Established in 1989 by an ordinance of the Common Council of the City of Danbury, the Tarrywile Park Authority is a nine member volunteer Board charged to administer, operate and maintain Tarrywile Park & Mansion.
Below, please take a moment to read more about the historic Tarrywile Park & Mansion.
With its hip-on-gable roof with multiple dormers, large tapering chimney stacks, semi-circular veranda with Doric columns, and porte-cochere, Tarrywile Mansion is a fine example of the "shingle style" Victorian-era American home architecture. As such, it was accepted and entered on the National Register of Historic Places in 1987. Situated atop a ridge known once as "Cedar Grove," on Southern Boulevard in Danbury, Connecticut, the sprawling 23-room "big house" was designed and built in 1896 (by the New York City architectural firm of Child and DeGoll) for Dr. William C. Wile, Danbury's first medical examiner and the principal benefactor of Danbury Hospital.
In 1909, Mrs. Wile was permanently crippled by a fall down the back stairs. An exterior elevator was installed for her, but the relative isolation of the house led to Wile's sale of it in 1910 to Charles Darling Parks, who, as President of American Hatters and Furriers Co. Inc., the nation's leading supplier of furs and hatting, was one of Danbury's great entrepreneurial successes. C. D. Parks expanded the property over the next several decades to include a farm, vast woodlands and what would become another National Landmark in 1987, the distinctive "Hearthstone Castle." Parks had begun life an orphan, experienced a youth of indentured service to an Iowa farmer, and returned East in his twenties to realize his own "American dream". He enclosed much of the original estate with a stone wall, created a lake and several ponds, constructed a greenhouse, and added a conservatory to the main house. He purchased the Castle as a wedding gift for his daughter Irene, whose reception was the first to be held in the Mansion. He acquired his property by buying up woodlands in the surrounding mountains. It is said that many a "mad hatter" suffering from the effects of mercury poisoning was put to work on the Parks’ farm. An experimenter, Parks fostered the development of new fur-cutting processes and of a nonmercuric carroting solution that eliminated the risk of mercury poisoning to employees.
At one time, the family holdings totaled well over 1,000 acres. It included one of the State's largest independent dairy farms, as well as cornfields, and peach and apple orchards. Faithful to C. D. Parks' vision and commitment to creating a place of natural beauty, his heirs (led by his daughter Jean Parks Davis and her husband Dr. Donald Davis, along with her sister Irene Parks Jennings Rathmell and heirs) held on to most of the property through the 1970's and early 1980's. In 1985 the City purchased the estate consisting of 19 buildings and 535 acres, which is designated for passive recreation, for $4.7 million. In 1987, the Women's Club of Danbury/New Fairfield in conjunction with the Charles Ives Center for the Arts, held a very successful Designer Showhouse at the Mansion to further the completion of interior renovations.
In the spring of 1990, the Mansion opened as a Community Center, where weddings, parties, business functions, service club meetings, etc. are held. Starting in 1990, and over a period of several years, the Woman's Club of Danbury/New Fairfield also completed the restoration of the Victorian gardens surrounding the Mansion. To date, fourteen of the property's 19 buildings have been restored, including the Best Friends Preschool, Carriage house, Gatehouse, and Farmhouse which are rental units with income generated going to the park to help with maintenance costs. The latter two buildings were renovated under a grant from the State Department of Environmental Protection as well as through City funding. The old hay barn, located in the farm area has been renovated for use as an environmental education center. Restroom facilities were installed in the barn allowing for greater use of this building by organizations as well as for park sponsored events. The silo, rebuilt in 2003, will be adapted for reuse as a gallery in the near future. And a pavilion, which will be used for educational activities and small events, will be built alongside the barn in the very near future.
The Greenhouse has been home to several Danbury Public School programs. The Before and After School Program grew vegetables and flowers which were planted at local schools, nursing homes and elderly housing. Presently, the Danbury High School’s “Garden Room” program occupies the space. This very successful Program is a horticultural learning center for at-risk students. The Tarrywile Park Authority completed an adaptive reuse plan for Hearthstone Castle in 2004 and in 2008 the Mayor appointed a Castle Task Force to guide the restoration plans.
July 1994 marked the official opening of the Tarrywile Park hiking trail system. At that time, the system included over 5.5 miles of trails, which were marked in the summer of 1995 in accordance with National Trail standards. By the summer of 2004, twenty-one miles of trails had been marked and a new trail map was distributed. An Eagle Scout established a nature trail walking tour around Parks Pond and The Western Connecticut Orienteering Club completed an orienteering map of the park. The club has also established a permanent course similar to one at Macedonia State Park in Kent. Orienteering meets take place in the park several times a year and have added yet another dimension to the park activities for public use. Both Immaculate and Danbury High Schools presently maintain their cross-country home course on the property. In June 2006 a pre-opening was held for the Ives Trail. This 17+ mile trail winds its way from Bethel’s Terre Haute property through Tarrywile Park and on to Pine Mountain and Bennett’s Pond in Ridgefield. Once officially opened, the Trail will allow hikers to traverse varied terrain and its many vistas along the way.
Two picnic areas have been established in the Park, one of which is located in the wooded grove off the lower Mansion parking lot. This project was supported through the efforts of the Danbury Jaycees, the Kiwanis Club and Duracell volunteer support. Additional picnic tables and a split rail fence were added to this area as well as the other picnic area located in the Mansion orchard through Eagle Scout projects.
In 1997, through a grant from the Meserve Memorial Fund, the park established an environmental education library. At present, the library is housed in the Mansion Conference room and provides the public with an opportunity to research all aspects of park flora and fauna. The books in the library are geared towards all ages from adult to preschoolers. In 2007, the Meserve funded the establishment of an artifact filled Environmental Center in the Parks Red barn which will further the Authority’s mission of environmental education. In addition the Meserve Memorial Fund also funded a conceptual plan of development for the Park farm area. In the spring of 1999, a gazebo was constructed in the upper Mansion orchard area. Funded by a Meserve Memorial Fund grant, it provides a spot for small lawn concerts, story hours, wedding ceremonies and family photographs. And in 2004, a mediation garden was established by the CAN organization headed by Phyllis Boughton, wife of Mayor Mark Boughton. This garden, which leads to and surrounds the gazebo, provides a space for quiet mediation and reflection.
The voters of Danbury, in November 1999, continued to support the Park and the conservation of open-space lands with the approval of the purchase of 100 acres of land adjacent to Tarrywile Lake. In August 2000 an additional 18 acres located near the beacon was purchased, bringing the total to 653 acres. Additional acres were added to the Park over the course of the past several years bringing the total acreage to 722 acres. A Children’s Garden was opened in October 2000 in an area of the Park once known for its beautiful Japanese Gardens. It was designed as a handicap accessible area of the Park and is used for children’s activities and environmental education. The Authority and its staff continue to work with the Danbury Public and Parochial School System and Western Connecticut State University to build educational cooperatives. Park volunteers and local outdoor recreation vendors conduct free hiking programs in the park and have introduced numerous people to the richness of the parks land, birds, wildflowers, and overall beauty.
The future of Tarrywile Park is bright. The Common Council approved the Park Master Plan of Development in April 2004. Many community groups have come forward to help establish community activities and to maintain the park and support its passive recreation theme. At the present time, the New England Mountain Bike Association and the CT Horse Patrol are working in cooperation with the Authority to patrol the Park in an effort to educate Park users as well as help with general trail maintenance. And the Authority has worked to re-establish the “Friends” organization to help with fundraising and programming.
We hope you enjoy your visit to Tarrywile and will come back again and again to discover all that the Park and Mansion has to offer. Won't you take a moment from your busy schedule to come and enjoy a bit of nature so unique to downtown Danbury! Perhaps hold a meeting or party at Tarrywile Mansion. Or plan a volunteer workday followed by a picnic for your staff? We welcome one and all to this magnificent place known as Tarrywile. We invite you to visit often to observe our progress in polishing this diamond in the rough into one of the largest municipally owned passive recreation parks in the State of Connecticut.