Celebrate Silvermine with CSF Director Samuel Schmitt at the New Canaan Library

Swans—a symbol of Silvermine—on the millpond upstream from the Silvermine Tavern.

Discover the rich history of Silvermine with “Silvermine: Celebrating Its Art, History, and Beauty,” by author and CSF Executive Director Samuel A. Schmitt on Tuesday, September 19, 2017 at 6:30 pm at the New Canaan Public Library in New Canaan, Connecticut.

The building that became known as the Silvermine Tavern has stood at the crossroads of the community for over 200 years. Long thought of as an authentic colonial inn, it was originally around built 1810 as part of a complex of commercial buildings that included mills along the river, a blacksmith shop, and store. The building was transformed into an inn and restaurant less than a century ago, and has served as the community gathering place, landmark, and center of gracious hospitality ever since.

Silvermine, home to Carl Schmitt for over 70 years, is known today for its natural beauty, the Silvermine Guild Arts Center, and the Silvermine Tavern.  Few, however, are aware of its rich history.  Encompassing sections of New Canaan, Norwalk, and Wilton, Connecticut, Silvermine went from a small mill town during the 18th and 19th centuries to a vibrant artist colony in the early 20th century.  Numerous artists, including Carl Schmitt, attracted by the scenery and proximity to the art scene in New York, flocked to the area, using the old mills and barns for their studios.

Carl Schmitt stands proudly outside his new studio on Borglum Road in this photograph from 1919. Local contractor Bill Lyons completed the building at cost for his artist friend. It featured Flemish bond brickwork and a red tile roof outside, and handmade tiles on the floor inside. The single room and loft were heated by a potbelly stove which proved barely adequate when the artist worked late on chilly winter nights. Schmitt sold the building when he moved his family to Europe in the late 1930s. In 2004, after being used as a house and falling into disrepair, the studio was purchased by the Carl Schmitt Foundation, which restored it to its original condition. It now serves as one of the Foundation’s galleries.

These artists formed the Silvermine Group of Artists and later the Silvermine Guild, a haven for art of all kinds. The high quality of the work of the early Silvermine artists compares favorably with the members of the better known colonies in Old Lyme and Cos Cob.

Through dozens of historic photographs the new book Silvermine tells the story of the bucolic hamlet Carl Schmitt called home for over 70 years. CSF director Samuel Schmitt recounts how the picturesque valley, once buzzing with sawmills, was transformed into a cultural hub with the coming of the artists, including Carl Schmitt, who formed the Silvermine Guild in 1922. It’s part of the well-known “Images of America” series from Arcadia Publishing. See a preview and order here from Amazon.com. Your purchase benefits the Carl Schmitt Foundation.

Join us Wednesday, July 12, 2017 at 6:30 pm at the New Canaan Public Library located at 151 Main Street in New Canaan, Connecticut.  (Directions can be found here.)  Signed copies of Schmitt’s new book Silvermine, will be for sale during the presentation.  Admission is free but you are requested to register for the event here.


In this etching for the cover of a booklet for the Silvermine Guild of Artists, Carl Schmitt pokes gentle fun at the sometimes frenetic pace of social life in the artist colony during the summer season  Both artists and patrons relished any excuse for getting together at picnics and other gatherings.  At one time Silvermine was as well known for its calendar of theatrical productions and social events as for its art exhibits.

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Swans and Still Lifes: Upcoming Talk by CSF Director Samuel Schmitt celebrates Silvermine

Swans—a symbol of Silvermine—on the millpond upstream from the Silvermine Tavern.

Discover the rich history of Silvermine during this celebratory presentation, “Silvermine: Celebrating Its Art, History, and Beauty,” by author and CSF Executive Director Samuel A. Schmitt on Wednesday, July 12, 2017 at 6:30 pm at the Norwalk Historical Society in Norwalk, Connecticut.

The building that became known as the Silvermine Tavern has stood at the crossroads of the community for over 200 years. Long thought of as an authentic colonial inn, it was originally around built 1810 as part of a complex of commercial buildings that included mills along the river, a blacksmith shop, and store. The building was transformed into a inn and restaurant less than a century ago, and has served as the community gathering place, landmark, and center of gracious hospitality ever since.

Silvermine, home to Carl Schmitt for over 70 years, is known today for its natural beauty, the Silvermine Guild Arts Center, and the Silvermine Tavern.  Few, however, are aware of its rich history.  Encompassing sections of New Canaan, Norwalk, and Wilton, Connecticut, Silvermine went from a small mill town during the 18th and 19th centuries to a vibrant artist colony in the early 20th century.  Numerous artists, including Carl Schmitt, attracted by the scenery and proximity to the art scene in New York, flocked to the area, using the old mills and barns for their studios.

Carl Schmitt stands proudly outside his new studio on Borglum Road in this photograph from 1919. Local contractor Bill Lyons completed the building at cost for his artist friend. It featured Flemish bond brickwork and a red tile roof outside, and handmade tiles on the floor inside. The single room and loft were heated by a potbelly stove which proved barely adequate when the artist worked late on chilly winter nights. Schmitt sold the building when he moved his family to Europe in the late 1930s. In 2004, after being used as a house and falling into disrepair, the studio was purchased by the Carl Schmitt Foundation, which restored it to its original condition. It now serves as one of the Foundation’s galleries.

These artists formed the Silvermine Group of Artists and later the Silvermine Guild, a haven for art of all kinds. The high quality of the work of the early Silvermine artists compares favorably with the members of the better known colonies in Old Lyme and Cos Cob.  On view in the 1835 Town House at Mill Hill, where the lecture will be presented, is a new salon-style art exhibit, “Preserving and Observing: Two Centuries of Norwalk Art,” featuring the works of many Silvermine Guild artists from the early to mid-20th century.

Through dozens of historic photographs the new book Silvermine tells the story of the bucolic hamlet Carl Schmitt called home for over 70 years. CSF director Samuel Schmitt recounts how the picturesque valley, once buzzing with sawmills, was transformed into a cultural hub with the coming of the artists, including Carl Schmitt, who formed the Silvermine Guild in 1922. It’s part of the well-known “Images of America” series from Arcadia Publishing. See a preview and order here from Amazon.com. Your purchase benefits the Carl Schmitt Foundation.

Join us Wednesday, July 12, 2017 at 6:30 pm at Mill Hill Historic Park, located at 2 East Wall Street in Norwalk, Connecticut.  Follow signs for parking.  Signed copies of Schmitt’s new book Silvermine, will be for sale during the presentation.  Admission is $5.00 and tickets can be purchased here or at the door.  Light refreshments will be served.  This event is sponsored in part by the Norwalk Association of Silvermine Homeowners and the Silvermine Community Association.

We look forward to seeing you there! (Light refreshments will be served.)

In this etching for the cover of a booklet for the Silvermine Guild of Artists, Carl Schmitt pokes gentle fun at the sometimes frenetic pace of social life in the artist colony during the summer season  Both artists and patrons relished any excuse for getting together at picnics and other gatherings.  At one time Silvermine was as well known for its calendar of theatrical productions and social events as for its art exhibits.

New book, Silvermine, now available at 50% off

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A new pictorial history of Silvermine, the place Carl Schmitt called home for 70 years, is now available for pre-order at 50% off. As part of their “Cyber Monday” sale, Arcadia Publishing is offering the discount today and tomorrow only (now through Wednesday, November 30, 2016).

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Through dozens of historic photographs the book tells the story of the picturesque valley from the time it buzzed with sawmills through the coming of the artists who transformed it into the artistic hub we know and love today.

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There’s something about Silvermine. When the Schmitt boys found arrowheads while playing along the rock ridges and the river, their father Carl would say, “Of course, the Indians know all the good places.” This view down Borglum Road toward the Silvermine River bridge with Carl Schmitt’s house on the right looks much the same today as it did when this photograph was taken almost a century ago.

The book highlights the families of the artists and the life they made together, especially Carl and Gertrude Schmitt and their extended family—her father Austin Lord and Carl’s brother Robert, who, along with Solon Borglum, were instrumental in the formation of the Silvermine Group of Artists in 1908. The group later became the Silvermine Guild of Artists, which endures to this day.

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Some of you may recognize this large boulder in front of the old Borglum place on Borglum Road, site of many birthday parties and other get-togethers in Silvermine over the years. Through fascinating images such as this, the new book captures Silvermine’s rich social, artistic, and cultural life during the heyday of the artists’ colony in the first half of the last century.

The stories of the Silvermine Tavern (where Spencer Tracy was a frequent guest and Lauren Bacall spent her ‘babymoon’ in 1949), the Buttery Mill (the oldest mill in the US when it closed in the 1950s), and the great flood of 1955 round out the narrative.silvermine-interior-page-spread-118-119

Part of the well-known “Images of America” series from Arcadia Publishing, many of the photographs come from the archives of the Carl Schmitt Foundation as well as historical societies and individuals in the area.

This offer is good today and tomorrow only (Tuesday and Wednesday, November 29 and 30, 2016).  You won’t see a better price.

Book cover image

Samuel A. Schmittt

Silvermine

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Christmas in Silvermine

We continue our series of reminiscences by Carl Schmitt’s late son David, who died this past March at the age of 89.

One Christmas when I was about seven dad and mother bought me a present much better than I anticipated.  Dad called my name and I stepped forward and he handed me a large box attractively wrapped.  “To David from Mother and Dad.”  I tore it open and inside was a large pair of brown hunting boots with a jackknife in a leather pocket on the left side of the left boot.  I was overwhelmed.  I put the boots on and paraded around the house upstairs and down all the rest of Christmas day.  I could see nothing but those two boots.

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Michael, pastel on paper, 1935

Unfortunately, my brother Mike had gotten a model airplane kit—the kind one puts together from balsa wood and covers with Japanese tissue paper, then paints to match the real airplane.  It actually flew and took a lot of work to build.  Late in the afternoon, just before supper, I was coming down the stairs, and of course Michael was assembling his plane right at the foot of the stairs.  You guessed it, the inevitable happened; my big boot went “crunch” right in the middle of his plane and completely demolished it.  It was a case of the inevitable force meeting the immovable object.

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Carl Schmitt sons ((left to right) Peter, Jacob, Michael, John, David, and Austin, c. 1932.

Mike wanted to take it out on my hide but he didn’t, remarkably, because I pointed out that after all that wasn’t the best place to put his plane together.  Naturally, he didn’t relish hearing my defense.  It was a case of arrogance vs. pride which most kids excel in.  I still don’t remember how the situation was resolved short of parental arbitration and both of us eating a little crow.

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Christmas card (c. 1925) for John Kenneth Byard, a friend and patron of Schmitt in the 1920s who later became a well-known antiques dealer.

Bobby

Robert Schmitt, Carl Schmitt’s eldest son, celebrates his 95th birthday today.  This reminiscence by his late brother, David, pays tribute to his gentleness, intelligence, and courage, qualities still evident to everyone who meets him.

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Bobby Schmitt, c. 1925

My oldest brother’s name is Bobby.  He was born first and is the gentlest, most considerate and responsible of all the brothers.  I suppose that has a lot to do with what has always been expected of him.  Usually, the eldest in a big family is expected to look after and help care for all the rest of the little urchins that follow along; it’s his unwritten destiny and usually works out that way in most families.

Bobby is not only conscientious, but he is very smart and also an excellent teacher and applied psychologist through necessity. He is a genius at simplifying the problem and applying the common denominator.  He excelled in mathematics, geometry, trigonometry, algebra and everything else for that matter.  Every year he would win the ten dollar gold piece in grammar school.  The only year he didn’t win was because the poor girl who always rated second was given the award because the school officials “wanted to be fair,” or political, about it.

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Robert (far left) and his siblings Austin, Michael, Jacob, Christopher, Gertrude, and John, in the garden at Silvermine, c. 1935

Bobby was also courageous even though he was gentle and never fought, that didn’t stop him when he was called upon for leadership.  Once when we were teenagers out on Long Island Sound in a sail boat, a big storm came up.  We all but capsized when the first squall line hit us.  I was five years younger than he and was scared stiff.  But I was much impressed and very thankful when Bobby took charge and put us all to work: donning life jackets, stripping the sails, and heaving to into the fierce wind.  We weathered the worst of it and when the Coast Guard asked us if we needed assistance, we thanked them and let them know “everything was under control,” thanks to our skipper.

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Norwalk Harbor, pastel on paper, 1910, 7 x 13 in.

Another time just the opposite happened and we were becalmed and spent a pleasant summer night drifting across Long Island Sound.  I can still hear the slapping of the halyards against the mast as the boat rocked back and forth with each swell all night long.  In the morning we were perilously close to the rocky shore of Long Island but were very thankful for a tow by the Coast Guard back to Norwalk Harbor and our mooring and some of the concerned parents I might add.

Bobby’s basic philosophy (per forsa) was: “Chi va piano, va sano et chi va sano ve lantorno”: “Who goes softly, goes sanely and who goes sanely goes a long way.”

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Robert, oil on board, c. 1945, 12 x 10 in.
After working six full days as a draftsman for the war effort, Robert would would travel to Silvermine by train on Sundays, trudging home from the station six miles away.  The exhaustion of his long hours at work shows in his face.  Perhaps due to these circumstances, his father never finished the portrait.