The Beach Family of Vine Hill Farm

Charles M. Beach House, 11 Winthrop Road

The land known as Vine Hill Farm was assembled by Charles M. Beach beginning in 1859. The head of Beach Brothers Company, a chemical and dye making company in Hartford, Beach summered in a house on South Main Street just northeast of New Britain Avenue. (The house was built in 1850 and still stands today at 11 Winthrop Road.) Beach had come into money through his father, George Beach, who was the fourth president of the Phoenix National Bank in Litchfield, CT.  Beach built one of the biggest dairy farms in Connecticut after buying out six farms on the four corners of New Britain Avenue and South Main Street.

Charles E. Beach

When all of the property had been assembled, the land became known as Vine Hill Farm. A creamery was built on the east end of the farm and a herd of high-grade cows was secured. Since Beach’s cows were a superior grade, they resulted in the production of superior grade milk, which helped to cement Vine Hill Farm’s reputation as one of the finest dairying enterprises in the region. Still, the dairy business was a side venture for Beach and his family.  His son, Charles Edward Beach, would eventually take over family business (now called “Beach & Company”) and later served as chairman of the board of the Whitlock Coil Pipe Company.

A glass bottle that once contained Vine Hill’s “Clinical Milk.”

Charles E. Beach graduated from the University of Massachusetts at Amherst in 1882 and shortly thereafter took over the family farm. In 1885, he hired Frank H. Stadtmueller to run the farm. Stadtmueller was a native of West Hartford and a recent Yale graduate. Together, Beach and Stadtmueller create the certified milk business in Connecticut. Vine Hill produced “baby’s milk,” a hygienic milk achieved by careful daily cleaning of the over 200 cows, the milking tools, the milk pails, and the barns.  Baby’s milk or “Clinical Milk” was shipped in bottles by train all over the country and led to Vine Hill’s standing as a top notch dairy farm. In 1907, Governor Simeon E. Baldwin appointed Stadtmueller the State Dairy Commissioner, a position he held until his death in 1918. He was later also named the State Agricultural Commissioner.

Vine Hill Farm workers in their milking uniforms.

In its heyday, more than 30 men worked on the farm. They had not only the cows to care for, but bottling milk, making cream and butter, a grist mill, an ice pond, and a blacksmith shop.  Many of these men boarded in what is now the Sarah Whitman Hooker House museum on the southeast corner of New Britain and Main Street, which was also part of the Vine Hill property.

An interior view of the Charles M. Beach House, 11 Winthrop Rd. Watercolor by Frances Antoinette Beach, 1878. In the collection of Historic New England.

The Beach family had established very fine living quarters in the home on South Main Street (11 Winthrop Road), as evidenced by existing watercolors done by daughter Frances Antoinette Beach in 1878, now in the collection of Historic New England. In 1895, Charles E. Beach married Catherine H. Coffing, the daughter of Charles Coffing, a prominent farmer who lived at the house that still stands at 272 S. Main Street in West Hartford. The couple had two children: Charles F. Beach in 1896 and Thomas Coffing Beach in 1899. In 1900, Charles E. Beach built an 8,000 square foot mansion on the hill on the east side of South Main St., just northeast of New Britain Ave. (today 18 Brightwood Lane). It is a shining example of Shingle style architecture.

A vintage view of the Charles E. Beach house in snow, looking at the south side of the house and the ‘porte cochere’ (a roofed area over a driveway and entrance to a house).

According to a 1910 census record, Charles E. Beach lived in the home with his two sons, sisters Mary, Frances, and Edith, one Irish servant and one German servant (his wife Catherine had died in 1900 at the age of 31, possibly from complications from the birth of their second son). During World War I, the Beach family was very involved in the war effort: Charles E. Beach headed the Red Cross and his sisters held fundraisers and Liberty Loan drives, like a French Market they hosted on the farm that drew 1,000 people.

After Charles M. Beach’s death in 1910 and the turbulent years proceeding World War I, production on the farm declined. Farm hands joined the war effort or left agricultural jobs for factory work. Bloomfield’s Woodford Farm gradually took over as the area’s leading producer of baby’s milk.

As the farm declined, sections of Vine Hill Farm were parceled off. The largest part – some 30 acres – was given to the Town of West Hartford by the Beach family to create Beachland Park in 1932.

The Beach sisters: Harriet, Frances, Edith and Mary. Harriet is the only one who married.

Charles E. Beach died in 1940, leaving the estate to his surviving two sisters: Mary and Edith. Mary died in 1946, followed by Edith in 1948, and the estate was given to Charles E. Beach’s son, Charles Frederick, who had grown up in the house. Charles F. Beach sold the property and the land was subdivided into new residential developments east of the property to meet the need for more affordable housing to accommodate factory workers who had come to the Elmwood section of West Hartford during World War II.

Today, the Charles E. Beach House at 18 Brightwood Lane has been lovingly preserved by its owners of the past 30 years. It is currently on the market! For more info, contact Deb Ortega at Debra.Ortega@Raveis.com or (860) 977-6004.

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