Recently, I wrote about the Mianus River and Natural Park in Greenwich.  This is just one of the many beautiful conservation areas in Greenwich.   Another favorite area is the Montgomerey Pinetum Park on Bible Street in Cos Cob. 

In 1880, Fred Gotthold, President of the Gotthold Company - a straw goods manufacturer - purchased 55-acres on Bible Street.  He and his wife, Florence, built the "Wild Acres" estate. This included an 18-room Mansard-roofed mansion, a guest cottage, laundry building, ice house, water tower, wood shed, cow barn, garage, gardener's cottage, chicken houses ands a small barn.  They also enjoyed plantings, which included a one-half-acre perennial garden, flower gardens, orchard, walled garden and 2-acre lawn.  There was also a 2-acre vegetable garden.  Brooks and ponds divided the property, and there was a substantial hemlock grove.  By the 1920s, the Gottholds decided to downsize and put the estate up for sale.

Colonel Robert H. Montgomerey, and his wife Nell, purchased "Wild Acres" in 1928.  Montgomerey had been a CPA, soldier in 2 wars, a university professor and a writer.  He was looking for a hobby that would be educational, create beauty and provide public enjoyment.  So he decided to create a "pinetum" - a collection of pines.  Since Nell was an artist, Robert had a field studio built with a landscape view.  He also had a primrose garden built, which spanned a brook.  Other plantings included forget-me-nots, grape hyacinth and barberry.  Over time, the estate grew to 125-acres.

Montgomerey made many improvements.  He added a greenhouse to grow fruit trees, which required a hgh roof.  A formal entrance with stone columns was constructed on Stanwich Road.  In 1930, stone retaining walls were built along the main entry drive.  Montgomerey had 850 species of conifers inventoried over a 2-and-a-half year period.  They were photographed with handwritten notes.  By the end of his life, he had donated over 200 species of trees to the New York Botanical Gardens.

Colonel Montgomerey died in 1952.  His wife donated the 125-acres to the Town.  The gift specified that visitors be restricted to walking trails, the park be used for the cultivation of arts and horticulture, and that the Town could sell off portions if necessary in the future.  Initially, the Town Meeting rejected the gift due to the expense of upkeep.  Supporters convinced conservationist Helen Binney Kitchell to speak to the RTM about the value of the land, and the meeting voted unanimously to accept it.  The Town made immediate plans to demolish all the buildings with the exception of one wing of the mansion.




Over the years, the Town has made many improvements to Montgomerey Pinetum. The property has been modernized to make it more suitable as a park.  Land was cleared to give a better view from the mansion to the pond.  In 1955 a parking lot was built for those coming to skate on the ponds. A new lavatory was added in 1956, and in 1958 the remaining west wing of the mansion was repaired.  The University of Connecticut developed some planting plans, and a rock garden was installed on the south lawn.

It was in 1957 that the Town created the Garden Education Center. It's purpose was to inspire public interest in better gardening.  Two-thousand square feet of classrooms and workspace was created and the greenhouse was expanded. A Town nursery was started to grow fledgling shrubs.  The State recognized the greenhouse as an historic structure in the 1990s, and in 1993 it was added to the State Register of Historic Structures.  As part of a Master Plan in 1999, an inventory of existing park features was completed, and in 2000 a plan was put together to improve the park by adding handicap access, and expanded parking.

In 2003, the Town acquired the Pomerance Property off Orchard Street, which is adjacent to Pinetum and added 75 additional acres of woodlands.  Then, in 2007 the Tuchman Property added 31 more acres.  It's now possible to hike the entire area.

Today Montgomerey Pinetum is a favorite destination for nature lovers.  Just off the flagstone terrace of the main building are beautifully manicured lawns.  The reflecting pool remains, and tulips, daffodils and azaleas accentuate the grounds.  Tree species include Weeping Hemlock and Japanese Threadleaf Maples.  Visitors can walk a short tree identification walkway.  Several high rock outcroppings provide a beautiful vantage point of the forestlands.  One of these is the Joseph Hartman Outlook. This feature is in the northern part of the park, and was named after a man loved the New England wilderness. A large picnic area is available for those who wish to enjoy a meal in the outdoors.  The Greenwich Audubon Society  maintains the Mildred Bedard Caldwell Wildlife Sanctuary, which is bordered by Pinetum Lane, Bible Street,  and Cat Rock Road, to the northeast of Pinetum.  There is a trail from the Sanctuary, which leads directly to Montgomerey Pinetum.  

Due to siltation, public skating at Montgomerey Pinetum has ceased.  It's still a fabulous place to visit year round.  The fall is especially colorful in the Pinetum.  Although it's closed from November 15 to March 15, it's opened most days from 8 am to sunset.   Hiking boots are recommended, and insect repellent in the warm months is a good idea. 


"Montgomerey Pinetum Park." Montgomerey Pinetum Park. Town of Greenwich. Web. 1 May 2015.

Montgomerey Pinetum. Town of Greenwich. Web. 1 May 2015.

Havemeyer Park Housing Project

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One of the most interesting neighborhoods in town is Havemeyer Park in Old Greenwich.  It lies just to the west of the town line with Stamford, and offers a contrast to the housing projects and new condos just across the town line.  Although the houses are basically the same style (Cape Cod houses), each one has its own unique character.  The houses were originally built to provide housing for the many Veterans returning from World War II


Originally, the land where Havemeyer Park was built belonged to H.O. Havemeyer. Henry (or Harry) was an industrialist and sugar maker.  He was born in New York City on October 18, 1847.  He studied at Bellport Academy on Long Island, then transferred to Bett's School in Stamford.  It's reported that he had a run in with the Principal, and left school permanently at the age of eight.  This was the extent of his formal education.  Since his family was well established, he became the President and owner of the American Sugar and Refining Company.  Havemeyer's nickname was "Sugar King".  H.O. owned a sugar plantation in Cuba, and shipped his sugar cane by boat to New York.  He cornered the market in sugar all over the country.

In 1888, Havemeyer bought 85 acres about 2 blocks up from the Boston Post Road.  He decided to build his "Hilltop" estate. The view of Long Island Sound was magnificent in those days.  It took 3-years for men to clear the land and construct the buildings.  This included a mansion, barn, 3 greenhouses, a gardener's cottage and an artesian well. There was no bathroom - residents had to use an outhouse. Havemeyer raised cows, chickens and pigs.  He grew apples, grapes, figs, strawberries, raspberries, blackberries, tomatoes and vegetables.  His pride and joy, however, was his orchids, roses and gardenias.  These varieties won him many prizes at New York flower shows.

Like many other Greenwich residents, the Havemeyer family lived a very rustic life  There was no electricity or running water.  Kerosene lamps were used for lighting. The roads were still dirt, and Mr. Havemeyer had to take a horse and buggy to the train station, post office and grocery store.  Actually, they were pretty self-sufficient when it came to food since they grew a lot of fruits and vegetables.  Havemeyer had cottages built on the estate so he could invite guests for the weekend.

It's a well-known fact that the Havemeyer family was very generous to the Town of Greenwich.  They bought and gave  the Town the triangular park in front of the Post Office where the obelisk now resides.  They also donated $250,000 for the Havemeyer School. Old Greenwich School and the First Presbyterian Church were also recepients of their generosity. Mrs. Havemeyer was a volunteer who supported Women's Suffrage,  and she belonged to the National Women's Party.

They were the first to buy Impressionist paintings by Degas and Monet and have them imported to the United States. (They were close friends of artist Mary Cassatt, by the way.) A large part of their art collection was given to the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York.  H.O. Havemeyer passed away on December 4, 1907.



It was after World War II (1946) that Gene Tunney became interested in the Havemeyer property.  Tunney was a professional boxer, and was the world heavyweight champion from 1926 to 1928.  He married Polly Lauder from an influential Greenwich family.  She was related to Andrew Carnegie.  Tunney had had an interesting life, serving as a Marine, working as a lumberman in Canada, and even lecturing at Yale University!  He was committed to providing housing for returning veterans.  So in 1946 he purchased 149 acres for $173,600 from the Havemeyer estate.  There were several stipulations, however:

 1.  Each lot must have a 60-foot front,
 2.  the cost couldn't be more than $10,000, and
 3.  the first units had to be finished by 1947

Tunney employed the Stamford Building Company to handle the construction, while Fairfield Realty handled the sales.  Arthur Starck, a friend of Tunney, helped organize a Havemeyer Park Builders corporation, and a sales trailer was set up at the corner of Havemeyer Lane and the Boston Post Road. Starck was named Secretary / Treasurer.

Initial plans called for the inclusion of a California-style (strip mall)  shopping center at the corner of Florence and MacArthur Drive.  This would include a Bradlee's department store, food stores, drugstores, etc. This never came about because the Town and residents were worried about traffic and the "unsavory" element it might attract.  This property was rocky, and not suitable for any kind of housing construction.  The Havemeyer Park Builders wanted to donate the property to the town, but officials were suspicious.  They considered the land unbuildable;  but the Town finally relented, and accepted the gift.  Surprisingly, part of the land was eventually used to build Dundee School! 

The average house in Havemeyer Park was built on a quarter-of-an-acre.  It was a Cape Cod style with 2 bedrooms, 1 bathroom, a livingroom, an attic crawlspace or unfinished attic, built on a slab and later full cellars.  Standardization helped keep the costs down.  They weren't well graded - owners had to plant their own grass.  Roads weren't paved at first.  The construction company didn't want to incur the cost of putting in roads, so the Town took them over.  The Town also offered to plant cherry or dogwood trees for $15 each.  This was a good deal.  Some residents dug up bushes and trees from the old Havemeyer mansion.  Eventually, the mansion was razed to make room for more housing.

In 1948, residents decided to organize a Havemeyer Park Owners Association.  This grew out of concerns for roads and traffic. Owners were concerned about additional traffic spilling out onto Havemeyer Lane from Stamford.  Representatives met with Stamford officials, who agreed to abandon plans for additional  roads to add traffic to Havemeyer Lane.  Since the association had no money or legal representation, it had to rely on the good will of people to preserve its neighborhood character.  Most people complied with requests from the neighbors and the owners' association.

Once the houses were built, they sold out very quickly.  Buyers were mostly veterans, who could get FHA mortgages through the GI Bill.  Only $1,000 was required as a downpayment on a $10,000 house.  Today, those houses would sell for between $375,000 and $450,000.  The Veterans were usually married with young children.  Since they didn't have a lot of money, most of the families would socialize with each other.  They organized Christmas decoration contests, Valentine's Dances, picnics, bowling leagues, tennis groups, barbeques, garden clubs, Girl Scouts and Boy Scouts.

Over time, the families would save money and move to bigger houses in town.  Havemeyer Park became known as a "starter community".  Older people looking to downsize, and other ethnic groups moved into the Park.  The population started to become more diversified.  Of course, some residents remained since they like the community.

Meanwhile, development just over the Stamford line threatens to change traffic patterns in the area. .  A newly-constructed condo complex (including an access road) includes a rotary that may change the flow of traffic on Havemeyer Lane.  Plans for a big box Home Depot structure near the old Cyanamid building were abandoned due to public protests. A shopping mall adjacent to Laddin's Rock Road could spill over the Town line.  There is plenty of land near Havemeyer Park that could still be developed.  

 The Park, which stretches roughly from Havemeyer Lane to Florence Road and Palmer Hill Road to the Boston Post Road, remains a thriving and vibrant community.  Residents take pride in their homes and property.  The Homeowners Association still watches over developments in the area.  Everyone is committed to maintaining the rural nature of the Town.  Havemeyer Park will always remain a unique part of Greenwich.


Havemeyer Park : Oral History Interview
Oral History Project. Friends of the Greenwich Library
Greenwich, CT : Greenwich Library, 2002


Historical Happenings

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Difficult Genealogy Case Studies
Saturday - April 18 - 10:30 am
Cos Cob Library

Anthony Lauriano returns to give you tips
on getting over the proverbial genealogy
"wall".  Free and open to the public.

27th Annual Landmark Reception
Sunday - April 19th - 7:30 pm
Greenwich Country Club

This year's program includes the plaquing
of 5 historical properties.  Fee and
reservations required.  Contact the Historical
Society at (203) 869-6899

More Difficult Genealogy Cases
Saturday - April 25 - 10:30 am
Cos Cob Library

This will be a continuation of the April 18
program.  Free and open to all.

Further Adventures in Family Research
Saturday - April 25 - 2:00 pm
Greenwich Library

Janeen Bjork will lead an on-hands computer class
on researching your family.  Seating limited.
Registration required. Free and open to all.

Mianus River and Natural Park

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Greenwich is very fortunate to have a number of beautiful parks available to its residents.  One of these parcels is the Mianus River and Natural Park located in northern Cos Cob just off Cognewaugh Road, 3/4 of a mile south of the Merritt Parkway.  It's part of the larger Mianus Greenway, and crosses over the town line into Stamford.  Greenwich controls 109.7 acres, while Stamford owns 110.3 acres.  Access is available to residents on both sides.  The many activities going on in the nature tract include walking, jogging, hiking, horsebackriding, fishing, and nature study. 

The park parallels the Mianus River. Hydrologists (water scientists) believe it used to empty into the Hudson River to our west.  However, during the last ice age and subsequent glacial retreat, the river was forced to turn south just below Indian Hill in Bedford NY.  Today, the river runs south/south east through the Mianus River Gorge Preserve, flows through Mianus Pond, over the dam into Cos Cob Harbor, eventually draining into Long Island Sound.

Historians assume Native-Americans were the first to occupy this area.  The river and land would be a great source of fresh water, game, fish and waterfowl.  When the European settlers arrived in Greenwich, they probably cleared the land of trees for lumber to build houses, and to provide farm and pasture land. After the Civil War, much of the land was abandoned.  Some of the land may have been exhausted from over-farming, and a good protion was rocky and unfit for agriculture. There was more fertile land just to the west. Interestingly, the land has slowly returned to woodlands, and you can see evidence of remnant stonewalls, wells, storage cellars and caves.

Toward the end of the 1800s, the Greenwich populace began to shift away from farming, and people started buying up land to build estates.  Greenwich became a "bedroom community" for New York City.  Wealthy and influentioal people began building in backcountry Greenwich and Stamford.  In 1928, the City of Stamford bought land from New York financier Robert Goodbody, who owned a mansion located on the Fort Stamford property near the Greenwich line.  Then in 1960, the City purchased another 77-acres called the "Old Mill Lane - Mianus Tract" under the authorization of the Federal Open Space Act. It was to be used for "passive" purposes -  meaning the natural environment could not be disturbed. 



On the other side of the town line, Greenwich got the opportunity to buy 109.7 acres for the bargain price of $500,000 in 1972.  This was the period of time when environmental protection became an important issue in this country.  It was one of the first efforts to protect open space in town, and set a precedent which still exists today.  By joining forces with Stamford, residents from both municipalities were able to enjoy the large conservation area that became known as "The Mianus River and Natural Park".  Although plansinitially called for the hiring of a Park Ranger, some felt the cost was prohibitive and the plan was scrapped.

This land, sometimes referred to as the Goodbody Property, is a great example of glacial topography.  There are numerous bedrock outcroppings and ridges created by the retreating ice.  Geologically, the tract presents several different types of ecosystems.  Two trails lead the hiker through two diverse environments.  The Pond Trail is a wide, well-graded path that leads to some lowlands, where one can find swampy wetlands.  Red Maples trees thrive in this type of environment.  So do skunk cabbage, winged euanimus, cat-o-nine-tails and pond lillies. One might also find Black Birch, Tulips, Red Ash and Tupelo.  This
environment supports such animals as salamanders, frogs, weasels, mink and otters.  It provides nesting habitats for ruffled grouse, pheasant, mallards, and songbirds. Fox, deer, coyotes and racoons also make this area their home.

The Oak Trail leads hikers to higher ground.  Oak and beech trees are numerous, providing nesting opportunities for Yellow Warblers, Crows, Sparrows, Blue Jays and Woodpeckers. Highbush blueberries and Mountain Laurel can be found, as well as open meadows.



As you can see, this is an important habitat for a variety of species.  It's been estimated that there are 100 species of trees, 150 species of birds and 250 species of wildflowers in the park!  You could consider it  "Nature's Classroom" or learning lab.  Beyond its value from a scientific point of view, it may even do something for the spirit.  Hiking in a wild, beautiful and diverse environment may do something for the soul.  Away from the hustle and bustle of our everyday lives, it may just bring you closer to nature, to your own roots. The quiet may give you a chance to relax, think.  It may make you wonder how we got here, and how we fit in.  

It makes me appreciate the natural parks we have here in Greenwich.

Thanks to the many dedicated people who have fought to protect these dwindling pieces of land.



Friends of the Mianus River Park:

"Welcome to Mianus River Park." Welcome. Web. 6 Apr. 2015.  Accessed 4/6/2015

Town of Greenwich, Parks & Recreation: 

"Mianus River Park: Accessed 4/6/2015

If you want to know what's going on in Greenwich, then you probably want to listen to our local radio station 1490 WGCH.  It's a quality source of information, and an important part of our community.  The station evolved as residents sought another source of news information besides the local newspaper.  We're very fortunate to have this service-oriented station, that focuses on the local community.


The station owes its existence to Walter Lemmon. He was a Naval Communications Officer, who was on a boat returning from Versailles after the signing of the treaty that ended World War I.  President Woodrow Wilson was also on board, and Lemmon discussed the idea for an international shortwave radio station with him. Lemmon never gave up his quest for an international station, and eventually started one. He was a man of strong character and determination. was technologically gifted, a good businessman and highly creative. He went on to become a prominent electrical pioneer and inventor.  

On the local level, Lemmon was involved with the Greenwich Broadcasting Corporation, which founded WGCH FM in 1948. The station office was located at the top of Greenwich Avenue between the last store and Pickwick Arms Hotel.  It was the old Greenwich Press building behind Neilsen's.  Although it operated for several years, it turned out to be unprofitable.  There weren't enough FM sets available, so hardly anyone was listening!  This coincided with the introduction of television, which drew a lot of regular radio listeners.

Lemmon then turned his attention to AM radio. The Greenwich Broadcasting Corporation applied to the FCC for an AM license; but it struggled from the late 1940s until it received the approval in 1964.  There were several reasons for this.  Since Lemmon already owned an international station, they couldn't understand why he wanted a local station. Also, stations in Danbury, Stratford and Madison were trying to obtain the 1490 frequency for broadcasting.  There was concern about interference from WHOM 1480, a station out of New York City.  Eventually, it was all worked out, and in 1964 the FCC granted WGCH 1490 its license.

Dayton Ave WGCH031.jpg



WGCH 1490 has had several different locations over the years.  The first location was on East Putnam Avenue in the storefront next to Milbank Avenue.  This was across the street from the Second Congrgational Church.  While the front entrance was level with the street, the building itself was two-stories, with a back entrance opening to a lower parking lot.  In 1969, the station moved to 90 Dayton Avenue. Managment appealed to the Post Office and got them to renumber the building to 1490 Dayton Avenue.  In addition, they sought and obtained the telephone number 869-1490.  This was a marketing stroke of genius!  Today you can still see the transmitiing tower which is located near the Post Road Iron Works on West Putnam Avenue. Eventually, a new tower would be erected at to boost power. Due to some financial difficulties, it was necessary for the operation to move to 71 Lewis Street, where it is now located.

                                                    CURRENT HOME OF WGCH RADIO AT 71 LEWIS STREET

The radio station has changed owners several times over the years.  Mr. John Becker owned the station for 39 years, selling it to the Business Talk Radio Network in 2003.  The national network moved its studios and corporate offices to Greenwich until 2006 when it moved to 401 Shippan Avenue in Stamford.  WGCH AM remained in Greenwich.  Then, in 2011, the Blue Star Media Group headed by Michael Metter and Jeff Weber bought the station.  Unfortunately, Metter had some legal difficulties and the operatioon was sold to the Forte family in 2013.  Rocco Forte had been the former CFO of Abate Insurance and AIA Risk Management Services in New Haven.  He had homes in Lyme CT and Sarasota FL.  The new operating group was known as Forte Family Broadcasting Inc.

When it first started out in the 1960s, the station had no problem lining up advertisers.  Although the station conducted surveys from time to time to determine listenership, businesses knew immediately that their advertising was paying off because people would start using their services.  The radio station also received letters and phone calls from regular listeners.  It was estimatedthat the station had 10,000 listeners for one program!  The primary audience was Greenwich, but there were also listeners fromWestchester and Long Island.  It's broadcast area was considered to be an area bounded by Norwalk, New Canaan, White Plains, the Hudson River Valley, New Rochelle, Port Chester, Rye and Long Island.  Unfortunately, WGCH had to cut its power back to 250 watts in the evening, so it dropped off the air for some places.  The station attempted to find a new location for its antenna to boost the signal, but had to settle for renewing its lease for the site at 177 West Putnam Avenue in 2002.


The station had to deal other problems.  There are some 30 radio stations broadcasting from New York City that compete for listeners.  On occassion during emergencies, there can be too many callers, inquiries and reports. Some broadcasters were terminated for different reasons.  Fires, storms and power outages have taken the station off the air.  Owners have faced legal problems.  The change in ownership has resulted in program changes - some unpopular.  Experienced and talented staff have been lured away to bigger stations. Changes in technology have changed broadcasting, and broadcasters have had to re-train to stay current.

Despite all these problems, the station today remains a community favorite. It has provides programming of the highest quality.  Rather than "editorialize", the station tries to present a balanced view of the issues.  It serves as a clearing house for information.  When schools are closed, or public meetings are cancelled, this is quickly communicated. During times of emergency, it can be a calming influence by keeping the people updated on police, fire or public utiliy progress.  Daily features include weather and traffic updates.  Although the emphasis is on local news, there's national and world news.  Some programs encourage listeners to call.  RTM and Board of Education meetings are broadcast entirely.  Special committee meetings of public concern are transmitted. 

Over the years, the station has presented a variety of entertaining programs such as "Fibber McGee and Molly", "The Shadow" and "Our Miss Brooks".  Music programming has included Italian, Greek, Country, Big Band, semi-classical and classical.  Less popular was a Rock and Roll segment and a Teen segment. Other special programs have included The Pet Patrol, The Swap Shop, and The Trading Post.  Sports programming includes Greenwich High School football, Red Sox and NE Patriots broadcasts.  Ex-Selectman Sam Romeo hosts a call-in show, while MaryAnne DeFelice and Darby Cartun have their own shows. Various community groups read Public Service Announcements for the benefit of the residents. Tony Savino handles the news, while meteorologist Bill Evans reports on the weather.  Bob Small, Operations Manager, does a fine job keeping everything on course.

Although other stations may have similar programming, supporters claim WGCH has a unique appeal.  It demonstrates a genuine concern for the community.  The reporting and programming is responsible, and the staff is talented and very able.  It serves the community in a very unique way.  Rather than compete with the local paper, it works with it, and respects its turf.  WGCH helps make Greenwich the community it is today.  As one person noted, we can't imagine what Greenwich would be like without WGCH.


WGCH: A Community Radio Station;  Oral History Project. Friends of the Greenwich Library
Greenwich, CT. : Greenwich Library, c1977

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