Hartford has the Wadsworth Atheneum.
If Lou Mall has his way, Westport may soon have its own Wadsworth Arboretum.
The RTM member has asked our board of selectmen to rename 11.84 acres on Stony Brook Road “the Lillian Wadsworth Arboretum.”
According to Mall, in 1959 Wadsworth sold land on the corner of Stony Brook and Woodside to the town — for $1. It was purchased for a school, which was never built.
This property, Mall says, “is a priceless gift to generations to come.”
In December 2013, nearby resident Dick Fincher wrote his RTM representatives about the property. He described damage done during a 2009 storm, and expressed concern about the town’s liability to anyone walking on the land. No action was taken, Mall says, due to a lack of funds.
In early spring 2014, 1st Selectman Jim Marpe asked tree warden Bruce Lindsay to inspect the property. He applied for and received an urban forestry grant. The Planning and Zoning Commission then designated the area as open space. Fincher and neighbor John Howe cleaned up the property, saving a beautiful Norway maple tree.
Now, Mall says, the land needs a name.
Wadsworth was born in 1887 in New York, and died at her Kings Highway North home in 1962. (Her great-granddaughter, Sarah Cronquist, lives there today.) Wadsworth was a philanthropist, artist and sculptor, and widow of industrialist Dudley Wadsworth.
As founder and president of the Lillian Wadsworth Foundation, she contributed to the Mid-Fairfield County Museum — now called Earthplace — and donated 62 acres to it.
She was also active in the Westport Garden Club, Westport Library, Society for Preservation of New England Antiquities, the Connecticut Antiquarian and Landmark Society and New York Horticultural Society.
The land Mall hopes to name for Wadsworth is heavily wooded. Designated as “passive recreation” space, its location adjacent to Earthplace makes it attractive to nature lovers.
“We have an opportunity to make this parcel the blueprint for neighborhood and volunteer involvement of funding, building and maintaining open space in Westport,” Mall says. “We need to respond as Lillian did, with clear thought and vigorous action.”
(Hat tip: Doug Fincher)