Snooping And The Baron

Are you weirded out by the term “the baron’s property”?

Newcomers to Westport probably think it’s a nickname for the land between South Compo and Imperial Avenue — some strange guy once owned it, he called himself “the baron,” and the title stuck.


There really was a baron: Walter Langer, aka Baron von Langendorff.  A chemist who founded Evyan Perfumes, he bought the estate in 1967.  He called it “Golden Shadows” (whatever that means), and lived there until he died in 1983.  It was not his only residence — I’m thinking Park Avenue and the Alps  — but he was there often enough to create perfumes from the exotic flowers in his gardens and greenhouse.

The place was off-limits when we were kids. The dude was a baron; we figured he had moats and drawbridges, plus Maschinengewehr-wielding soldiers ready to blast intruders back to Prussia.

One day after the town bought the land, I walked the property.  There no castle; in fact, the baron’s house looked quite ordinary.  Had it sat on a Westport road, not in a hilly forest, it would have fallen in the first teardown wave.

Ah, but inside — it was worse.  Bad carpeting, fake wood panels, window air-conditioners — “Extreme Makeover” would throw up its hands in disgust.  Sure, it was big enough for the octuplet family, but their current house is probably nicer.

I digress.  I meant to talk about the name: “baron’s property.”  Though better than “von Langendorff estate” or “Das Perfumenhausen,” it’s still a bit Teutonic for me.

Fortunately, a move is afoot to rename the land.  I can’t give away secrets — the winner will be announced soon — but the leading contender sounds both historic and New Englandy.

It’s not baronial at all.  That’s fine.  We’re a Fairfield County town, not a Deutschland duchy.

17 responses to “Snooping And The Baron

  1. A few corrections – Langer started buying the property in the 40’s. “Golden Shadows” was built on the site of the home of one of the early Westport artists – Angus MacDonall – who called his home “Topping Woods” You are right that Langer declared himself a Baron, though!

  2. THANKS for the corrections — much appreciated!

  3. Chip Stephens

    I remember the Barons North property, growing up, as the “sanitarium” with its multiple Victorian buildings and up to the mid 60’s its polio and rehab patients wandering the grand porches and the overgrown fields. A resident physician at the sanitarium Dr Gerow (sp?) owned the house on the north border of the property that had a pond that all of the kids and families around Evergreen, Gorham, Lone Pine and Tamarac would visit to ice skate every winter. Gerow’s pond was open to all then but sadly now is fenced off as a private property and has silted so that it does not freeze solid enough for families to gather if it was open.
    When the hospital closed the needle artists moved in trashing the old buildings and created shooting galleries that pushed the town to tear down the grand old buildings. Then to add insult to injury the town quietly made the property a DUMP for leaves trees and unknown chemicals buried in steel drums on the property. Thankfully that was cleaned up years later on our tax dollars with no accountability assigned.
    It was also interesting in the 70-90’s to watch the ornate fence disappear to the night, for scrap value I am sure, and then the surrounding rock wall disappear as the fad to build big rock walls around properties grew and rock prices rose. Ah scavengers, in a different time they were shot.
    It is nice to see families return to the property in the winter for sledding. And as we all know about the “Barons property” just like Liva snaps DOGS LOVE IT !

  4. Ah yes, the “baron’s north” — now called Winslow Park. That’s worth an entire post, if not more. It was far better known in its day than what is now “baron’s south” — and, like Chip, I remember the abandoned buildings and resulting decrepitude well. That’s why there are asphalt paths on random parts of the property — because it was once a beautiful estate.

  5. At the risk of sounding old fashion and like one of “those” people, calling it the Baron’s property was fun and full of mystery. I hate to see the name changed!

    From my 12 year old kid memory there was nothing greater than telling stories about who the baron was, and how he haunted the place. I had know idea he was still alive!

    On a recent trip back to Westport, I told my kids about the “Baron’s Property” and dutifully inserted the stories of mystery. It is part of childhood. My oldest (age 11) immediately said, can we go walk on the property. Up for the challenge! I will miss it. But then again, I am sure the kids of Westport will be able to come up with some other story about some other person and his or her old house!

  6. I hope so, Kim — and I hope there are still some old houses left for the kids of Westport to remember!

  7. Boo!!! Changing the name of the Baron’s Property is just another example of Westport’s ongoing lose of it’s history. What is next – license “Longshore” to some bank?

  8. Maybe a bank would have better luck if it changed its name to “Longshore.”

  9. There was talk back in the day that the Baron’s tomb had two spouts that were to eternally deliver Evyan perfume essence into the atmosphere. Was that true, and did it ever happen?

  10. Hi Wendy: That’s as urban a legend as I’ve ever heard.

  11. Drive over (it’s the cemetery on North Main Street that I can’t remember the name of) and check out the Baron’s tomb. You’ll see what I believe to be the spouts, one on either side of the….door? But there never seemed to be anything spurting from the spouts. Or spouting from the spouts.

  12. Yeah, but what’s it smell like?

  13. How do I know? I’m in Massachusetts!
    G’wan. Go give a sniff & let me know.

  14. Doug McCarthy

    My Baron memory is as an altar boy at Assumption church “back in the day,” serving at a mass and being given an envelope with $5 in it from “The Baron.” It was a Mass said for his late wife, on the anniversary of her death, and odd because beside myself, one other altar boy and the priest, no one attended. Rumor has it that White Shoulders perfume was named for the late Baroness.

  15. terry kuzman

    I was one of the lucky people who met the baron. I worked on the property with my father. We would rake up all the leaves and after shredding them would spread the material on the paths over the property. The compound was just a wonderful place and very beautiful. About 10 years ago I was in Wesport and came across the Baron’s tomb. It brought back pleasent memories and I went back to the property where he lived. I was sad to see what came of it. Lets hope in the future the town will bring it back to its original state. What a beautiful place it would be to take walks and just enjoy the quite.

  16. Ellen Ashton

    Just came across this site…wonderful and filled with memories. I sure do remember this property although we used to call it the Baroness’s. My friend’s father, Bert Gorham used to work as their gardner and took instructions from the baroness.
    When my brother Ken Smith, was 16 he and some friends broke into the property to swim in their pool. I remember my parents getting the late night call from the police!

  17. Well, I have a story. I am now 71 years old, but the summer I was 10 which was in 1950, I visited Golden Shadows and actually met the Baron and Baroness. I was a guest of a family in Conn. named Myers, who hosted a child (ME) from the Herald Tribune Fresh Air Program in New York. The father in this family was in advertising, and I assume Evyan Perfumes was one of his major accounts. At any rate, during my stay with them, their eight year old daughter, Linda, both he and his wife, and myself, all went to visit the Baron and his wife. The name of the estate AT THAT TIME was Golden Shadows. I have read, during my brief research, that Baron von Langerdorff purchased the property in 1967. This can’t be right (unless he and his wife were renting it.) I CLEARLY remember that summer and my age (10 almost 11), when we went to visit the Baron and Baroness. a very elegant lady gave my host’s little girl, and myself a gift box of assorted Evyan perfumes. I remember her saying to both of us, “Hello, my name is Evyan,” and shaking our hands. She did tell us the name of their estate was Golden Shadows.

    While the adults were visiting, the children (I have no idea who the other two children were) were left to amuse themselves in the garden. I remember eating cake in a gazebo, and I remember also having a laugh attack and saying that we would probably find a diamond in the cake. I remember coming home from this “vacation” well, that’s another story, and telling my mother the above. Much to my embarrassment (as an adult), my mother thought it would be a good idea to write them, and ask them if they were considering hosting a child from the Herald Tribune Fresh Air Program, please could that little girl be me.

    I remembered that they were Baron and Baroness Walter Langer von Langerdorff from Langer Town, Golden Shadows, Westport, Conn. Somehow the letter was received by the their secretary in their perfume factory in Manhattan. Their secretary called my mother and said politely that they were not able to host a child, but they would send my twin brother and I to camp (which was in New Hampshire) for the whole summer, and they also paid for all our camp clothes including the camp trunks. This was all well and good BUT then my mother decided by way of thanks that I should do something nice for them. The “something nice” it was decided, was that I should paint an oil painting of their estate. I did so, spending most of my spare time in my twelfth year doing this. I was not especially talented, and did not remember at all what their estate looked like or for that matter what the Baroness looked like. However, I did get feedback from the secretary describing Golden Shadows. It would have been nice, if I had a photograph, but I didn’t. My mother took my brother and I to the factory to “present this masterpiece.” My brother and I had to go up alone. I remember asking the receptionist if she was the Baroness. She smiled and said “no”. The baroness came out for the “presentation”, which looked ABSOULTELY NOTHING LIKE Golden Shadows. She did a good job of faking her shock, but not good enough. At twelve a child is pretty astute. At any rate they were very nice in doing what they did.

    Every time, I pass Evyan Perfumes the above, not the scent, is what it reminds me of.