TEXT & PHOTOGRAPH BY JULIE SENK
On the first Saturday of December, thousands gather in downtown Farmington donning fuzzy, bedazzled, and holiday-themed earmuffs. Chester Greenwood Day and its headlining parade honor the native son who, at age 15, loved to ice skate but was allergic to the wool used in hats. So he asked his grandmother to sew flannel or beaver-fur pads (sources differ) onto a wire form he could wrap around his head. In 1877, he obtained a patent for an improved version of the headwear, and later opened a factory in town to manufacture his “Champion Ear Protectors.” Prior to his death in 1937, the plant was turning out 400,000 pairs a year.
During his six decades making earmuffs, Greenwood also invented nearly 100 home and industrial devices, including a metal rake, a wide-bottom kettle, a wood-boring machine, and a folding bed; established Farmington’s first telephone company; dabbled in the steam-heating business; ran a bike shop; and constructed a striking 1896 Queen Anne just outside Farmington Village. A three-story octagonal tower with a bell-cast pyramidal roof dominates the front façade, which also features a wraparound porch with dainty turned posts, carved frieze boards, bracketed window lintels, and, on the uppermost story, arched window frames that resemble — earmuffs?