Westover residents enjoy the best of both worlds – the beauty of the “country” with the neighborhood’s private, natural setting; and all the benefits of city living because of its close proximity to vibrant downtown, all forms of commuting, shopping, schools and entertainment. There are also two beautiful parks in this quiet corner of Stamford; one for history buffs that includes a “secret garden” and the other for outdoor enthusiasts who enjoy the unspoiled beauty of nature.
Let’s start with a little bit of history. Fort Stamford, located on Westover Road, held historical significance during the Revolutionary War. Stamford was lucky enough not to be invaded by the British army as many neighboring towns were, but the threat of invasion was something feared by many Stamford citizens. In the fall of 1781, a Fort was built by the State to protect the Stamford-Greenwich area from British Loyalists or “Tories, and was completed in December 1781. General David Waterbury oversaw the construction of the 135 foot by 165 foot Fort that was manned by three hundred men. Thankfully, the need for the Fort did not last very long. Less than 1 year after its construction, in November of 1782, the preliminary articles of the Treaty of Peace were signed and on September 3, 1783, the formal treaty was signed ending the Revolutionary War.
Since 1783, the Fort Stamford land was owned by private residents. After the death of the last private owner, Augusta Goodbody, there was concern over the property’s fate and in 1972 the Stamford Board of Representatives approved the purchase of the property. In 1975 it was listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
Today, Fort Stamford is a quiet, beautiful park with a secret garden named the “Goodbody Garden”, maintained by the Stamford Garden Club. Over 30 gardeners spend approximately 280 volunteer hours from March through November every season. The garden is resplendent in annuals and perennials and a lovely spot for a picnic, quiet reflection or a stroll around the grounds and serves as a beautiful wedding backdrop.
The more well-known park in Westover is Mianus River Park,- 300+ acres of mature forest and dramatic landscape with acreage divided between the towns of Stamford and Greenwich. The Mianus River Park is enhanced by the beauty of the 20 mile long Mianus River. The River flows south-southeast from Bedford, New York over a dam in Cos Cob Harbor and eventually finds its way into the Long Island Sound. The river is a source of drinking water for up to 150,000 residents in lower Fairfield County and adjoining New York, making it particularly important to maintain a responsible compromise between recreation and preservation for users of the Park.
The Mianus River is also an extremely popular river for fishing. Each spring and fall, the Connecticut DEEP stocks the river with thousands of trout. There are fishing regulations in place from September 1st until the third Saturday in April allowing for catch and release only. From the third Saturday in April until August 31, anglers are allowed to keep a maximum of two trout per day. The park provides countless opportunities for other outdoor recreational pursuits, including: hiking, cross country skiing, mountain biking, and bird watching. Dog lovers are some of the park’s most avid visitors since your loyal companion is welcome to explore the trails, provided he/she is leashed at all times. You can enter Mianus River Park from the east entrance in Stamford off Merriebrook Lane.
The history of a portion of the Mianus River Park and the neo-Georgian mansion on the property begins with the scandal ridden and often tragic life of the flamboyant and internationally famous torch singer, Libby Holman. In 1931 Libby married tobacco heir Zachary Smith Reynolds. Less than a year after their marriage, Zachary was shot & killed a party held at the Reynolds family estate in North Carolina. Libby was rumored to be having an affair with her husband’s close friend Ab Walker, and subsequently both were indicted for murder. The Reynolds family was averse to scandal (unlike the Kardashians), and persuaded authorities to drop the charges and the death was ruled a suicide. The inheritance left Holman and her son Christopher enormously wealthy. It was during the 1930’s that Holman purchased 55 acres straddling the Stamford-Greenwich border on the Mianus River and the mansion was completed in 1938, creating the estate known as “Treetops”. Holman purchased adjacent parcels as they became available, expanding the estate to 110 acres. Today Treetops is owned by the Connecticut Department of Environmental Protection. Four Easements are held by the Stamford Land Conservation Trust, the Greenwich Land Trust and the municipalities of Stamford and Greenwich. My mother was Libby Holman’s social secretary for 2 years. She loved the high profile, artsy social gatherings, but her favorite thing about working at Treetops were the flowers – “ There were fields of daffodils every spring and the house was always full of fresh flowers which inspired me to always fill my home with flowers”.