New Canaan Now & Then: The Chichester Estate


Ponus Ridge & Greenley Road

‘New Canaan Now & Then’ is sponsored by Brown Harris Stevens Realtors Joanne Santulli, Karen Ceraso, Bettina Hegel and Schuyler Morris.

The property located at the corner of Greenley Road and Ponus Ridge was originally part of the estate of Stephen Chichester. 

In his will, dated November 23, 1841 the property was deeded to his son, James Harvey Chichester. The house was constructed in 1840. During the course of the construction “a crowbar was thrust into the ground in the hope of locating water with which to mix the mortar, a boiling spring was found, in this way. Which spring still supplies all the needs of the family.” 

The property was owned by Aminda Butler from 1900 to 1910. It then passed to J.R. Bradley and then to R.C. Clarkson. Bradley financed Dr. Frederick Albert Cooke’s polar expedition where the physician is credited with finding a successful treatment of scurvy. R.C. Clarkson added the South Wing (the north wing was also added to the original structure). Interestingly, the property at Ponus Ridge was not Clarkson’s original purchase. He originally bought 23 acres of other land but then changed his mind and purchased the property at 1293 Ponus Ridge. Sadly, R.C. Clarkson suffered “a nervous disorder” and took his own life in his apartment on 79th Street in New York City.

In 1920, the property was sold to Arthur D. Pinkham, a textile executive. At one time, Pinkham owned 1293 and the adjacent property, 1331 Ponus Ridge. He was a director of the First National Bank and Trust in New Canaan in 1932 and was also a member of the Ox Ridge Hunt Club in Darien. Mr. Pinkham was also one of the directors of the New Canaan Playhouse at its inception in 1922, along with John M. Karl (Walter Stewart was the Vice President). The Pinkhams had three children: Doris, Janet and Arthur Jr. 

The historical society received correspondence from Arthur Pinkham Jr. reporting that he was born in the house and that when his parents purchased it from the Clarkson family they received some furniture and items that Mr. Pinkham felt belonged with the house and its new owners. Mr. Pinkham was also the owner of the Greenley Tea Room property in 1942 (see April 5, 2023 Now & Then). 

In 1946 the property passed from Hazel Pinkham to Gerda Johanne Nielsen, at which time the Pinkhams moved to Park Avenue and Wilmington, Vt. The property purchased in Wilmington in 1941 by Mr. Pinkham included historic barns and the iconic “High Mowing Bridge,” built in 1949 for his sheep to cross from the farm to a pasture while avoiding the small creek. Arthur Pinkham died in 1959 in California and is buried in Wilmington Vermont. In 1960 his widow, Hazel, subdivided the Vermont property and sold off  258 acres, including the historic barns. 

When the property was sold to Gerda Nielsen in 1946 it included a 7.688-acre tract of land with buildings. The land description included in the town records state “Abuts Greenley Road on the South, Ponus Street on the West, North land of Norman J. Boots and east land of S. Bayard Colgate and land of Clarence and Anna G. Corner.” Ms. Nielsen was an artist of some acclaim, having studied at the Grand Central School of Art when she arrived in this country from Denmark in 1939. She also attended the Silvermine College of Art. The Nielsens sold the property to Elise Lapham in 1950 and the land records indicate 8.85 acres with buildings were purchased, suggesting the Nielsens acquired a small parcel of land under their ownership. 

Elise Lapham, wife of David Lapham, along with Jack Gunther and Mary Elizabeth (“Lib”) Katzenback, formed the New Canaan Land Conservation Trust in 1967. Ms. Lapham was an ardent philanthropist and was an active member of the New Canaan Garden Club until her death at the age of 99 in 2013. In 1960, the couple bought property on Block Island, Rhode Island and eventually purchased another 135 acres where they cut trails and planted trees, resulting in nine miles of trails, including a mile along the bluffs of the island. The area is known locally as “the maze” and in 1979 the Laphams donated conservation easements on most of the land to the state. 

Ms. Lapham became interested in bird banding and obtained her banding license. In 1967 she set up her own banding station on the island and in collaboration with the New Canaan Nature Center at her home on Block Island. The property was sold to Richard Boughrum in 1995.

In 2005 the property was sold to Nicolas and Carroll Yanicelli. Mr. Yanicelli has served on the Board of the New Canaan Museum & Historical Society. He was the recipient of the 2020 Distinguished Service Award for the New Canaan Men’s Club. In 2013 the Yanicellis applied for an exception to subdivide the property which was denied. The current owners purchased the property in 2021.

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