Narrow Valley Pottery Cottage, Great Hollow Road, Cornwall, Connecticut

 In 1921, New York socialite Charlotte Bronson Hunnewell Martin decided to build a little summer getaway in the woods of Cornwall, Connecticut. 

Together with architect Edward Dean, she and her husband Dr. Walton Martin created a storybook retreat surrounded by state forests, meadows, streams and waterfalls. 

Its towers and turrets and gargoyles quickly earned it the nickname Cornwall Castle. It has eight fireplaces and seven bedrooms (two for the staff) in 8,767 square feet.

As magical as her retreat turned out to be, Charlotte must have felt the garden lacked ornamentation worthy of the house. To fix that, she called in an Italian potter, Vincenzo Rondinone.

Vincenzo knew a good opportunity when he saw it. He liked the "basic, fusible clay" of the area and accepted Charlotte's job offer to become a potter-in-residence. (His brother Emanuele later did the same thing at the Abbey of Regina Laudis in Bethlehem, Connecticut.)

Of course, Vincenzo would need a place to live and work. Enter the Narrow Valley Pottery Cottage.

My rough map shows how far apart the properties are located. It's basically a two mile walk from Castle Road around to the cottage on Great Hollow Road.

The pottery was built in 1922. It's now a four bedroom, three and a half bathroom cottage of 2,979 square feet on five acres. 

Fittingly for a potter with messy hands, the front door leads right into a mudroom with a trough sink.

There's another sink in the mudroom's powder room:

Potter Vincenzo didn't wash his hands at a vessel sink on a live-edge wood vanity, though. His son Nicholas remodeled the cottage in the late 1990's, and updated it beautifully.

Nicholas brought in decorative elements from an old New York theater. 

The engraving over the kitchen door roughly translates as: Everything is completed with the sacrosanct name of God. You take a handful of straw and with the sign of the cross you light the fire for which you want very dry wood.

The living room features more of Nicholas' finds:

If it were mine...well, I'd make it an Italian potter's living room:

{Suzanne Kasler}

Two of the bedrooms are downstairs:

The other two bedrooms are upstairs:

This bedroom has a great view of one of the property's waterfalls.

The other bedroom overlooks the woods.

There's also a bonus room:

Another bonus room is in the old carriage house:

Vincenzo operated Narrow Valley Pottery for fourteen years, until his early death in 1940. The internet doesn't have many examples of work, but I did find a story about a local collector:

I also found a mention that Vicenzo's pottery was featured in House Beautiful magazine in 1933. I thought it would be in this June issue, because of its gardening cover:

It wasn't, but I got to read a cool article titled 'Why Not Utilize That Old Stable?' instead. 

I finally found it in the July edition:

The article is about "pot enthusiast" Charlotte Martin's summer home, aka Cornwall Castle. So where was her winter home?

When she was in New York City, Charlotte lived here:

She owned Turtle Bay Gardens, a row of 20 brownstone townhouses that were built in 1860. She and her  architect Edward Dean remodeled them around 1920. 

Edward also owned one of them:

They became a very desirable place to live. Famous residents have included Katharine Hepburn, Stephen Sondheim, E.B. White, Ricardo Montalban and Mary-Kate Olsen. (Sounds like one of those "who would you invite to your dream dinner party" guest lists.) Here's Katharine Hepburn raking leaves at Turtle Bay Gardens:

We've seen the outside of Charlotte Martin's amazing properties. Next week we'll see the insides. Cornwall Castle definitely deserves a post of its own.

The listing for Narrow Valley Pottery Cottage is here.

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