HART CASTLE / FARM CREEK
The Hart Castle
The Hart Castle, also known as the Venetian Castle, was built in 1907 by Theophileus Euphrat, one of Rowayton’s first developers, and purchased by the Hart family in 1917 as a summer home. Edward Francis Hart was president of four businesses in New York City at the time of the purchase—National Engraving, Unique Illustrations, Syndicate Advertising and Artistic Advertising. Mr. Hart and his wife, Ellen Maher Hart, enjoyed countless summers looking over the pristine Farm Creek with their two children, Alice and Edward.
The beautiful stone house, which included a turret that gave it a castle-like appearance, was one of the grandest homes in Rowayton in its day. When the Castle wasn’t the centerpiece of entertainment, its other, quieter existence made it the subject of many a painting and photograph, particularly with its magnificent backdrop of Farm Creek and its treasure trove of wildlife. The only houses on the Creek at that time other than the castle were the two former Deklyn houses, #73 and #75 Roton Avenue, and the beautiful sandy beach wending its way alongside the road was a favorite spot for local children to collect tasty bait for fishing and crabbing.
Tragically, the beautiful historic Hart Castle was severely damaged in a fire in January of 1980, when a spark from a fire in the library fireplace ignited the old frame, and a fire burned unnoticed in the attic for some time. Edward, Jr. and his wife Jimmie were living in the house at the time with their grown son Eddie.
Following the fire, which was big enough to require the Rowayton Fire Department to call in the Darien Fire Department for assistance, the Castle was torn down. The Harts rented a house on Crest Road for four years while they built a new home on the same location. Edward T. Hart sold the peninsula to the City in June of 1983. The Hart family moved into their new house in 1984 living a reclusive existence until Mr. Hart’s death in 2001 at the age of 83. (His wife, Jimmie, had died a few years earlier.) Upon the death of their son, Eddie, in June 2005, the property was purchased by Rowayton resident Charles Schoendorf to prevent development of the property.
The Norwalk Land Trust property at Farm Creek
The Hart property was purchased from Mr. Schoendorf by the Norwalk Land Trust with a $2 million down payment and a $2 million loan from the Conservation Fund of Arlington, Virginia in 2008. The “new” house was demolished in June 2008, and the property restored to its pre-Hart natural state.
The Norwalk Land Trust property at Farm Creek has been the most ambitious preservation project of the Norwalk Land Trust in its 44-year history and the most expensive. Four pieces of property have been joined together to form an unbroken 16-acre preserve on the Farm Creek tidal estuary emptying into Long Island Sound. The middle “jewel” in this site was the 2.2 acre Hart property.
The property offers quiet, peaceful views of Farm Creek and its tidal marshes leading out to Wilson Cove. There is nothing else like it in Norwalk. This two-acre property with multiple paths and benches overlooking the water has been restored to its natural state, and the 1907 stone barn has been restored for limited use as a nature classroom.
Donations to complete what is now called the Farm Creek Nature Preserve came in all sizes-from kids selling lemonade to some very generous individuals. More than 900 households and foundations and businesses have contributed to the effort to preserve the Hart property. To learn more about the Farm Creek Preserve, please see the Norwalk Land Trust website at www.norwalklandtrust.org.
 Found in old newspaper clippings by Pam Davis, 1/23/07.
Photo by Rick Pank