Commentary: Springtime at the Barnes museum

Kristi Sadowski, Southington Public Library director

As the weather begins to warm up and the trees start to blossom, visitors return to the gardens at the Barnes Museum. It is the perfect place for a quiet stroll under the rose-covered arbors and by the bubbling fountain, both of which were installed as Eagle Scout Projects. Visitors may also choose to sit under the leaves of the magnolia or chestnut trees.

Three generations of the Bradley and Barnes families lived in this historic homestead for over 137 years and all of them took great care of the landscape. During the early years, the one-acre grounds were dotted with practical plantings—fruit trees, herb gardens, and a small vegetable patch.

In 1910, Bradley and Leila, the home’s last occupants, took the gardens to a new level of horticulture. Lush, flower filled gardens surrounded stone paths and the original (now replaced) arched arbors. Their hard work lead to The Bradley and Leila Barnes Victorian Gardens being featured in a 1922 issue of Country Home magazine.

Flowers and plants that can be found on the grounds at different times during the warm weather include poppies, irises, roses, day lilies, hostas, morning glories, bamboo and more. This year, thanks to the generosity of the Friends of the Barnes Museum, the gazebo, is getting a bit of a facelift through instillation of new columns, a deep clean, and fresh painting. Updates like this make the grounds a favorite backdrop for photography and portraits.

Willed to the Town of Southington in 1973, the homestead has been operating as a Museum ever since, preserving the history of our town for future generations and telling our history through the documents and artifacts from one of the town’s most influential families.

Those who want to get more involved with the Barnes Museum are encouraged to join the Friends of the Barnes Museum, a not-for-profit group that coordinates special events, volunteers at larger events, such as the upcoming Taste of Southington, and help to keep Southington’s history alive.

Funds raised by the Friends of the Museum go to repairs and improvements not covered through the operating budget. Prior to the gazebo project, the Friends provided for the restoration of the one-of-a-kind 1914 Steinway Pianola. Visitors, who elect to take a tour of the Museum, just may get an opportunity to witness and hear the antique player piano perform popular music from the past.

Tours of the homestead are available Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, and Fridays from 1pm-5pm, Thursdays from 1pm-7pm, and on select Saturday afternoons. Visit the Barnes Museum online at More information, including registration for the Friends of the Museum, can be found at

Kristi Sadowski is the director of the Southington Public Library. To learn more, visit them at