Norma Bartol: The long and winding road of Greenwich’s past
It used to be that years ago, we went skiing in Greenwich. Yes, we did! Believe it or not, we did have enough snow here in Greenwich.
On those days, my youngest child and I took advantage of the snow and took ourselves skiing on what is now the Burning Tree Country Club, in the back of where we lived on Dingletown Road. At that time, that land reached the back of our property. It made for some very nice skiing. Of course, that is no longer because since 1936, the land was opened to build Perkins Road.
I have two friends who have property on Perkins Road, so I spend time driving to see them, and also to attend meetings at the Burning Tree Country Club, which opened in 1966.
Perkins Road began in an interesting way, when the Walker family wanted to buy land owned by James and Katrine Perkins in 1936. Since then, some well-known families have owned property on the road, which has been widened and has been cut through the woods from Dingletown Road to the club. There are now many fine houses on the road. I was interested to learn this as a past resident of Dingletown Road.
The first folks who became part of the road were Mr. and Mrs. G. Herbert Walker. She was the aunt of former President George H.W. Bush. As the development of Perkins Road continued over the years, I would drive to see my friends and visit the club, and I can’t help but think that the development of the road in many ways is not that of Greenwich. But the Perkins Road folks have kept it practically a private road: Good for them!
Then there is King Street, rather the opposite of Perkins Road, which was designed by the Quakers. They built a Society of Friends meeting house in Glenville, where, during services, the men sat on one side, and the women on the other. The meeting house was destroyed by fire a long time ago, leaving the old cemetery.
The folks living on King Street in the old days were rich. Some of them were still around when my parents were living on North Street with my grandparents, but somehow they became friends with a family who had a farm there.
In those days, King Street was a country road — straight and amazingly wide for the old times. There were ancient stone walls covered with creeping vines on either side. Unfortunately, the great elms that once shaded the street were lost when the road got even straighter to accommodate the motor cars.
When I was reading about King Street, I was interested in the social goings-on and the changes made to the old houses.
On the other hand, some houses were described as having “the great open fireplaces of a century ago, furnished with ancient brass andirons, cozy as auxiliary heat, the living room of ample size, while they send out into the early spring air the pungent aroma of burning hardwood, just as they did many years ago.”
There are some questions. Was this land called Middle Patent the gift of Great Britain? Who lived on King Street? They were well-to-do folk. The houses were entitled to be called antiques, as many of the owners had been there since the earliest days.
I was interested to read that life was rather on the gay side with many parties. In many of the parties, friends and neighbors gathered on evenings, and especially on New Year’s Day when the refreshments were a marvel, including pickled oysters, a great favorite with the King Street group. They seemed very sophisticated to me!
Greenwich native Norma Bartol, a former Greenwich Time reporter and columnist, lives in the backcountry.