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Living the snowbird dream at the Plainville campgrounds

The life of a snowbird is not necessarily a luxury and can be very attainable says Richard and Susan Bartholomew, especially in one Connecticut community.

The Plainville campgrounds history spans more than 150 years and at its inception served as a summer retreat for members of Methodist churches from surrounding communities.

Summer visitors came by train and carriage to spend time close to nature and reflect on religious, cultural and educational subjects.

By the 1890’s the campground was part of the national Chautauqua movement. Famous preachers, travelers and lecturers came to speak and on summer weekends thousands flocked to listen to their messages.

A substantial regeneration of the campgrounds has taken place and cottages on the grounds range in price from $20,000 – $87,000 with minimal taxes and maintenance fees.

Residents include blue collar retirees, accountants, medical professionals, government workers and teachers who set aside time in the summer to enjoy and improve their homes. Many residents, now empty-nesters, realized they could sell their home and buy a place in Florida and a Plainville cottage with money left over and become snowbirds spending summers with family and winters in Florida.

 According to Bartholomew, many owners “think of themselves as stewards of this special community who work to maintain it and pass it along to future residents.”

Richard, along with his wife Susan were first introduced to the tiny Connecticut community by friends from Palm Beach Gardens.

The Bartholomews have been married 46 years and have lived throughout the United States and Romania, but immediately fell in love with Plainville Campgrounds, renting an 800-square-foot cottage prior to purchasing their own cottage.

“She already had a summer home in Vermont and was having a hard time parting with the beloved family cottage … until she met Susan,” Richard said. “She knew Susan was going to take very good care of her mother’s home and that helped her make the decision to sell to us.”

The residents of Plainville Campgrounds take great pride in preserving their historic homes and in creating a community with like-minded individuals.

Cottage owners are admitted to the Campgrounds Association based on demonstrated good character and their pledges to use their talents to contribute to community life. According to Bartholomew this means participation in social events, committees, working groups, maintenance teams and other activities.

“Campgrounders gather regularly for weekday dinners, golf, trips, special events, non-denominational religious services, and other community-strengthening activities. Research shows this type of living actually makes people happier and improves longevity.”

Ideal location of Plainville

One of the big draws for the Bartholomews is the ideal location of Plainville which is situated next to Bristol, an old industrial community and now home to ESPN.

“We are 40 minutes to the coast, 20 minutes to lakes and just a few hours from Boston and New York City. We go to summer outdoor concerts of the Hartford Symphony and Springfield Symphony. We have incredible theater, music, plays and a lot of stuff for kids to do. Connecticut has such a rich history, and as an avid bicycler I ride a historic trail in segments that runs from New Haven to Massachusetts.”

However, come Oct. 31, when the leaves are falling along with the temperatures, the Bartholomews close up their cottage and head south to their southern paradise in Jupiter at the Villas of Ocean Dunes.

“We have the best of both worlds,” said Richard, who first learned about Jupiter from friends at diplomatic and military events they attended while living overseas.

“Many of these military and government folks were trying to figure out where they were going to live after they finished their overseas work,” Richard said. “They were very interested in Florida because of benefits to their children. We thought we’d live on the west coast closer to family but one look at Jupiter and we were hooked.

“I found out not only was Jupiter a well managed community where emergency services and healthcare are excellent, but we would be walking distance to the beach.

“What’s not to love?”

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