The Julia Berger/William Treiber Refuge lies between Newfield Road, West Road and Ashley Roads in Winchester Center. It abuts Park Pond for over 1400 feet. Containing 113 acres, it is the jewel in our crown. In the photo above our property is on the far shore.
There are three access points- from West Road, (a right of way on) Newfield Road, and the main access on Ashley Road, where there is a well crafted sign denoting the entrance. The Refuge is a complicated piece of property with many sides and angles.
Berger/Treiber was donated by two different individuals. One was Sherwood Berger, who was active in the Winchester Grange and led a rebuilding effort after the Grange burned down in the 1950s. The land for Camp Berger, owned by the Grange, was provided by Berger. Sherwood initially kept a summer home on Blue Street until moving to the Center permamently once he retired from his Naugatuck business. The other donor was William Treiber, a vice-president of the Federal Reserve Bank in New York. Treiber is credited with calming the financial markets (from his kitchen table) the weekend the Penn Central Railroad went bankrupt.
Park Pond was not always there. It was first built by Theron Bronson (1809-1873), the son of Isaac Bronson, reputed to be the largest landowner in Winchester. Theron owned a home and store on the Winchester Green, next to the Meeting House. He also owned a cheesebox factory, powered by water, on the Newfield Brook. In order to create a more reliable source of water, Bronson had a dam built of logs sometime between 1852 and 1868, and created the "Old Park Pond" or "Old Park," as local residents called it. An 1868 map of Winchester shows a Park Pond of less than half the acreage of today's 82 acres, and set back several hundred feet from Blue Street.
By the late 19th century, industries in Torrington were also interested in the water from the East Branch. Turner and Seymour had moved to a new location on Plymouth Street (South Main) after a fire had destroyed the old factory on Water Street, and the Torrington Electric Light Company had just started to produce electricity on Franklin Street. Before steam was used to power their generators, water was used to turn a generator, providing all of 50 volts of electricy. Later water would be needed for condensation purposes in their generators.
Turner and Seymour bought Old Park Pond from William Munsill, Albert & Anna Dayton and heirs of Bronson in 1889 with plans to finish a new dam by Oct. 1. Sometime later, when Torrington Electric needed more water, the Evening Register printed "if necessary the reservoir at Winchester, belonging to the Turner & Seymour Company and N. W. Coe, will be raised two feet. This will give 10,890,000 cubic feet of water. " In 1894 "improvements (were) being made at the Park Pond Dam by the East Branch Company under the direction of George Workman, President. The dam is being widened with dirt three feet, and is riprapped. The old tube which had been rotted out is being replaced with a new iron one, 12 inches in diameter." (George Workman was also the president of the Torrington Electric Company; N. W. Coe was the Coe Furniture Company.)
In 1907 the Torrington Electric Light Company bought land contiguous to or covered by Old Park Pond from Turner and Seymour, George Workman and Caroline Coe.
Needing ever more water, the Electric Company later purchased land on Norfolk Road in Winchester and built a 600' long concrete dam, 16 feet high, creating the 320 acre Lake Winchester, which fed a tributary to Park Pond. The dam cost some $50,000. It is not known if this was a wise decision, for by the late 1920s the Electric Company was already buying power from Falls Village and the Franklin Street generators were relegated to back-up usage. Torrington Electric eventually was absorbed by the Hartford Electric Light Company. In 1958 Helco merged with the Connecticut Power Company, becoming the Connecticut Light and Power Company. That company held on to the property around Park Pond until the mid 20th century.
About the names of some of the area roads:
Ashley Road is named after Dr. Dexter D. Ashley (1864-1949) who was, according to local historian George Beach, "one of the foremost bone specialists in the country at one time." Dr. Ashley's summer home, Ashley Acres, was famous for its' orchards – Beach wrote "people came from all over the State to get the fruit from Ashley Acres." When the house was destroyed by lightning Beach noted that "when it burned one of the best front doors in these parts was destroyed too." Probably Ashley's most famous patient was actor Lionel Barrymore. Barrymore was in a wheelchair in "It's a Wonderful Life" because he had to be- he had twice broken a hip and was so debilitated from arthritic knees that he could walk only with great difficulty.
There was also a road (now abandoned) going from the Center to Mundry Road that passes through our property.
According to John O'Brien's Winchester: Beginning of a Town, Blue Street was so named "from a sort of agreement made among the settlers on that street, amounting to a regular code of laws. One rule was that every-man must have his wood pile cut out by such a day in Spring, and every man must have his grain threshed out by a certain date."