RUSSIAN BEACH

Battle for the Bluffs

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LORDSHIP IMPROVEMENT ASSOCIATION: The Lordship Improvement Association, incorporated in 1926, has been a powerful voice and activist organization for this waterfront community. Shortly after the end of World War I, Lordship was best known for its seaside homes and cottages and the few businesses that were there. Some felt that it was important that a community organization should be formed to protect their interests. Roads then were unpaved, utility services were spare and services were few. This band of men and women encouraged the founding of churches, the establishment of local schools and traditional amenities. They regularly served on committees and agencies of the town to see that Lordship was not forgotten. This practice continues today, where the Association continues to protect the quality of life and help the town respond to the areas needs. In 1938, the major developer of Lordship properties decided to move on and turned over to a Trustee the waterfront property running along Park Boulevard from Lordship Road to Spruce Street to the waters edge. This was to be held in perpetuity as a park for the people of Lordship Manor. As it is private property, Lordship residents own it under the governance of the trustee and it is taxed by the town like all property. It is the responsibility of the owners (us) to maintain it for the benefit of all. The last major effort for improvements was the replacement of the old pole fence with the new post and beam fence for $35,000.00, all from your contributions. Each family is asked to forward an annual (June) contribution to the Association. If each homeowner would contribute at least $25.00, the Association would undertake more projects. We should also thank the folks along Park Boulevard who generously cut the grass and plant flowers for all to enjoy. The Association is located at 107 Margherita Lawn and checks can be made out to LIA. Bob Sammis is the trustee.

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September 19, 1948 - Residents Split Over Question Of Town Buying Acres for Park: The cold war set off in Stratford by a proposal to purchase the 45 acre beach section known as Lordship Bluffs for development as a public park, is whirling furiously toward the crisis expected a week from tomorrow night with a special session of the town council. With commendable politeness and tightlipped regard by each side for the "enemy's" position, opponents are feverishly examining the situation and preparing what each believes is an air-tight report. Lordship Bluffs is the area along Long Island Sound that extends from a point near the Stratford lighthouse to York Street and inland to Prospect Drive. It is set off by a rocky beach front, approximately 12 or 15 feet high, affording a picturesque view of the Sound. The initial shot in the Battle of Lordship Bluffs was actually fired two months ago when Robert Trevethen council for the Lordship Park Association applied to the Town Planning board for approval of a subdivision layout to afford large plots for expensive type beach front houses. The planning board and Park Association conflicted over the reservation of a driveway along the shore, which would set the proposed homes back off the beach. When the proposal was brought to conference, last Monday evening, Councilman Frank Larkin, seventh district, proposed a plan for the town to purchase the land as a public park, which the Lordship Park Association offered to sell for $125,000. Councilman Ralph Kregling seconded the motion to purchase. The proposal was withdrawn after Chairman Peter Ring asked that it be referred to the Finance committee for further study, and it was agreed that action would be taken within two weeks. Immediate criticism of this proposed public park was that the shore front was too rocky to be developed for a bathing beach. Mr. Larkin who was born and brought up in the South End of Bridgeport, retorted that Seaside Park between the old Locomobile plant and Barnum Monument was the same type of rocky beach but that it is a beautiful drive and park. Much of the opposition stemmed from the feeling that the Town could not afford to purchase the property and build and maintain a public park when many other improvements were needed, including the building of a junior high school. These residents also stressed the difference between the $40,000 accessed value of the property and the selling price of $125,000. Councilman Andrew Kaza, who voiced concern over the price, feels that there might be other places in Lordship, already owned by the Town that could be developed as a park, such as the Meadows area adjoining Long Beach to Pleasure Beach. There should be lengthy personal investigation he stated. "It's a matter for a great deal of further study." Meanwhile, Oct. 18 is the deadline for a decision on the purchase. "It's now or never," says Councilman Kregling. "This is Stratford's last chance to purchase the remaining Sound accessible property in Lordship. It would be far too expensive to fill in Long Beach and make it a suitable park." Proponents of the purchase plan point out that present beach facilities are inadequate. Until last year, when Community Beach, a part of Lordship Bluff, was made available to bathers, Lordship Beach, on the Sound, and Short Beach, on the Housatonic River were the only bathing areas. Stratford is one of the fastest growing towns in the county, stated Mr. Kregling. "The population has grown from 18,000 in 1940 to approximately 32,000 now, and its still growing. We must have grounds for recreation, and this would be afforded by the proposed shorefront park. It's a matter of 40 people or less enjoying homes on the Bluffs or thousands having that privilege." The latter sentiment was expressed in a Stratford News editorial entitled "The Greatest Good for the Greatest Number" in its Sept. 3 issue. Discussing the understandable fear of those who live close to the beach area that a public park would become a "nuisance" the article pointed out that property owners in other communities who have raised preliminary objections to a neighboring public park have usually ended up by finding that it has proved an asset not only to the town in general, but to surrounding property as well, and the objectionable features have proved little more than imaginary fears. Those who favor the park plan have pointed to the Beardsley Park area in Bridgeport as an example of a public park being an asset to neighboring property. Stratfordites who favor the park plan cite the editorial as a fitting expression of their attitude. "It would be shortsighted," read the conclusion, "to the nth degree to deny tens of thousands of Stratford citizens who are not fortunate enough to live near the beach area as much beach front as possible to enjoy, because a comparative few who are fortunate enough to have the waterfront as a part of their everyday lives might find it a 'nuisance' to share their good fortune with their fellow citizens." Dr. and Mrs. Harold Connelly, neighbors of Lordship Bluffs, minimize the "nuisance" objection in their criticism of the proposed project. A real park on the grounds would be highly desirable, stated Dr. Connelly. "But Stratford doesn't have the kind of money required to make it a real park." "We object as taxpayers" he said, and his sentiments express the objections of many opponents to the park plan. "I think it is a poor financial venture. It would cost about half a million dollars to complete the park satisfactorily, including fill, planting, jetties, breakwaters and sand. To say nothing of the cost of maintenance. And in denying the plan for building houses, the town is losing millions of dollars on taxable property. The town already owns 7,000 feet on Long Beach between the cottages and Pleasure Beach, 1,000 feet at the foot of Washington Parkway and 2,000 feet at Short Beach." Why not develop Long Beach? asked Mrs. Connelly. They have been talking for 20 years about fixing the Meadows. It would make a good sandy beach and it would preserve the meadows from being commercialized. We need the money that the park would cost for other things. Mr. Kregling has given thought to the financial aspect of building a park on the Bluffs, rather than have in taxable property. Taking minimal, approximate figures, he notes that "Forty homes, on that property assessed at $10,000 each would be $400,000. At our present tax rate, that would be $12,000. Statistics afford approximately 1.5 children per home. This times 40 equals about 60 children. At a cost of $140 per pupil, for the Town, we would have a cost of 60 times $140 or $8,400. This is one half of the tax expense, the other half being $8,400 in maintenance, police, etc. The total tax expense would amount to $16,800, against $12,000 taken in. Actually, there would be a loss of $4,800 if the property were used for homes and became taxable." Mr. Kregling stated that the Lordship Park Association has been fair in its proposition to the Town, and he feels that $125,000 is a fair price for the property. "It is the same value at which the property would be condemned for park purposes," he said. Proponents of the purchase plan have considered condemnation proceedings, which they consider one of the most drastic measures possible. Equally drastic is the measure to which opponents may resort succession from the Town of Stratford. Lordship feels like a stepchild, anyway, they say, as far as improvements are concerned and the fact that they have only one councilman, against nine from Stratford. Tradition and legend concerning the controversial property is not without glamour and romance. Wilcoxson's History of Stratford states that Stratford Point was noted for countless numbers of wild fowl, and hunters used to lie on the high bluff just west of the present lighthouse (Lordship Bluffs) and shoot ducks and wild geese sitting on the rocky shore below. It is an old tradition that a slave once lay there In the moonlight watching for game when he saw a large boat come ashore and the men land with a heavy chest which they buried in the sand. Discovering the presence of the slave watching them from the bluff, they immediately set chase intending to kill him; but he made good his escape. Not wishing to take the chance of losing their treasures, they buried it further to the West. So persistent has been the story down through the years, that during the early fifties a company of people was organized in Bridgeport, which spent much time and effort digging for the treasure trove, at what has ever since been called "The Gold Diggings". The origin of the name "Lordship" as applied to the vast tract of upland lying in the Great Neck is shrouded in mystery and uncertainty. The name as it was first applied occurs several times in various deeds given between 1650 and 1660, and seems to have been first used in connection with a piece of meadow on what has long since been known as Lordship Farm. No explanation of the terms "Mills Lordship" and the "Lordship Meadow" has been found or known, but was probably wholly connected with Richard Mills, one of the first settlers of Stratford. Being a large landowner there and a man of wealth and social standing, he was referred to as his Lordship. Mr. Mills and his properties at the lower end, became known as his "Lordship's meadow" or as "Mr. Mill's Lordship". Hence the name did not originate with the Nicoll family which owned the Lordship Farm, but was first used nearly two centuries earlier.

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September 28, 1948 - VOTERS TO DECIDE STRATFORD ISSUE: Election Day Set For Vote on Purchase of Lordship'' Bluffs: When Stratford voters go to the polls on election day, Nov. 2, they will decide whether the town will purchase the Lordship bluffs for park and recreation purposes. The Town Council, at a special meeting last night voted to let the townsfolk resolve the controversy. Divided as to whether the purchase of the shorefront property is wanted by the general public, the Council members agreed to abide by the majority of the voters and authorized the town clerk to prepare a special paper ballot to be handed each voter in the 10 polling places. The ballot will ask "Do you favor the purchase of the Lordship Bluffs for park purposes?" Prior to convening the special session, The Council conferred with Robert E. Trevethan, counsel for the Lordship Park association, owners of the land, requesting he procure from the association an extension of time from Oct. 15, the original date set to terminate the agreement setting the purchase price at $125,000 to Nov. 8. Mr. Trevethan explained to the Council that any decrease in price appears unlikely, inasmuch as the Association had used three of its own appraisers and had then employed three outside appraisers to determine the fair market value of the land before submitting the $125,000 price to the town. Council members indicated that because of costs involved and current land prices favorable action toward condemnation is unlikely and the price as quoted probably would be accepted it the majority of the voters approved the proposed purchase. Proponents of the project, which would provide town-owned shore front from York Street and Prospect drive easterly to within 250 or 300 feet of the Stratford lighthouse, said during the conference prior to the meeting that a vote of five or six to one will favor the purchase when the matter goes to the voters. The Council also has asked Mr. Trevethan to determine from the Park Association its attitude toward giving the town land on a town-owned toad between the highway and the Housatonic River bordering the shorefront at Short Beach. In the event the entire project is developed, it was pointed out, the shorefront highway could start at the present intersection of Park Boulevard at York Street extend easterly along the bluffs to the end of the land to be acquired by the town, and there join the highway to Short beach which would eventually rejoin Main Street near the Bridgeport airport. Sixth district Councilman who had opposed purchase at pilot meetings, agreed to submitting the project to the voters and moved the adoption of the resolution, which was seconded by Councilman Frank Evitts Third district. Letters were read from the Lordship Youth Organization, Anderson Dunn-Kochiss Post, American Legion, Wilcoxson Fathers' club, Center P.T.A. and Charles Downing Lay, landscape architect, favoring the project, The Lordship Improvement Association and Dr. William A. Geer were registered in opposition. Property owners from Lordship and other areas in the town, both for and against the project were present. In the Council chamber and discussed the action with the councilmen after adjournment. Sea Scout Ship 74, in a letter to the Council, requested that if funds were to be spent, provision be made for a boat basin on the Long Island Sound side.

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September 28, 1948 - LORDSHIP BLUFFS PARK: Opportunity To Benefit Stratford All Around Should Not Be Overlooked Writer Asserts To the Editor: The Post editorial of Sept. 20, "Lordship Bluffs Park" was a perfect statement of the necessity for favorable action by the Council on the proposal to buy 40 acres of shore front on the Sound. It will indeed be a calamity if this, our last opportunity to buy land for an adequate shore park is lost. I feel sure that if a vote could be taken the people of Stratford would favor the project ten to one. We all feel restricted in access to the delights of salt water bathing in the Sound. Here there would be room for most of us to bathe at all tides. As a resident and taxpayer I hope that the Council will be courageous and far-sighted and give us and future generations this everlasting facility for sport, recreation and the enjoyment of marine nature and scenery. CHARLES DOWNING LAY.

October 5, 1948 - LORDSHIP BLUFFS PARK: Bridgeporters Would Benefit More Than Stratfordites With Lordship Bluffs Says Writer To the Editor: The recent editorial in The Post in favor of Lordship Bluffs Park by Stratford no doubt sounds fine to residents of Bridgeport who suffer from overcrowding of their park facilities. If Stratford does purchase the Lordship Bluffs for public use, the park will probably be used by about five times as many people from Bridgeport as from Stratford. This would be a friendly gesture, but Stratford cannot afford it. Mr. Lay, the landscape architect is well- qualified to comment on the Lordship Bluffs. This strip of land with rocky shore, its eroding coastline and its lack of topsoil would require a lot of landscaping before it ever resembled a park, probably about $300,000 worth. As for "the delights of salt water bathing" which Mr. Lay mentions, it can only be said that none but the most fearless swimmers would dare to venture into the dangerous rocks and treacherous off-shore eddies in front of the Lordship Bluffs. - STRATFORD TAXPAYER

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1900 Lordship Beach

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1939 Lordship Beach

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Beach loss 1960

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1966 Russian Beach

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1900's Stratford Beach

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Russian Beach 1931

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1955 Lordship Notes

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Cleanup 1958

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Russian Beach Sign

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Russian beach Oysterboat

October 2, 1947 - STRATFORD BOYS RESCUED IN SOUND: David Campbell Saves Pair Off Lordship After Boat Capsized.: Two Stratford youths narrowly escaped drowning in Long Island Sound off Lordship Beach shortly before 4:30 p.m. yesterday when a 10-foot row boat which they had borrowed capsized about 500 feet off shore. The boys, Leonard Maxwell, 14, of Second Avenue, and Ronald Smith, 13, of Long Beach, were clinging to the boat when rescued by David Campbell, Stratford Avenue, a candidate for the Stratford Town council in the coming elections, and No. 4 candidate in the recently announced police eligibility examinations. The youths were taken by police to the summer home of Dr. William Murray, of Bridgeport, who occupies a cottage at Long Beach. Following a physical examination they were removed to their homes. According to Stratford police, Mrs. Peggy Duane, Washington Parkway, phoned the station and said she heard shouts for help coming from the direction of the water at the foot of the parkway. Policemen Warren Nitsche and Joseph Keenan, dispatched to the scene, found Campbell had rescued the boys and aided them to shore. Campbell told police he was driving by with his car when he observed the boat capsize. He borrowed a boat and rowed out to the youths who were clinging to their small craft. The boys told police they had borrowed the boat and were rowing around in the sound when it capsized.

August 4, 1954 - POLICE WARN ON USE OF PRIVATE BEACH: The beach front from Jefferson Street easterly to the so-called Community beach on Park Boulevard is a private bathing beach belonging to the adjoining property owners. Town Manager Harry Flood says, announcing that police have been ordered to enforce the private property rights of the owners. Warning that beach parties and bathing by the general public are not permitted in the area, Mr. Flood called attention to the fact that the only public bathing beach on the Long Island shore line of the town is located adjacent to the seawall along Beach drive in Lordship. The Community beach, fronting on Park Boulevard, is a private beach owned by the residents of Lordship and for which taxes are paid to the town each year by the residents, Mr. Flood said. The beachfront from Community beach easterly to the Lighthouse is also privately owned. Property owners on the Lordship shore front from Jefferson Street to Lordship road plan to post the area as private beach and police will make arrests of those violating the private property rights. Mr. Flood pointed out that the town has provided ample parking area and supervised bathing area at Short Beach for the use of the general public.

Russian Beach in 1960 from Bob Sammis and the Lordship Improvement Association.

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1960 Russian Beach

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