Beacon Falls awaits historical status of Matthies Memorial Park

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The Matthies house on the island at Carrington Pond inside Matthies Memorial Park in Beacon Falls is shown Aug. 24, 2021. Jim Shannon Republican-American

By Andreas Yilma Citizen’s News

BEACON FALLS — Matthies Memorial Park is still in the process of getting on the State Register of Historic Places, which could result in grant funding to maintain the declining park.

Selectman Michael Krenesky, who is also the town’s historian and president of the Beacon Falls Historical Society, said he has already submitted preliminary information to the State Historic Preservation Office and is awaiting the nomination document to formally submit its request.

Stacey Vairo, a circuit rider for Connecticut Trust for Historic Preservation, recommended last year that historic preservation officials come down and evaluate the park as she feels it’s worth potentially being on the register. Two historic preservation officials, Public Works crew leader Steve Moffat and Krenesky took a boat in June to the island and toured the inside of the cottage, including the attic.

Krenesky said he planned to reach back out to state officials this week.

Michael A. Krenesky. Archive

The park used to be a summer retreat for Bernard Matthies, a wealthy Seymour industrialist. Starting in the 1920s, Matthies built the park by consolidating vacation property in Beacon Falls, Oxford and Seymour, and buying land owned by Yale University, Seymour Trust, and local farmers, according to a study done in 2012 by FuturePast Preservation for the Parks and Recreation Commission. The land totaled nearly 326 acres when the retreat was complete.

A 7-acre pond, called Carrington Pond, fed by a complex system of canals, ducts and baffles was created as well. He added a half-acre island with a one-and-a-half-story frame cottage, where he spent much of his leisure time.

Matthies deeded his 326-acre summer retreat to the town for $150,000 in 1972 for educational and recreational purposes. The price was a fraction of its market value as it received a $1 million offer from a local timber company, the study states.

About 55 acres of the land eventually became the site for Woodland Regional High School, which opened in September 2001.

The park and man-made island is suffering from a host of issues including the island’s walls collapsing, a deteriorating house, a non-functioning pump house and a depleted water table.

A study from TPA Design Group, a New Haven firm specializing in landscape architecture, civil engineering and planning, was conducted over 10 year ago that recommended over $2 million in repairs, Krenesky said.

First Selectman Gerard Smith said once the park could be added to the historic register, town officials could apply for grant funding, but that could mean opening up the resident-exclusive park to outsiders for 12 days of the year, which Smith and others aren’t a fan of.

“It’s kind of on borrowed time already and I would hate to see it crumble,” said Maureen Carroll, who was in attendance at the Board of Selectmen meeting on Sept. 12.