You have to hike a mile and a half along the top of Talcott Mountain to reach the base of the tower. After that, it’s another 120 steps up to the top of the observation deck.
But the reward is breathtaking: a 360-degree view of the Farmington River Valley below.
Connecting Point Producer Dave Fraser will tell you that view is most definitely worth the trip, and he brings us this story.
This story originally aired on July 25, 2018.
Read the full transcript:
Brian Sullivan, Connecting Point: A visit to the Heublein Tower in Simsbury isn’t easy. In fact, it may be one of the toughest museums in the state of Connecticut to get to.
You have to hike a mile-and-a- half along the top of Talcott Mountain to reach the base of the tower. After that? It’s another 120 steps up to the top of the observation deck. But the reward is breathtaking: a 360-degree view of the Farmington River Valley below.
Connecting Point Producer Dave Fraser will tell you that the view is most definitely worth the trip, and he brings us this story.
Dave Fraser, Connecting Point: As you travel along Route 202 through the Farmington Valley in the towns of Avon and Simsbury, there is a tall stone structure visible on the top of Talcott Mountain. This structure is the Heublein Tower, and it is currently owned and maintained through a cooperative effort between the state of Connecticut and the Friends of Heublein Tower.
Jay Willerup is president of the Friends of Heublein Tower.
Or is it “Hi-bline” Tower?
Jay Willerup, Friends of the Heublein Tower: There’s actually three pronunciations “Hi-bline” is the family, “Hue-bline” is the business, and the actual correct Bavarian pronunciation is “Hoy-bline.”
Dave Fraser: However you choose to say it, there is no doubt that the view from the top offers an amazing 360-degree experience.
Jay Willerup: Once you get to the top again, you look all the way out towards New York, Mohawk Mountain, up into Massachusetts, to Mt. Tom, down to the south, towards Sleeping Giant in Hamden. And you see Hartford and Springfield.
John Guglielmoni, Connecticut D.E.E.P.: Most people are excited to have made it to the top. One of the most common questions is “How many steps?” You know, “How much farther is it?”
Because once you’ve reached the tower, you’ve still got 165-feet to go, and you can do that in 120 steps up and then another 120 steps to get back down.
Dave Fraser: Gilbert Heublein moved to Hartford with his family in the mid- 1800s. He promised his fiancée that he would build her a castle on a mountain.
Jay Willerup: He was here with his fiancée, Louise, and he had walked up here and said, “Someday I’m going to build you a castle here.”
And he was 65 in 1914, and he started it then.
Dave Fraser: The Heubleins were members of Hartford’s social elite. Gilbert’s father began a restaurant and hotel business in 1862, and the company began manufacturing A-1 Steak Sauce and later, Smirnoff Vodka.
The tower was used mainly as a summer retreat from the city. It is complete with luxurious bedrooms, a kitchen and living areas on each floor, as well as the first residential elevator in Connecticut.
On the top floor was a ballroom now known as the observation deck, where the Heubleins hosted parties and entertained their many house guests.
Jay Willerup: They would arrive in the spring and bring anywhere from three maids, a chauffeur, and a cook, as well as themselves. And this would be just be an entertainment venue, and they would come up here for the weekends or week here at a time.
It represents Gilbert’s German heritage from Bavaria. If you look at a lot of the Bavarian pictures of back where he was from, there’s actually a tower that’s very similar to this.
Dave Fraser: Gilbert died in 1937, and for six years the tower stood empty. It was later purchased by the Hartford Times newspaper and once again became a place for parties and social gatherings for nearly 20 years.
The State of Connecticut’s Department of Energy and Environmental Protection was able to purchase the tower in 1966, and along with the friends of Heublein Tower, they are doing restoration work and continuing to educate the public on the past, present, and future of this unique structure.
Jay Willerup,r: Now, The Friends of Heublein Tower were formed in 1985 by Pat Heublein, one of the family members. And it’s really to kind of help augment the state and start to do some of the restoration work.
And we also like to educate people on — on the lifestyle that the Heubleins had here and what it represents to that era, and we like to have people hike up here and enjoy the views and foliage and all the other things that have gone on here.
John Guglielmoni, Connecticut D.E.E.P.: We encourage people to make the hike. It’s very doable.
I usually try and make an effort to not miss it. If I’m here visiting with the public, visiting with my staff, I make a point to go up to the observation deck myself and take in the view and appreciate it, just as the public does, so that I can better understand what the public is — what the reward that they’re seeing at the end of that hike.