Residents who live in the eastern part of town (Old Greenwich and Riverside) are very familiar with the name Helen Binney Kitchel. Ms. Kitchel was very active as a conservationist in town. She was responsible for the preservation of hundreds of acres of unspoiled, natural land across the state.
Helen Binney was born on October 9, 1890, to Edwin Binney ( head of the Crayola crayon company) and Alice Binney. She attended the Catherine Aiken School in Stamford. In 1909, she married Allan Kitchel. Helen and her sister, Mary Davey, convinced their father to purchase 10 acres owned by George Boles, which he bought for $30,000. This tract of land was a marsh and flood plain with two tidal streams passing through it. The streams converged and emptied into Greenwich Cove. This wetland was exceptional with beautiful vegetation and water fowl. The girls wanted to keep it from being over-developed with residential housing. In January 1928, the Binneys turned that land over to the Town of Greenwich. It's part of what is now Binney Park.
In 1938, Ms. Kitchel, her mother and an architect purchased a 10-acre parcel of land on Harding Road around the corner from Binney Park. This was part of Laddin's Rock Farm. There are hiking trails through this area, which is known as The Helen Binney Kitchel Natural Park. There is no doubt that the efforts of Ms. Kitchell contributed greatly to the town's inventory of open space.
The list of her achievemnts is impressive. She was the first woman to serve in the Connecticut State Legislature. Helen served 4 terms from 1931 to 1939. Not surprisingly, she sponsored legislation to protect natural resources. Her efforts resulted in billboards being prohibited from natural areas, and hundreds of acres of land being protected all around the state. She was also responsible for Sound Beach being renamed Old Greenwich.
Ms. Kitchel is also credited with launching the Historical Society of the Town of Greenwich. She arranged to have the Tomac Cemetery (the oldest cemetery in town) cleaned up, and began researching the genealogy of those buried there.
If this weren't enough, she was the first Chairman of the Greenwich Point Committee from 1956 to 1978. This volunteer committee was responsible for preserving the unique, fragile and irreplacable shoreline which is used by a variety of people for many recreational purposes. In 1959, the Kitchels donated a holly grove to commemorate their 50th wedding anniversary. Sculptor John Knowles sculpted a bronze eagle, which Ms. Kitchell had placed in Eagle Pond in 1979.
Monument in Eagle Pond
Courtesy: Carl White 2005
The Garden Club of America recognized Ms. Kitchel by presenting her with the Southern New England Conservation Award in 1962. In 1965 she received the Margaret Douglas Award, the highest conservation award the Garden Club of America can award. On her ninetieth birthday in 1980, the Hanging Gardens at Greenwich Point were dedicated to her. The Greenwich Garden Club started presenting an Allan Kitchel Award, which she created to honor her husband.
Ms. Kitchel passed away in 1990 at the age of 99 years. She will always be remembered by those who use Binney Park, the Natural Park and Greenwich Point. Her anniversary holly grove is still flourishing. Wedding parties still use Binney Park for photographs. The sculpture still sits up on the monument in Eagle Pond. And the Town still seeks to preserve open land.
Much like the famous naturalist and author Rachel Carson, Ms. Kitchel taught us to protect and preserve our environment.
Thank you, Ms. Helen Binney Kitchel!