Holiday in the Hills: Washington’s History as a Vacation Destination

Photo credit: Gabrielle Savoie @savvyhome at The Mayflower Inn & Spa

Washington, Connecticut has a fascinating history that goes back centuries and in a new series in partnership with the Gunn Historical Museum, we will be sharing stories, photographs, and artifacts about Washington’s history.

Learn more in the Gunn Historical Museum’s upcoming discussion, “Washington Inns, Hotels and Taverns” happening on Monday, September 20, 2021.
Register here today

Washington has been a destination for over three centuries. Throughout the years, it has continued to be a beautiful countryside escape for many city residents from surrounding urban areas where visitors come to enjoy the peaceful views of rolling hills, lakeside leisure, and small town charm. Weekend getaways and vacation stays in Washington started as far back as 1748, when the Logan family built their property on the Logan Homestead and later converted the home to the Rising Sun Inn, located at 6 Romford Road in Washington, Connecticut.

In 1847, The Hopkins Inn opened as the first of many to line its shores, and is one that continues to be in operation today. In the late 1800’s, tourism in Washington picked up significantly, in part due to the arrival of the Shepaug Railroad in 1872, which created a gateway to Washington and Lake Waramaug for out of town visitors.

Hopkins Inn

Left: A postcard of The Hopkins Inn, circa 1960. Right: Current day photo of Hopkins Inn which continues to be open today.


Prominent New York architect Ehrick Rossiter and graduate of the Frederick Gunn School, class of 1871, returned to Washington in the 1870’s and designed over two dozen shingle style and Colonial Revival summer “cottages” and public buildings for his well-to-do clientele in town.

Then in 1879, New York City wool magnate Edward Van Ingen and his wife Mary McLane became the first known summer residents when they purchased hundreds of acres around Washington Green and built their summer estate.

Left: A black and white paper booklet on the “Colonial Rest Home” featuring an image of the Samuel Leavitt home on 82 Green Hill Road, Washington. Right: A brochure from the Lakeview Inn.


“The heyday of Lake Waramaug as a resort was from the 1880s through the mid-20th century, when hotels and bars like The Casino and The Loomarwick became the destination for scores of summer tourists.” – Stephen Bartkus, Curator of the Gunn Museum in Washington


The Lakeview Inn opened its doors for the summer season in 1886, allowing for visitors to enjoy lake life from Memorial Day through October 1st and find escape from the woes of urban industrial life.

Left: The three White sisters, left to right: Esther (White) Nichols [the donor, Joan Larned’s, mother], Ruth (White) Putnam, and Adelaide White at the Lake Waramaug Country Club Beach. Right: Yacht Club on Lake Waramaug.

Left: Tennis Players enjoying the summer season in Washington in the late 19th century. Right: Children enjoying Lake Waramaug.


Around the same time, The Loomarwick Hotel opened and drew people in for summer activities on the lake, including boating and kayaking, along with sports including tennis and bicycling. And in 1893, philanthropist Edward Van Ingen commissioned architect Ehrick Rossiter to design Holiday House, a relaxing retreat along the Shepaug River for working class women living in New York City.


“From the moment the tired visitor steps from the train, the weariness of city life goes from him.” – The Lakeview Inn, c. 1900

Above: Postcards of the Loomarwick Inn on Lake Waramaug in New Preston, Connecticut.


Today’s globally recognized hotel resort, The Mayflower Inn & Spa, opened its doors in 1920 as a luxury destination for visitors. The property was originally the Ridge School, built in 1894 as a private school for boys, until it was bought and converted into an inn by former student, Harry Van Sinderen. In 1935, First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt was a guest at the Mayflower Inn.

The Mayflower Inn & Spa

Above: Photos of the Mayflower Inn, past and present.

Left: Letter dated 1953 from former First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt to Miss Helen Schwarz, of the Mayflower Inn in Washington, Connecticut. Right: Autumn postcard from the Mayflower Inn written by Helen Schwartz.


Learn more

Join the Gunn Historical Museum in their upcoming discussion group, Washington Inns, Hotels and Taverns on Monday, September 20th @ 10:00am at the Washington Senior Center. We ask that everyone attending this in-person indoor program to please wear a face mask. Register here today

The Washington History Club in the Morning is a program of the Gunn Historical Museum and meets at the Washington Senior Center to discuss the history of Washington, Washington Depot, Marbledale, New Preston and Woodville. All are welcome to join.


Visit the Museum

The Gunn Historical Museum is open on Thursdays, Fridays, and Saturdays from 10:00am – 4:00pm, located at 5 Wykeham Road Washington, CT 06793. For more information visit

All historic images property of the Gunn Historical Museum.