Our Lady of Calvary Retreat in Farmington, CT
Though the historical records of the Town of Farmington, CT, we can trace the names of the inhabitants of this spot back to at least 1658.. Just a few years before that was the land of the Tunxis Indians. We know that since the 17th century a succession of houses have been built here. Somewhere between 1854 and 1866, Joseph Colton, who gave his name to the street, seems to have spent more money than he could afford to put up a large house sometimes referred to as “Colton’s Folly.”
Before long, “Colton’s Folly”passed to other hands; and then others. It is believed that around 1888, a Professor Davidson used it to house his summer school of philosophy. Another unverified report states that the house was destroyed around 1910. If so, it must have been quickly rebuilt.
In 1922 the owner, an artist named Harold Douglas, decided to sell the property to Marie and Richard Bissell. Before arrangements could be completed, fire once more entered the story. The Douglas house was totally destroyed.
The Bissells went ahead as planned with the purchase of the property. On the site of the burned house they built a large garage with two apartments over it. We now call it St. Gabriel House and some of the sisters are in residence there. The new Bissell residence they situated a little to the south and east. The Bissells moved in just prior to Christmas of 1922.
Their home is the one that was sold to the Sisters of the Cross and Passion in 1958 for the purpose extending their retreat ministry from Rhode Island to Connecticut. Our Lady of Calvary Retreat Center opened its doors as a center primarily devoted to parish based women’s retreats. With the help of loyal, hardworking supporters, the Sisters added St. Paul of the Cross Chapel and some small rooms at the back of the house in addition to renovating the house to accommodate retreat ministry. Our Lady of Calvary welcomed its first retreat ants in August, 1958.
In 194 the Sisters expanded the facilities to include a large lounge and 40 individual rooms for retreatants.
By the 1990’s it was evident that further space was needed. During the summer of 1999, after a successful fundraising drive, an addition took shape. This addition doubled the dining area, enlarged the office space and provided two additional break-out rooms used for massage and spiritual direction.
The 2007 chapel renovation brought to life a beautiful stone wall and a newly renovated space for prayer.
– Sr. Mary O’Brien, C.P.