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View map »


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

More information

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Cost: Free

Where:
Litchfield Community Center
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Litchfield, CT  06759
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Telephone: 186-056-78302
Website »

More information

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View map »


Sponsor: Hunt Hill Farm
Telephone: 860.355.0300
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Website »

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Cost: $15.00 pp

Where:
Litchfield Community Center
421 Bantam Road
Litchfield, CT  06759
View map »


Telephone: 186-056-78302
Website »

More information

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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

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

Show More...
Show Less...

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

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

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

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

Show More...
Show Less...

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Cost: free

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The Smithy
10 Main Street
New Preston, CT  06777
View map »


Sponsor: The Smithy
Telephone: (860)868-9003
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Website »

More information

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Cost: Freewill Offering with suggested donation $20

Where:
St. Michael's Parish
25 South Street
Just off the Litchfield Green
Litchfield, CT  06759
View map »


Sponsor: St. Michaels-Litchfield
Telephone: 860-567-4456
Contact Name: Jo Ann Jaacks
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
Litchfield, CT  06759
View map »


Sponsor: Oliver Wolcott Library
Telephone: 860-567-8030
Contact Name: Victoria Kiszka
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: $50.00

Where:
Various Locations
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Sponsor: Washington Environmental Council
Telephone: 860-717-0819
Website »

More information

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Cost: Free!

Where:
Tapping Reeve Meadow
82 South Street
Litchfield, CT  06759
View map »


Sponsor: Litchfield Historical Society
Telephone: 860-567-4501
Contact Name: Kate Zullo
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

St. Michael’s-Litchfield will present a special observance for their patronal saint on Saturday, September 29 at 5:00p.m.  The lively program, which includes the Black Rock Brass...

Cost: Freewill Offering

Where:
St. Michael's Parish
25 South Street
Just off the Litchfield Green
Litchfield, CT  06759
View map »


Sponsor: St. Michael's-Litchfield
Telephone: 860-567-4456
Contact Name: Jo Ann Jaacks
Website »

More information

In Italian cuisine, a ragù is a meat-based sauce, which is commonly served with pasta or polenta. Traditional recipes are all meat-based and can be a mixtures of beef, chicken, pork, duck,...

Cost: $95

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


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

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

Show More...
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