TORRINGTON — Tom McGowan, a Realtor with Elyse Harney Real Estate, recently stood atop “Indian Lookout,” the name given to the home by Torrington conservationist, the late Paul Freedman on Mountain Road.
“There is something sacred to this place. It is a special piece of property for the right person to enjoy,” he said.
Indian Lookout, which sits on about 13 acres, has become over the years a special place for thousands of visitors, who come each June to marvel at Freedman’s and his family’s lifelong work of uncovering and preserving the hillsides of mountain laurel that covers nearly six acres. This year resulted in a stunning display of white, pink and soft red flowers that bloom in profusion on wildly branching bushes, some of which tower 15 to 20 feet into the air.
Paul Freedman died at the age of 97 in 2013. His wife, Mafalda “Muffy” Pagano Freedman, 98, died in 2019. They were married for 70 years.
When his parents died, their son Lee — the Freedmans also had a daughter, the late Linda Scharrenberg — continued his father’s conservation work on the property. He eventually moved into the family home that sits atop a hill overlooking the laurel below and offers stunning views to the west and north. Mohawk Mountain, miles away, can be seen in the distance, and there are long-reaching scenic views from the southeast at the rear of the property.
Freedman, now 67, has placed his home and adjacent property for sale, as well as a 110-acre parcel across the street, with another view of Stillwater Pond.
“I will miss the property and living here but I won’t miss the work,” Freedman said with a smile. He was standing on the front lawn of the 1,325-square-foot house, which includes two bedrooms, bath, kitchen, dining area and a living room with a view of the mountain laurel and distant hills.
“The winters are getting tougher and I just can’t stand the cold anymore,” he said.
The list price for the home and 13 acres is $319,000. The 100-acre property across Mountain Road is listed at $529,000. Buyers can purchase both parcels $729,900.
“This is a property that is for the person who can appreciate its beauty,” said McGowan, an actor who still dabbles at his craft while selling property in the Litchfield Hills.
“It is so unique,” he said. “Just the drive up to the house is something to behold, and such a surprise as you are surrounded by the laurel on both sides.”
Indian Overlook is also a wildlife habitat for many animals and a multitude of birds. During McGowan’s visit, a deer wandered through a section of laurel, while songbirds warbled away in nearby trees.
Torrington Mayor Elinor Carbone grew up in the city and remembers visiting the Freedman property.
“As a matter of fact, I drove by it a week or so ago,” she said. “Paul and the Freedmans family were such stewards of the land, and we are so lucky that we have people like them to preserve the beautiful areas in Torrington.
“We all owe a debt of gratitude to the Freedmans for making us remember that the laurel is our state flower and how beautiful our natural wonders are,” the mayor said.
Freedman has been fastidious in caring for the property. He also maintains the parcel across Mountain Road — a perfect site for someone wishing to construct a home overlooking that view of Stillwater Pond and the hills to the north. There are other areas on this parcel can also be developed.
Paul Freedman was a local conservationist and preservationist, and was a member of the Torrington Conservation Commission, the land trust, and the city’s Beautification Commission. He was also a driving force behind the creation of Torrington’s Christmas Village, to which he dedicated much of his time. He received multiple plaudits from state and local officials and agencies for his work to preserve the land.
Born on Red Mountain Avenue in 1915, Freedman grew up on Pine Street and loved to roam the hills, according to his son Lee.
He recalled that during his dad’s frequent boyhood excursions, Paul Freedman climbed trees to catch the best views until he found a property he would one day called his own. Drafted into the Army in 1941, Freedman was to be shipped out to Europe, but was held back and sent to Camp Lee in Virginia to run a mess facility when the Army couldn’t find a pair of boots to fit his size 12 feet, his son said.
Upon his return to Torrington, Paul Freedman, wearing his army dress uniform, approached a local farmer and offered to buy two aces where he would build a home that was finished in 1947. Mountain laurel grew on the land surrounding the house, and over his lifetime Freedman amassed more than 100 acres to protect the land from development.
In 2011, he tried working with the Torrington Trails Network and the city, in an attempt to sell the property to ensure that the unspoiled tract in the northwest section of the city would remain forever wild, but funding for a sale was never found, his son said.
Paul Freedman opened up his property for visits from the public for about 20 years, although the public was eventually not allowed in because of potential liability concerns.
“We had people from all over, really all over the world, come here,” said Lee Freedman. “We had thousands probably come during peak laurel season. It was a thing to do. People would go to church and then drive up here to look at the laurel. Some seasons it would be full bloom that could last a month if it was cool.. This year has been a strong bloom. Even when we stopped allowing people to walk the property there continued to be cars stopping along the road to look and take pictures.”
Flipping through Lee Freedman’s collection of scrapbooks a trip back in time, perhaps a simpler time when appreciating the state flower with the kids in tow was enjoyment enough for a Sunday afternoon. He has a letter from then Governor Abraham Ribicoff talking about the wonderful job Freedman and his family did in preserving the mountain laurel for all to enjoy; photos of visitors; photos of the family working the property and during the laurel bloom; and letters and poems from young and old alike about the loveliness of the laurel and thanking the Freedmans.
“I can’t demand that any buyer preserve the land as it is,” said Lee Freeman. “But I hope that the person or people who buy it appreciate what they have and will care of it as we did and preserve it for future generations to enjoy.”
Paul and Muffy Freedman would like that.