History of the Park
Sherwood Island State Park occupies 234 acres of woodlands, wetlands and sandy beach on the Long Island Sound. It is in the Green’s Farms area of Westport CT.
Because the first parcel of land was purchased in 1914, Sherwood Island is officially Connecticut’s oldest state park — but it could not take the shape it has today until 1937.
Green’s Farms today, aerial photo
Chapter I. 1600-1800
In 1639, the Town of Fairfield was settled at a place the local Indians called Unquowa. Shortly thereafter, the “Bankside Farmers” followed their cattle to a remote area that the Indians called Machamux, “The Beautiful Land.”
The farmers owned and administered in common what was then called Fox Island. To the west of Fox Island was Little Island, owned by individual families.
In the 1700s the thriving community that grew there was renamed Green’s Farms.
Chapter II. The 1800s
In 1787, the Sherwood family settled on what used to be called Fox Island. During the 1800s, they farmed the Sherwood’s Island uplands and operated the gristmill on the Mill Pond. Many farmers shared the Machamux salt marsh.
In the 1800s, wealthy families built mansions in the Green’s Farms area, along and around Beachside Avenue.
In 1835, Green’s Farms became part of the newly incorporated Town of Westport.
Chapter III. The war for the park
In the 1900s, when the State was trying to acquire land for the park, the influential landowners in the area fought against it. Sherwood Island is called Connecticut’s oldest state park because the first piece of land was purchased in 1914, but it wasn’t until 1937 that the key parcels were acquired and the public access was assured.
What if the State had lost?
If the State had not won the war, what would Sherwood Island look like today?
First look at the 1932 properties map and then look at the development plans of the Sherwood Point Realty Company and Sherwood Island Company Inc. These maps were filed in the Westport Town Hall in the 1920s.
Little Island was part of a tract acquired in 1924 by Pinehurst Realty Co. That land, acquired by the State in 1937, includes the West Woods.
The story told here about the 23-year war was compiled by Marilyn Bakker, based on the William H. Burr papers donated by his grandson, William Burr, to the Fairfield Historical Society in Summer 2003. The collection number is B-112.
Based on this story, historian Jamie Eves wrote a fine article for the May 2004 Bulletin of the Connecticut League of History Organizations. Click here for a copy of the article. Its title is: “Beyond the Dry Highway and the No Trespass Sign: Albert Milford Turner, William H. Burr, Elsie Hill, and the Creation of Connecticut’s First Oceanfront State Parks, 1914-1942.”
Original publication: Connecticut League of History Organizations Bulletin, vol. 57, no. 2 (May 2004), pp. 9-11, (c) 2004 Jamie Eves.