John N. Irwin II who married Jane Watson (daughter of the founder of IBM) inherited the present house at 848 Weed Street in 1957. He was an Ambassador to France 1973/74. His children John Irwin III and Nancy Irwin were brought up at 848 Weed Street. John told us of all his happy memories growing up on the property. His mother Nancy Watson Irwin founded the perennial garden at the New York Botanical Garden. Hence his love of flowers and his wish for the club to keep Irwin park as beautiful open space for all to enjoy.
In 2005, the Town of New Canaan bought the house, barn and the 36 acres of land after a town referendum.
Once the fund was in place the Irwin committee was formed. Initially there were 6 members – Katie Stewart, Alison Caesar, Weezie Reed and Cathie Pike with Shelley Emery and myself. But soon it was expanded to many interested members of the club and now we fluctuate with between 15 and 25 members. We welcome anyone in the club who is interested in working on the Irwin projects.
The next big push came to use Flexi Pave for the trail that winds around the perimeter of the park. The town had specified Black Top, but thanks to a major effort led by Judy Neville and many private doners, plus a matching donation from John Irwin, we finally raised the necessary $160,000 and the town approved the use of Flexi-Pave as the surface. This wonderful soft texture which drains so well has become a joy for all who walk there every day.
The Gazebo was followed the next year by the planting of 16 new trees –large maples which will eventually give shade at the ball fields, flowering trees, dogwoods in the dogwood grove – a big White Oak near the gazebo, and other trees in the triangles.
Lastly, in the fall of 2009 we were encouraged by the town to start work on the children’s garden which had been laid out on the original plans by Richter and Cegan. We researched other childrens’ gardens – specially the Enchanted Gardens of Winterthur. Then we asked Dick Bergmann to design us a maze for young children, and his drawings and plans exceeded our expectation. This maze has been awarded the Merit Award for 2010 from the American Society of Landscape Architects, the Connecticut Chapter. We are also awaiting perhaps another award as this maze is “Handicapped Accessible” and can be used by children in wheelchairs etc.
Next fall we are starting to think of doing something for the adults in the name of placing a special telescope on a stand which can be used to identify the many birds that use the park in the area beyond the gazebo. We would tie this in with a new bench, the children’s Bird’s Nest that again we can copy from Winterthur. We are encouraging the town to think of extending the flexi-pave trail so that it makes a loop around the park.The town is about to install a parking lot below the childrens’ garden to be used for the families of the baseball players.
May 11, 2011