‘It Was An Amazing Place To Live’: Actor Christopher Lloyd Returns To Waveny House

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About 12 years ago, Christopher Lloyd, the actor, re-visited Waveny House, his childhood home in New Canaan and centerpiece of the sprawling property, now a beloved park, that his mother Ruth Lapham Lloyd conveyed to the town in 1967.

Keith Simpson and Christopher Lloyd in the Great Hall of Waveny House for the April 3, 2016 launch of a children's book inspired by the historic home and property, where Lloyd grew up. Credit: Michael Dinan

Keith Simpson and Christopher Lloyd in the Great Hall of Waveny House for the April 3, 2016 launch of a children’s book inspired by the historic home and property, where Lloyd grew up. Credit: Michael Dinan

It was a Fourth of July weekend, Lloyd recalled, and he was “sitting out in the field, and the fireworks were going off down near the parkway and I looked back and I saw all those faces and the people and they had a band playing and all kinds of barbecues going on.”

“And I thought, if my mother could come back and see that, she would feel that her dream was coming true,” Lloyd recalled from the Great Hall at Waveny House on Sunday afternoon, standing a few feet away from the recently restored floor-to-ceiling limestone fireplace that has greeted generations of New Canaanites entering the 1912-built structure. “That Waveny hadn’t been turned into gas stations and mini-malls—not that we don’t need those—but something that was preserved ‘in perpetuity’ so to speak, where the people who live in this area can come and enjoy what it offers. That’s a great pleasure, to come back and see that.”

waveny new canaans treasureHe got a good dose on Sunday, attending the sold-out launch of a children’s book, “Waveny: New Canaan’s Treasure,” written by town resident Arianne Kolb and illustrated by Nicole Johnson Murphy.

A max-capacity crowd of more than 150 picked up copies of the book, mixed and took photos with Lloyd, learned about the work of a nonprofit organization that co-presented the event with the town, the New Canaan Preservation Alliance, and perused contemporary photographs of the Waveny grounds by New Canaan artist Torrance York, while New Canaan Music owner Phil Williams entertained the crowd with live music from his band, Scavenger Trio.

Kolb said she was “basically speechless” with the strong response to her book launch, which was nearly sold out even before news broke that Lloyd would attend—a late and welcome development.

A 1930 Packard touring car was parked out front of Waveny House for the children's book launch. Credit: Michael Dinan

A 1930 Packard touring car was parked out front of Waveny House for the children’s book launch. Credit: Michael Dinan

“It’s so exciting that so many people are coming here to support this event,” said Kolb, who had been collaborating with Johnson Murphy on the book since last summer.

One of those supporting the event was Bob Seelert, chairman of the Waveny Park Conservancy, a nonprofit organization whose work includes restoring the park’s grounds to the original vision of the Olmsted Brothers, the successor landscaping firm to Frederick Law Olmsted that Texaco Oil Company co-founder Lewis Henry Lapham (Lloyd’s grandfather) hired after acquiring the New Canaan property in 1904. The conservancy already has unveiled plans for the pond at the bottom of the sledding hill and a new trail to help pedestrians get off the road (a different group, the Waveny House Committee, was formed to help determine future use of the building itself).

The Great Hall just inside Waveny House, ca. July-December 1917.

The Great Hall just inside Waveny House, ca. July-December 1917.

Seelert recalled that at the time he moved to New Canaan in 1971, just four years after Lapham Lloyd gifted Waveny to the town, the property included Waveny House and its outbuildings but little else that invited visitors.

“So when you take a look at what has happened in the 49 years in developing this as a tremendous, unique asset for the town, it differentiates us relative to all the surrounding communities and is testament” Seelert said.

“It’s just a marvelous legacy and to be able to celebrate it, and to have the son of the woman that did that, here, and to have this book that brings it to life for everybody in New Canaan, young and old as well, it’s just fantastic,” he added.

The Herter Looms tapestry in the Waveny House dining room as been returned to its prominent place after a restoration. Credit: Michael Dinan

The Herter Looms tapestry in the Waveny House dining room as been returned to its prominent place after a restoration. Credit: Michael Dinan

Accompanied by his wife, Lloyd walked through the rooms of his childhood home—including a dining room that now has its Herter Looms tapestry cleaned and back in place—posed for scores of photos with children and grownups alike, and could be seen chatting for a good while with Keith Simpson, a conservancy board member and successor landscape architect to the Olmsted brothers.

“I’m looking around and a lot of memories are coming back,” said Lloyd, who called Waveny home from the time he was a very young boy well into his 20s. “It was an amazing place to live. A very beautiful and extraordinary time. One of the things I enjoy the most is seeing it used and as well-maintained as it has been.”

11 thoughts on “‘It Was An Amazing Place To Live’: Actor Christopher Lloyd Returns To Waveny House

  1. I have so many wonderful memories of Waveny. I was a camper there for many summers and then I had the privilege of being a camp counselor myself. Even my children have heard time and time again stories about Waveny. In fact, I still know the camp song by heart…..”we’re the gang from Waveny…”

    I even had my first kiss out on the field. I can remember sleeping inside the castle on rainy nights. Oh and the dumb weighted by the kitchen. And there was a portrait on the wall and if you walked in either direction, it appeared that the eyes would follow you. As kids, we thought it was the coolest thing and of course spooky. Catching frogs in the pond was always fun.
    Seriously, it made my childhood seem magical.

    Thank you for sharing the story. Today, I live in Old Lyme. If I knew about the event, I would’ve loved to have joined.

  2. Waveny is such a gem and I’m grateful that New Canaan has it. I got married there years ago and it was fun to reminisce about that day at yesterday’s event.
    Great article!

  3. I loved just riding my bike there in the 70s walking around reading under the trees. Two special highlights: a once in a lifetime moment, performing on the terrace with the Walter Shalk dancers for the bicentennial, July 4, 1976 as a senior at NCHS. Then dancing on the same terrace nine years later with my husband,David, at our wedding reception, June 15, 1985.
    A magical place indeed!

  4. Great place. We had our post- Senior prom party there in spring 1968, the first NCHS class to do so. But as students at South School in the 1950’s and early 1960’s we were warned not to go over the stone wall into the Lapham property! I think there were cows in the fields!

  5. It was a very special place. I remember chaperoning the senior prom night there with my husband & several other parents. Al so going to baseball games of my son’s on the fields. We live in Savannah now & of course our 6 children are married & have their children now. But 4th of July was an event.

  6. In the seventies I had my first, and still favorite, job working for the Conservation Corps on the Waveny Estate, planting pachysandra, clearing the paths, and whatever was determined to help. This place was formative for me and glows in my memory as a haven for us: family watching fireworks, children flying kites, and teens having a place to be free and work back then. I had no idea Christofer Lloyd lived there as a child!

  7. As well our post prom party was at Waveny, NCHS class of 1970. That summer I worked as an assistant counselor with a youth summer program in the house. We used some of the rooms, the kitchen and grounds for our creative activities. I still have fond memories of those few short weeks before going off to college. Imagining what it must have looked liked lived in and full of activity, now to find out the Mr Lloyd could answer that question, makes it all that more real. May the community always keep it and the memories alive.

  8. I can remember first moving to NC and visiting Waveny in 1971. Ar that time, the swimming pool down the hill to the right towards the pond was still visable and not filled in. Up until I left for college in 1980 and back during the summers and winter; I walked, runned, and cross country skiied the entire grounds. No doubt, New Canaan would not be what it is without Waveny.

  9. I worked for the Conservation Corps at Waveny for two summers: ’76 and ’77. 8 a.m. – 12 noon, $2/hour. We had a blast and got to know the grounds really well. (Sitting in the dirt, planting pachysandra, helped.) Also remember massive water fights on hot days, including an epic one in the backyard next to the terrace. Great place!

  10. We are so lucky to have waveny and I am grateful to have all the memories…. Easter egg hunts, camp/ sleep overs, sledding, post prom, my wedding, my brother’s wedding, fireworks, funwith the dogs, swimming in the pool, sports practice, and so much more! I am grateful to the Lapham Lloyd family and the town for such a wonderful place to grow up with.

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