Updated on August 17, 2020
A Stroll Through Waveny Park
As summer keeps rolling on, taking with it bit by bit the late sunsets and early sunrises, we seem to treasure our staycation more and more. We didn’t go to Maine as is the norm most summer, but instead, we played tennis and explored our home state of Connecticut.
Along with the rest of the world, we are trying to make the best of 2020, a year stripped down to the bare basics. A year of quiet contemplation for some, and untold hardships for others. For some of us, it’s a bit of both.
Waveny House, also known as Waveny Castle and “the Big House” was entrusted to the Town of New Canaan by Ruth Lapham Lloyd in 1967. As with most big houses of that era, it came with an entire estate, which today, consists of 300 acres of fields, ponds, and trails. The vastness came in handy for the purpose of social-distancing.
You know what else it is good for? Racing with your eight-year-old. I even made it to his journal. See the look of determination on my face in the beginning and then compare it to my look at the end. I was this close to winning you see!
Remember Doc from Back to the Future and Uncle Fester in The Addams Family? Well, Doc aka Christopher Lloyd is Ruth’s youngest child and has fond memories of spending a lot of time in these woods with his pal Ricky, a German shepherd. Apparently, he used to paddle around the pond and collect snakes and bring them back to the house. Our two-year-old picked up a few pebbles and have since made a small pile in the trunk of our car. When it comes to collections, to each their own.
Back then, Doc had 450 acres of wilderness to explore and almost no interaction with neighbors. In the interview that I read, he doesn’t mention coyotes (we saw a sign for them) but he does talk about his fascination with snakes. Had there been a chance encounter with either species, we would have been equally terrified and may have unanimously voted to stay indoors the rest of summer.
Later on, his mother, Ruth, gave away parts of the land to the Talmadge Hill train station, the Waveny Health Care Center and New Canaan High School. From what I understand, she was charitable by nature, as she also donated $750,000 to the New Canaan Library and $3 million to the Metropolitan Museum of Art. This was in the 1970s, when the Met was facing financial hardships. If nothing, I am thankful to her for saving a place like the Met, which is entangled with a lot of happy memories, and boy, do we need those more than ever now!
Waveny Park was owned by Thomas Wells Hall from 1894 to 1904. In 1904, Ruth’s father, Lewis Henry Lapham, director of United States Leather and a co-founder of the Texaco Oil Company, bought the property as a summer estate, renamed it Waveny, and expanded it from 280 acres to 450 acres.
If you are wondering why the Laphams renamed it Waveny, it’s because their ancestry can be traced back to Devonshire in southwestern England, wherein flowed the Waveney River, and so Lewis Henry Lapham’s wife Antoinette named it the Waveny Farm.
The only wildlife we encountered was a kaleidoscope of butterflies in the garden pictured above, and on our way back, it wasn’t easy reaching a consensus on the exact number of butterflies we saw. Two-year-old said 3 and eight-year-old maintained a strong 20.
If you happen to go there for a stroll, let me know how many butterflies you encounter.