Caryl & Edna Haskins Preserve
About Caryl & Edna Haskins Preserve:
A hidden gem, Haskins Preserve is tucked away in a lovely, quiet neighborhood off Compo Rd South. Mr. & Mrs. Haskins, both noted scientists, government advisors, inventors, authors, and philanthropists, left their amazing 22-acre estate in the middle of Westport to the Aspetuck Land Trust with the stipulation that a portion be sold to generate funds to create a nature preserve in their name. Caryl Haskins, also a pioneering entomologist in the study of ant biology, died in 2001 at 93. His wife, Edna who also studied ant biology died in 2000 at the age of 88. In the video below, Alice Dedorian, the Haskins’ personal assistant talks about their lives and who they were as people.
Origins: The history of The Haskins Preserve can be traced back to the Civil War era and Robert Gault’s purchase of land between Valley Road and South Compo Road. The Gaults built a small pond at the western edge of this property (the pond down the hill to the right) to support their farming; its water was piped to the red dairy barn, still standing across South Compo today.
Development: Local builder Sunderland Construction purchased land from the Gaults in the late 1920s and developed a nine-acre country estate that is today the heart of The Haskins Preserve. They constructed a 4500 square foot Tudor-style house with a square gravel courtyard in front, a lawn bowling court on its side, and a two-acre pond directly behind. A stone wall with gated entrances, bordering what was to become Green Acre Lane (incorporated in 1928), completed the estate.
In November 1944 the Haskins purchased the estate and by 1964 had expanded it to 22 acres through several other transactions. They developed the property significantly for their research and natural enjoyment. Their projects included:
dredging and expanding the lower pond,
piping water from the city water main into both ponds,
electrifying and irrigating acres of gardens,
constructing the driveway abutting the lower pond (to service the greenhouse).
expanding the greenhouse to over 4000 square feet.
By the 1990s the Haskins’ greenhouse included eight separate rooms, housing an aviary, aquariums, gardens and generators. The ponds and greenhouse were the focus of the Haskins research and breeding work on the property. In addition to importing plants and trees from around the world, exotic birds, fish and insects were brought to the estate regularly to study and breed.
Aspetuck Land Trust at Work: When Caryl Haskins died in 2001, he gifted this property to the Aspetuck Land Trust. By the time ALT took control in 2003, the property had fallen into disrepair. In addition to removing the Haskins’ house and greenhouse, the ALT pruned trees, repaired the stone wall and built hiking trails. The estate’s six acres north of Green Acre Lane were sold to fund the creation and maintenance of The Preserve. ALT’s 16 acre Caryl and Edna Haskins Nature Preserve property opened in 2004.
Today: Now nearly a century old, the ponds in The Haskins Preserve are following their natural course and silting in. Ponds in this eutrophic stage are rich in nitrogen and phosphorus, which supports their aquatic plant growth. Weeds, beetles and frogs have replaced the South American guppies that once thrived here.
Over twenty trees and shrub species brought to this land by the Haskins have survived to the present. A few are invasive, like the bamboo and Japanese wineberry growing near the lower pond. But most are ornamental trees planted around the property’s meadow. Many are labeled and a quick tour reveals species from Asia, Europe, and other parts of the Americas.
The gravel courtyard and bowling green can be found to the south behind this sign. The house sat on the rise above the courtyard with the bowling green to its south along the pond’s border. Down the hill to your right, follow the driveway up past the small pond to its conclusion to find the location of the greenhouse.
The trails at Haskin's preserve include a gentle, flat trail, circling the beautiful ponds, which is perfect to observe the abundant wildlife. The wooded trail transverses over the brook and is moderately steep in some areas. Both trails are short but offer glimpses of varied natural habitat and open space.
Directions & Parking:
Located off of Green Acre Lane, a private road off of Compo Road South, between Route 1 and Greens Farms Road. The preserve is on the right as you go up Green Acre Lane, surrounded by a massive stone wall with handsome black gates.
Where is it?
20 Green Acre Ln
Westport, CT 06880