We meet again, dear readers. The more I research about the town of Winsted, the more I yearn to bring back the feeling of days gone by. I would love to go back to the 1900s and grab a soda at D.S. Watson Exclusive 5 & 10 cent store. Trolleys brought people from the neighboring community to Long Lake (later named Highland Lake) so they could enjoy a day of boating, eating, and dancing at the Lake Pavilion at Electric Park. In later years, Electric Park added a popcorn stand, shooting gallery, and a steam-driven merry-go-round. Tourists from New York would call the Pavilion “Little Coney Island”. Among other lake activities, a visitor could relax at one of the beautiful hotels, watch horse racing at Driving Park, go to a fair by the shores of the lake, or simply go boating in one of the quiet bays. The 2018 slogan #WinstedHasIt would’ve been appropriate at the turn of the 20th Century.
I learned about all this and much more during my first visit to the Winsted Community Bookstore at 414 Main Street, Winsted, CT, a mere 9-minute walk to the Little Red Barn Brewers. What the store lacks in volume, it more than makes up for with substance. The store is about to celebrate its 2-year anniversary. It was started with the generosity of Ralph Nader and is completely staffed by volunteers. The fine people who work at the store do so for the satisfaction they get from educating visitors about the area’s history, or finding that one perfect book to get you through a rainy day.
During the Saturday that I strolled in, I had the pleasure of meeting Virginia Shultz-Charette, co-author of Images of America, Winsted and Winchester. Over a cup of coffee, Virginia walked me around the store and told me the stories behind the pictures on the wall. Did you know that Winsted had an amateur baseball team that won the state championship in 1894? Or that the town had many forms of entertainment ranging from roller skating, an opera house, a music hall, and the Strand Theater? In 1926, the Strand showed its first “talkie” and the 3-day attendance exceeded 2,600. I highly recommend purchasing Virginia’s and Verna Gilson’s book. Not only will you learn about the history of the town, you’ll gain an appreciation of where the town was and the potential it has going forward. Sometimes you need to look back in order to go forward.
But it’s much more than a community bookstore. Numerous times during the year, the store hosts a guest speaker series. Go to their website to see the impressive list of people who have graced this space. Pulitzer prize-winning authors, national talk show personalities, candidates for the highest CT political office, Sierra Club, Audubon Society, and numerous local artists, authors, and civic groups.
Dear readers, this store really is a diamond in the rough. I strongly encourage you to go to their Facebook page and their website to learn more. For those of you who want an inside track to upcoming events, sign up to become a member of their book club. Once the LRB is open, the next rainy Saturday go to the bookstore, grab a book, and go order a pint at the LRB. Grab a seat by the window and feed your body and mind. If you follow my advice, your rainy day blues will melt away. In the background I can also hear the song, “You are my sunshine, my only sunshine, you make me happy when skies are gray”.
Cheers, stay tuned for future spotlights.
Little Red Barn Brewers