Tarrywile Park & Mansion Today

Tarrywile Park is a 722-acre passive recreation park, which is owned and partially funded by the City of Danbury and overseen by the Tarrywile Park Authority Board. The TPA’s mission is to provide a sustained balance of passive recreation, environmental education and historic preservation. The staff consists of two full time employees as well as two part time employees. Our current budget is approximately $369,000.00 which is partially funded through grants from the City of Danbury, the remaining funds are obtained through Tarrywile Mansion Rentals, income from the four rental properties on the grounds, Meserve Grants as well as the fundraising efforts of the Mansion office staff; the Executive Director and Event Coordinator.

picnic-area-overlooking-hayfields
red-barn-with-fall-foliage
silo-milking-parlor

A Hidden Treasure

Located approximately 1 mile from downtown Danbury, the City purchased the parcel from the Charles D. Parks Estate in 1985. It wasn’t a purchase that the city made willingly, the family had offered the land to the City and was turned down several times in fact. When the family looked to sell the acreage for a condo development, that’s when the neighbors took action and through a grass roots effort forced the purchase question to a referendum. The citizens of Danbury voted to approve* the purchase of 535 acres of meadows, forests, mountains, lakes and ponds as well as 19 buildings and all at a cost of 4.7 million dollars.

To date, fourteen of the property’s 19 buildings have been restored, including the Mountainville property, Carriage house, Gatehouse and Farmhouse which are rental units with income generated going to the park to help 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 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, rebuild in 2003, was to be adapted for use as a gallery, and a pavilion, which was slated to be used for educational activities and small event, never came to be due to funding being reallocated to other city projects.

*Read how the citizens of Danbury banded together to make Tarrywile Park & Mansion a reality in this article: Parks Property Purchase Committee

The Park consists of two basic areas; Tarrywile Park and Tarrywile Mansion.

sign warning of bird nesting area keep out of hayfield
harvest-dinner-at-mansion-during-fall-season

The Mansion was opened in 1990 as a community center for the City, providing a space for events of all kinds; weddings, birthday parties and other life celebrations, business and political functions and a variety of other public and private events.

Tarrywile Park provides the passive recreation component of the TPA’s mission. 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. Our trails are used for hiking, cross country running and skiing, snowshoeing, mountain biking and horseback riding. The park is home to the Danbury High School and Immaculate High School cross country track teams and has been the site of many Boy and Girl Scout events such as the Klondike and Camporee. Western Connecticut Orienteering holds orienteering meets and instructional classes at the Park and have installed a permanent orienteering course. The Authority hosts a variety of events throughout the year including; National Trails Day, Arbor Day (which we rely on our volunteers participation to help defray the cost of trail/tree maintenance) and our biggest fundraiser our Annual Harvest Dinner.

A recent survey of organized events and park users found approximately 75,000 guests make use of the Park and Mansion in any given year. This number continually increases as more and more of the public become aware of Danbury’s “Hidden Jewel” located right in their back yard.

wooden-bookcase-with-glass-doors

in 1997,  through a grant from the Meserve Memorial Fund, the park established an environmental education library. At present, the library is house 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.

environmental-display-of-nature

In 2007, the Meserve funded the establishment of an artifact filled Environmental Center in the Parks, Red Barn, which furthers the Authority’s mission of environmental education.

groom-waiting-at-the-gazebo

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 meditation garden was established by the CAN organization headed by Phyllis Boughton, former wife of Mayor Mark Boughton. This garden, which leads to and surrounds the gazebo, provides a space for quiet meditation and reflection.

tower-on-hill

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 nest several years bringing the total acerage to 722 acres.

Dr. William C. Wile

portrait of dr. w. c. wile

Mrs. Hattie Loomis Wile

portrait of hattie wile
2nd wife of Dr. Wile

Alice Buckley Wile

portrait of Alice Wile
Alice, daughter of 1st wife, Eliza Scott Garrison

The History of Tarrywile Mansion

The history of the Park and Mansion are very interesting and you can easily see how the characters blend into the history of Danbury. The Mansion was built in 1897 by Dr. William C. Wile. The name Tarrywile comes from the play on words; to tarry a while – Wile. Read articles on his vision of a Japanese Garden becoming reality and the celebration held upon it’s opening;  A Japanese Garden.

Dr. Wile, a veteran of  the Civil War who fought at Gettysburg and accompanied General Sherman in his “March to the Sea”, was Danbury’s first chief medical examiner and a major benefactor of Danbury Hospital. In 1909, his 2nd wife, Hattie, fell down the stairs sustaining a severe spinal injury and was confined to a wheelchair. An exterior elevator was installed for her, but the relative isolation of the house led Dr. Wile to sell the Mansion and move to downtown Danbuy. In 1910 the Wile’s sold the mansion to Charles Darling Parks, President of the American Hatters and Furriers. As a side note, the Wiles built a house at the corner of Deer Hill and West Street, the site of today’s City Hall.

Dr. Wile had one child with his first wife Eliza Scott Garrison of New York; a daughter named Alice.

C. D. Parks

portrait of charles darling parks
CD Parks

Mrs. Parks

portrait of eleanore parks
Eleanore Sofia

Charles Parks lived a hard life, his parents had died and his sisters were raising him, they sent him off to Illinois to live as an indentured servant. He left Illinois, even though his “master” had offered to adopt him, and came back East in his twenties to realize his own “American dream”. He established the American Hatters and Furriers Company which was the nation’s leading supplier of furs and hatting. C.D. himself was one one of Danbury’s great entrepreneurial successes.

He developed a carroting process in the curing of the beaver pelts that didn’t call for mercury to be used. Mercury was getting into the hatter’s central nervous system and causing what would forever be known as the “Hatter Shakes” and also coining the phrase “mad as a hatter” or MAD Hatter”. The “mad” in this case was not an anger management problem, it was a central nervous system caused by mercury poisoning.

C.D. expandedthe property over the nest several decades to include a farm, vast woodlands and what would become another National Landmark in 1987, the distinctive “Hearthstone Castle.” 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 acquired his property by buying up woodlands in the surrounding mountains.

At one time, the family holdings totaled well over 1,000 acres. It included one of the States largest independent dairy farms, as well as cornfields, and peach and apple orchards. The dairy farm continued in operation until the very early 1970’s. Faithful to C. D. Park’s vision and commitment to creating a place of natural beauty, his heirs held on to most of the property through the 1970’s and early 1980’s.

If you know the area, you can still see the stone walls and pillars that encompassed his holdings including; all along Southern Blvd to Immaculate High School, Pope John Paul Health Care Center and down as far as West Wooster Street, the fields along Mountainville Rd and Brushy Hill Rd and running almost to the Bethel Reservoir.

photo of cows, silo's and barn
black and white of hearthstone castle when the family resided in it
A time when the Parks family was in residence

Hearthstone Castle

Mr. Park’s also purchased the Castle known as Hearthstone as a wedding present for his daughter Irene. The Castle was built in 1897, the same time that the Mansion was being built, be E. Starr Sanford. He was a portrait photographer in New York City, his claim to fame was that he developed one of the earliest movie cameras. Sanford sold the castle to Victor Buck who was not so fortunate having declared bankruptcy. Park’s family members lived in the Castle up until it was sold to the City. The building now stands in a serious state of disrepair with a future that is in question.

Since the sale to the City in 1985, the City through the Department of Environmental Protection funding has purchased an additional 119 acres to add to the Park’s holdings. Many of the buildings have been renovated to provide rental income for the Park which helps maintain the park grounds and buildings.

Speaking of the future, the TPA has updated the Master Plan of Development for the Park and we present our plans for the future development to the citizens of Danbury and the Common Council annually in December/January. The plan calls for continued improvements to the Park, keeping the mission of passive recreation, environmental education and historic preservation as the continuing theme throughout the plan. The TPA would like to stabilize the Castle to make future renovations possible, they have plans for improving the trail system, adding much needed additional parking, building a picnic pavilion in the farm area which would generate revenue for the Park while supplying a much needed service to the citizens who can’t get space at the very popular Hatters Pavilion,  renovating the farm’s Red Barn Environmental Center to provide additional programs in the environmental education area, to turn the replaced Silo into a gallery that would showcase the farm’s history and act as a trail head for the Ive’s Trail and enhance the wetlands educational area where bird watching and habitat viewing are enjoyed.

As you can see, this is an exciting and also troublesome time for Tarrywile Park and the Tarrywile Park Authority, with our funding from the City being cut steadily each year it is more important than ever that local businesses and park users step up to support the park either monetarily or through volunteer programs. I urge you to come out and enjoy the park, your park, whether for a hike, picnic lunch or just to sit quietly and enjoy the beauty of nature and relieve some of the stress of our daily lives, all just minutes from Downtown Danbury.

I would like to thank you all again and hope that you will visit and observe for yourselves what a gem Tarrywile Park and Mansion truly is.