Hill-Stead is the first architectural project of Theodate Pope Riddle (1867-1946), fourth registered female architect in the country, early proponent of historic preservation and caretaker of the family art collection. Designed as a country home for Theodate's parents, Alfred and Ada Pope, the 33,000 square foot, 1901 Colonial Revival mansion has welcomed over 1 million visitors since opening to the public. Hill-Stead is considered “perhaps the finest Colonial Revival house and museum in the United States” (National Historic Landmark Report) and houses some of the most important Impressionist paintings in the world, including works by Mary Cassatt, Edgar Degas, Édouard Manet, Claude Monet, and James McNeill Whistler.
The Sunken Garden Poetry Festival began in 1992 in Farmington, Connecticut with a single poetry reading in the magical setting of Hill-Stead's Sunken Garden. Drawing huge crowds even that first year, this series has become one of the premiere and best-loved venues for poetry in the country. Featuring the top tier of American poets such as Billy Collins and Natasha Tretheway, as well as emerging and student writers from the state and region, the festival has given equal weight to the quality of text and the poet's ability to deliver an engaging, powerful and entertaining experience in the unique theater of the Sunken Garden.