Op-Ed: Remembrances of Bristow Bird Sanctuary

As a young child in New Canaan after WWII, I had the privilege of living in the Justus Hoyt House on Main Street, where my mother and grandfather had been born, as well as generations of Hoyts dating back to 1770. The house stood directly opposite New Canaan Library. A bonus of living there was that my grandfather’s flower shop and greenhouses—S.B. Hoyt Florists Est.1908—was next door. My grandparents, Stephen and Anna Hoyt, lived on a property adjoining ours that fronted on East Maple Street. I had aunts and uncles and cousins up and down East Maple Street and Hoyt Street. One of the perks of being frequently in my grandfather’s orbit, is that when he made trips to the New Canaan Bird Sanctuary and Wildwood Preserve he would often invite me along. The Preserve was both a sanctuary and a mission to “Grampy Hoyt” who, as president of the Bird Protective Society of New Canaan, had solicited the funds from Mrs. Barend van Gerbig and other concerned citizens to purchase and fence the 16.8-acre property in 1923. Once through the entrance gate to this haven, my grandfather would engage in conversation with Clinton Bartow, the caretaker, leaving me to explore.

White Oak Shade Home Under Cease-and-Desist Has Curious Footnote in New Canaan History

The White Oak Shade home now under a cease-and-desist order after an unpermitted demolition of its second floor dates to about 1750, historic preservationists say, and appears originally to have belonged to a Canaan Parish family that earned a curious—and rather treacherous—footnote in the history of the town. According to New Canaan Historical Society files cited by Rose Scott Long, co-president of the New Canaan Preservation Alliance, the home at 251 White Oak Shade Road had been labeled at one time as the “William Reid, Sr. House.”

Records show that it has been renovated several times since the 18th Century, making it “difficult to discern what was original and what was fabricated to appear original,” Scott Long told NewCanaanite.com. One historical record also notes that the home at some point was “moved back from the road.”

A census records list unearthed by Scott Long indicates that in 1790—the year of the first census in the United States—the home was inhabited by a “William Reed, Jr.”

Turning back to the clock about a dozen years, to the American Revolutionary War—historians note that in Canaan Parish (recall that New Canaan, as we know it, wasn’t incorporated until 1801), one practice among patriots as well as Loyalists seeking to maximize value in trade was to drive cattle across Westchester County to trade with the British, who paid in coin rather than unreliable Continental paper money. (Mary Louise King notes in her “Portrait of New Canaan” history that Maj. Benjamin Tallmadge, among other heroic feats of battle during the war, in 1779 moved against that illicit trade.)

The year that Lord Cornwallis would surrender, in October, at Yorktown, Va.—1781—opened in Canaan Parish with “Samuel Cooke Silliman presiding over the trials of three men and a woman who had been trading with the enemy,” King writes.

‘A Small Purchase of Books’: Roger Sherman Inn as New Canaan’s First Library

“The people in this place have agreed, many of them, to set up a library and are collecting money to make a small purchase of books.” —from a Jan. 16, 1790 letter from the Rev. Justus Mitchell of New Canaan to Roger Sherman, his wife’s uncle

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Perhaps no commercial enterprise in New Canaan has garnered as much attention in recent months as the Roger Sherman Inn. For good reason. Since hitting the market at $6 million three summers ago, the Oenoke Ridge Road restaurant and inn has been the subject of wide speculation. After lingering on the market for years, a well-known developer materialized last fall as the property’s “contract purchaser,” with a plan to create eight (later modified to six) homes on a 1.8-acre property that, as-of-right, would have just one.

‘Lost’ New Canaan Landmark: The Lone Tree

“Some say that the original Lone Tree has died and been replaced by a new tree. Others indignantly claim that they have been looking at it for 50-60, even 80 years and that it is the same old tree. It is not a large tree, but apparently size is not necessarily an indication of the age of a sugar maple. At any rate, all agree that it has been a favorite trysting place for lovers ‘time out of mind’ and it bears many hopefully entwined initials.” —from “Lone Tree Hill” by Elizabeth P. McGhie, Feb. 26, 1948 (“Landmarks of New Canaan”)

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With few exceptions, the landmarks that New Canaanites associate with their town’s rich history are manmade.