Boothe Memorial Park, Stratford
The Damned Story: Boothe Park proves the old adage, “If you have time, money, space, some significant eccentricities and the inclination to build stuff, then you too can create a bizarre memorial to yourself that will last for generations!”
All right, maybe I made that adage up, but you get the gist.
At the turn of the 20th century, brothers David Beach and Stephen Nichols Boothe decided to turn their 32 acres of property in Stratford overlooking the Housatonic River into a fun shrine to the unusual, the Boothe Memorial Museum. They collected a number of objects and built odd items on the property that had been in the respectable Boothe family for centuries. In addition to the mini windmill and clocktower, they added a mini lighthouse, a carriage house, a trolley station, blacksmith shop, a chapel, a model train museum, a technocratic building (with no windows or doors) and an Americana museum.
More recently, an original toll booth from the Merritt Parkway has been added to the property — fittingly, it’s the one that stood a short distance from the park, just before (or after, depending on which direction you were headed) the Sikorsky Bridge. The property is also hosts a small observatory (home of the Boothe Memorial Astronomical Society), a nice playground and a rose garden.
For the record, the property also claims to be “the oldest homestead in America” as the main house sits on the foundation of a home build in 1663 and has been continuously occupied.
Aside from being a tad eccentric, there are those who believe Boothe Park is also haunted. (The Paranormal Research Society of New England has done extensive investigation of the site.) Visitors inside the old homestead have had weird feelings and experiences, including hearing unexplained knocking and disembodied voices. Next to the property is the small Boothe Cemetery, in which visitors have claimed to see anomalous forms and spirits.
Our Damned Experience: I visited Boothe Park on a chilly day in November 2005, camera in tow, and took a bunch of quasi “artsy” shots, including those you see here. Generally, I found the park to be like most town parks — pleasant, well-maintained and welcoming to visitors. From what I understand, many of the unusual phenomena seem to occur in the homestead, which I was not able to gain entrance. I did wander into the cemetery and took photos there as well, but nothing otherworldly appeared.
If You Go: Boothe Park is now owned and operated by the town of Stratford and is on the National Register of Historic Places. It’s open to the public year-round, and during the warmer months, tours are available for some of the buildings.