What Does this Photograph of the Farmington River have to do with Downton Abbey?


Farmington River Dam Site, about 1930. The Connecticut Historical Society, 1974.50.797

Inscriptions on the back of this 1930s photograph of the Farmington River provide quite a bit of information about it. The dam in the foreground is said to be in the same location as the dam for the first gristmill on the river, established in 1701. In the 1930s, there was still an active gristmill on the site, known as the Winchell Smith Gristmill. Smith, a noted playwright, invited the filmmaker D.W. Griffith to film a scene from the movie “Way Down East” there in 1920. The building was later a popular restaurant and bookstore, both now closed. I used to enjoy sitting outdoors there on a summer evening, sipping a drink and watching the swallows and cedar waxwings catching insects out over the river.

So what does all this have to with Downton Abbey? In an episode last season, the staff of Downton Abbey took the evening off to go to the new American film at a local theater.

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