Seth Low Pierrepont
Tuesday, May 08, 2018
Seth Low Pierrepont:
The Man of the Park and Pond
Seth Low Pierrepont gave much to Ridgefield during his lifetime and even more in his death. One of the town’s wealthiest citizens, he was also among the most generous, and the 314-acre Pierrepont State Park in north-central Ridgefield, part of his large estate, was his bequest.
Mr. Pierrepont was born in 1884 in Brooklyn, N.Y., a nephew of New York mayor and Columbia University president Seth Low. He was a Columbia graduate who was in the diplomatic service in Portugal, Italy, France, and Chile before becoming chief of the Latin-American Division of the U.S. State Department from 1911 until 1913.
Mr. Pierrepont was on domestic duty in the Navy during World War I and, in 1921 and 1922, was assistant secretary general of the Washington Conference on Arms Limitations.
He retired from the diplomatic service in 1913 and came to Ridgefield that year, building Twixthills, his home on Barlow Mountain. He acquired various parcels of farmland, sometimes complete with houses which he provided for his employees, and assembled an estate of more than 600 acres. The property was so extensive that he hired his own private “police force” to patrol it. The house still stands off Old Barlow Mountain Road.
He quickly became active in local government, and represented Ridgefield in the General Assembly from 1921 to 1927, and there, helped create the Connecticut State Police Department. During World War II, he was chairman of the Connecticut Salvage Committee, which collected scrap for the war effort.
In town, Mr. Pierrepont served on the Board of Finance from its establishment in 1921 until 1951, was a president of the Ridgefield Library, chaired the Ridgefield celebration of the Connecticut Tercentenary in 1936, was first president of the Silver Spring Country Club, and was a leader at St. Stephen’s Church.
It was at the church in 1915 that he figured in the resolution of a scandal: Cyrus A. Cornen Jr., the church’s treasurer, had pocketed some $13,000 — equivalent of more than $300,000 today — that was slated to pay contractors on the new St. Stephen’s Church. Pierrepont took over as parish treasurer and raised the money, probably much of his own, to cover the loss.
Mr. Pierrepont also built what is today called Pierrepont Pond or Pierrepont Lake. He said in a letter to The Ridgefield Press in April 1938 that the lake was created from “an old impassable swamp” in which woods were cleared in 1936 and 1937 by “quite a number of men.” A. Bacchiochi and Sons built the dam, and it took about six months for the pond to fill up. Water went over the spillway for the first time on March 30, 1938.
“We are calling it Lake Naraneka after one of the Indian chiefs who signed the deed to the town of Ridgefield,” Pierrepont said. He never liked its being called Pierrepont.
In 1955, he reported that some years earlier, when he was having a small pond built near his home up on Old Barlow Mountain Road, the gardener came across a spoon-shaped piece of cedar, bearing marks of all the Indian signers of the deed, and probably used by them to drink spring water. This may have been Pierrepont’s inspiration for the name.
Mr. Pierrepont died in 1956 and is buried in Green-Wood Cemetery in Brooklyn. He had hoped what’s now Twixt Hills subdivision would be added to the park after his death, but his widow, Nathalie Chauncey Pierrepont, sold the land to developer Jerry Tuccio instead.
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