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Departures Article

Some excerpts from the Departures article of March/April 2009:

"We are going there to hide." The email response-from a NY art world heavyweight about his decision to buy a home in Litchfield County-was decidedly curt. And yet a theme emerged. Samantha Gregory, vice president of global communications for Tory Burch and an infinitely more forthcoming Litchfield County habitue describes a typical weekend at her home in the town of New Preston: We [her husband is weeds executive producer Roberto Benabib] leave Manhattan about 5:30 pm on Friday. We stop at GW Tavern in Washington Depot, where the owners always save us a booth. Saturday we get breakfast at Marty's coffee shop. Then we'll walk around lake Waramaug, stop by The Pantry for take out, go back home and read by the fire. Every Saturday at 7:30 we go to Oliva restaurant and I order the gorgonzola and caramelized onion pizza. Sunday morning we are back at Marty's, the maybe the Hickory Stick Bookshop, or the Smithy market for organic vegetables and a pie, then home again.

The county of Litchfield includes 26 towns and occupies the Northwest corner of CT. The landscape is storybook New England, with rolling hill, endless woodlands, green fields and streams. The most recent US census marks the area as the least densely populated in CT. The Litchfield list of names tells a different story. The County is undeniably packed with was used to be known as men and women of substance: Diane von Furstenberg, Philip Roth, Graydon Carter, Jasper Johns, Henry Kissinger, Anne Bass, Agnes Gund, Oscar de la Renta, Danny Meyer, Joan Rivers, Meryl Streep.

So just how did this 920 square mile stretch of CT with such a high powered citizenship and close proximity to Manhattan become the red-hot center of the simple life?

This is a place where George Malkemus, the president of Manolo Blahnik, breeds prize wining cattle at his Arethusa Farm in Litchfield. New York investor Terry Fitzgerald and his wife Libby, raise all-natural Black Angus beef at their Greyledge Farm in Bridgewater. The 96-year old Goshen Fair - tractor pull at 10 AM! Rabbit judging at 12! Woodcutting demonstrations at 5! -- is a mainstay of the summer calendar.

The novelist Dani Shapiro moved to Litchfield County full time 6 years ago, drawn partly because of its status as an artistic haven. "There's such a rich history," she says. "Alexander Calder lived here. Arthur Miller. William Styron. We have Frank McCourt, Larry Kramer, Francine du Plessix Gray, Milos Forman. Its a place where people who need to be connected to New York can be, while still feeling like they live in a small town."

Mennin and Shapiro are part of Litchfield's growing "expat" community, a group of young bankers, writers, artists, and architects who left New York or who grew up weekending in Litchfield County before deciding they wanted to be there full time. "It's not just about antiquing on the weekend anymore; people live real lives here," says Shapiro.

Former magazine photo editor Kathryn McCarver Root visited her in-laws in Litchfield County for years. She and her family now live in Roxbury, and she runs a photography gallery in Washington Depot called KMR Arts. The average age is around 40 something. They're ex-Hamptonites who now have two kids and want out of that scene. Others are lured by the size of the properties and the privacy that comes with it.

As much as locals insist that there is no regular social circuit, there are certain events that are well attended and regular haunts (the bar at the Mayflower Inn, GW Tavern, West St Grill) that are always packed. "Its social and sophisticated just not urban or flashy".

If there is a cause celebre, it is the mission of the land trusts. And almost every town has its own.It seems there has always been a strong local instinct towards historic preservation," says Schnitzer, "and it has extended into land conservation. Ultimately, its all about preserving a way of life and a beautiful corner of the world."

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