dining
0
0
0
Departments

 

0
0
0
0
0
0
0
0
0
0
0
0
0
0
0
0
0
0
0
0
0
0
0
0
0
0
0
0
0
0
0
0
0
0
0

Historically, Canton comprises industrial Collinsville, colonial-era Canton Center, rural North Canton, and commercial Canton Village. And while even as a whole it is the smallest of the Farmington Valley towns, it also continues to be one of the fastest growing, thanks to recent commercial expansion along Route 44 and the abundance of affordable, scenic land that has attracted many new residents and businesses.

The hub and heart of Canton is the village of Collinsville, formerly a thriving industrial center. Surrounded by steep hills and situated on the Farmington River, it is Canton’s distinctive downtown, the seat of the town government, and an artistic center that is continually adding new homegrown attractions. In addition, it offers some of the Valley’s most affordable housing.

Collinsville’s industrial history, championed by the once world-famous Collins Axe Company, is still evident in the many circa-1826 mill-style buildings that dominate this section of the river, some of which were converted to art studios, artisan workshops, and a fascinating multi-floor, multi-dealer antiques emporium — a unique attraction, luring residents and out-of-towners alike for some interesting shopping and browsing — after the axe factory closed in the mid-1960s. Indeed, investors continue to be interested in the Collins Company for development, and that interest has resulted in the restoration of a major section of the mill building, while the remaining 19-acres have been targeted for new commercial ventures and housing — a plan that has strong support from residents. The town also has hopes of drawing a private company for a Hydro Project that will produce hydropower from the river current.

Just up Main Street is LaSalle Market, an informal breakfast, lunch and dinner spot, well known for its variety of specialty sandwiches and country atmosphere. And across the street is Francesca’s Wine Bar & Bistro — a great place to relax and dine. And the old wooden train station near the Collins factory, now beautifully renovated, is a nifty little place called the Crown & Hammer, which offers food and drink that everybody crows about.

Just off Main on Market Street is the Canton Town Hall (c.1806) — its small auditorium home to the Farmington Valley Theater Company, an all-volunteer group. And down a ways is Creative Kitchen & Bath, which offers high-end kitchen and bath fixtures and designs and has expanded into the old Eaton Hardware space. Next door, Realty Works, a locally grown real estate sales and development operation, now occupies several storefronts.

One block up and occupying another historic brick building is the original Collinsville Savings Society, which, until not so long ago, continued the practice of filling out and stamping each customer’s savings account passbook by hand. Turning, you’ll enjoy a view of the quaint village green.

Also in the village is Collinsville Canoe & Kayak, where you can rent a canoe and take it out on a peaceful stretch of river right behind the store. Next door some local entrepreneurs opened Bridge Street Live a few years back — a nice 300-seat performance venue and restaurant, resuscitating a group of long-empty, interconnected wooden buildings which were home to the Miner Lumber Company until it relocated a mile north on RT 179. Nearby, beautiful Riverside Nursery is a must see (and if it’s close enough to Christmas, they’ll take your Christmas tree order over the phone and deliver it).

Traveling farther north toward Canton Center on 179, the landscape turns distinctively rural and ideal for a scenic Sunday drive. Several family-run farms, like Case’s, line the roadside and sell in-season produce, Christmas trees, and homemade canned goods, including pickles and relishes, while the village itself clusters around the First Congregational Church. Just ahead, at a curve in Cherry Brook Road, sits the North Canton School House, built around 1872, and the equally picturesque North Canton Community United Methodist Church, where every year local animals are blessed. Across the road, Cherry Brook Farm, another local landmark, is postcard perfect.

Canton’s original center — Canton Village — is located around the town green at the intersection of Dowd Road and Route 44. Here, the modern commercial strip that cuts through Avon and past the Shoppes at Farmington Valley narrows and slows down a bit, hinting at the Albany Turnpike’s historic origins, and here, all kinds of unique shops and restaurants (none too fancy) occupy a variety of wooden structures that used to be homes, taverns, or meeting halls. Anyone interested in flea-market chic will love them — especially shops like the Junk Shop.

A bit beyond the Green, the Canton Village shopping plaza offers shoppers and diners the Valley’s most eclectic array of independents. Stalwarts like Larsen Ace Hardware, Cook & Kozlak Flooring, and Bahre Real Estate have been joined by Valley Fireplace, Canton Indoor Golf, and The Cake Gypsy — a whimsical little cupcake shop with goodies to please kids big and small. A few chains, such as McDonald’s and Walgreens, make the plaza both fun and functional.

Just behind the plaza is the Canton Auction Barn, where you can buy fine antiques and sample delicious homemade pies on Saturday nights. Tucked away, off the north side of Route 44, is Roaring Brook Nature Center, which has nice walking trails, guided nature walks, folk performances, and programs for kids. And just behind the Nature Center are Canton High School, which ranked highly in Connecticut in the U.S. News & World Report’s Best High Schools 2015, and Canton Middle School, another example of the town’s commitment to exceptional education.

Is the growth and development Canton has experienced of late good for the town? Some think not, seeing it as a threat to the Canton’s staunch small-town character. But recent economic downturns have naturally slowed the expansion process somewhat, giving everyone time to relax, appreciate the benefits of the progress logged, and prepare for new opportunities to come.

Photo by Lanny Nagler