In 1922 Theodate Pope Riddle brought her medieval architectural vision to Connecticut. She carefully chose this site for her all-boys school.
It had to be within the forest. Theodate wanted it to be sacred and other worldly. Over rivers, through woods, a winding road, through dense forest. A school built by a woman who related to boys more than girls. An intuitive woman who did not care about raised eyebrows.
She found Old Farms Road and purchased the 900 acres around it. There, this remarkable and historic woman of the roaring 20s, a leader of craftsmen, built her enclave. Her dream place. Her boys school.
Now, 100 years later, custodians of her sacred place fell short of upholding her wishes. “Do not deface the forest and park” she stated in her deed of trust. And “fell no tree that is not dead.” How many of us read her biographies?
Land, development, modernization. The same forces that threatened all the areas that are now our priceless national parks.
As the decades and centuries go by these small remaining enclaves of natural unmolested beauty will be taken from future generations to enjoy. One by one. By the bulldozer. For Theodate, a catastrophe.
In the Avon Special Town Council meeting of Nov. 7, 2022, now on YouTube you can see citizen after citizen desperately pleading no! Penny Woodford put it best exactly one hour into the meeting in her moving plea at 1:00:00. But none in power truly listened to the heart of what was being said. State statute 9-369b was circumvented. Money and blind forces win. The park is defaced, the trees are felled and die. A straighter, flatter, wider and even safer road will be built. What was magical will become banal.
Cars can go faster on it though. Safety never was the impetus. After all, the cars will all move by computer guidance soon and nothing was ever done about speeding on this road before.
I do not know exactly what a sacred place is. I do know that driving slowly on a narrow winding country road to work makes me feel good. It makes me look forward to the beginning and end of the day. The trees seem to say, “stay with us, don’t go.”
Yes, straighter wider roads will save us time. Tell me, what will you do with your extra minute?
Joseph Gilberti is a resident of Avon and president of Systematic Automation Inc. in Farmington. He is a member of Avon Historical Society and volunteer.