Council of Independent Colleges Historic Campus Architecture Project

 

 
Alfred Mitchell Woods

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Institution Name: Mitchell College
Original/Historic Place Name: Alfred Mitchell Woods
Location on Campus: 701 Montauk Ave.
Date(s) of Construction and Designer(s):
1931-1932original construction Payne & Keefe
Type of Place: Landscape site
Type of landscape–
Distinct topography:
Privately owned park, open to the public; slopes upwards to Ocean Avenue on the west; much of Mitchell Woods is wetland; there are areas of open field, but most of the park is covered with second-growth woodland, primarily oak and maple hardwoods, and understory trees such as dogwood; rhododendron and mountain laurel are also evident.
Constructed water features:
Yes
Small-scale features:
Low lying area behind the field house was dammed to create a shallow pond formerly used for ice skating; two baseball fields and tennis courts are located near the Montauk Avenue end of the park; small playground near the park entrance; the major structure is a 1932 field house which contained the caretaker's residence and facilities for the public; pavilion of more recent date is designed to shelter picnic parties; trails laid out throughout the park, conforming to its geography; benches near the pond and at least one fieldstone barbeque pit.
Other characteristics:
Yes
    Function:
1931-present (2007)memorial site (to Alfred Mitchell)
1931-present (2007)outdoor space

Significance: architecture, culture, history, landscape
Landmark designation:
none
Narrative: see below
References: see below
 

Narrative:
The original plan of the park was laid out by Payne & Keefe, architects. Its implementation was supervised by Donald G. Mitchell, nephew of Alfred Mitchell. Much of the maintenance of the park and ongoing construction of rustic bridges and fireplaces was the responsibility of the resident caretaker. These structures are, for the most part, no longer extant. The park is 26 acres. The basic configuration of the park remains the same. Trails are laid out through the woods to grassy areas. The perimeter of the pond remains cleared and benches are placed around it. Tennis courts, baseball fields, and a playground are still maintained and serve the local community.

Alfred Mitchell Woods is an enclave in one of the most densely populated urban centers in Connecticut. It was evidently open land in the early 19th century. Since much of the park area was wetland, it was not desirable to develop. The Mitchell family apparently allowed reforestation to occur, and the present woods are second growth. The creation of a formal park by Annie Tiffany Mitchell in 1931 as a memorial to her late husband, Alfred, was a philanthropic gesture in the tradition of the wealthy in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Continued control of the property was a concern, however, especially since the family continued to own the adjoining land. Despite the relatively small size of the park, it has been skillfully laid out to retain the sense of a natural landscape. The success with which this has been accomplished belies the fact that the park is an artifact of both the natural topography and the hand of the designer and landscaper. A surprising number of bird and animal species, as well as the occasional deer, are found within its borders.
 

References:
I. Bibliographic sources:

"Mitchell Woods Park Open; Donor Gives Title to Trustees; for Playground and Creation." New London (CT) Day, October 9, 1932.

"Mitchell Woods Project Most Important Contribution to Park and Recreational Facilities in New London in Recent Years." New London (CT) Day, October 15, 1932.

"Mrs. Mitchell Founds Public Park; Provides Fund for Its Maintenance." New London (CT) Day, January 19, 1931.

II. Location of other data:
University: Special Collections
 

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