January 21 & 29, 2023 – Old Greenwich, Connecticut
Length: Approximately 6 trail miles
Max elevation: 34 ft.
Paved parking lots – Restrooms on site
Hours: Open year round, daily from 6am to sunset
Fees: You’ll need a non-resident Greenwich beach pass, or Single Entry beach pass. You can purchase these online. Be sure to purchase a pass for each person in your party and a separate pass for your vehicle. Passes are $9 per day per person and a parking pass is $40.
November 1st through April 30th, no fees will be charged to enter Greenwich Point Park
Greenwich Point Park is a 147-acre Town beach and recreation facility in Old Greenwich, CT. Also known by locals as “Tod’s Point,” it was the former estate of J. Kennedy Tod and many historic buildings still exist in the park. Among them are the Innis Arden Cottage, Seaside Garden and Cowbarn Building, and the Chimes Building. Concessions, restrooms, picnic areas, and walking trails are also found at Greenwich Point. Home to Old Greenwich Yacht Club, there is also a boatyard and a launch for boats and kayaks. Greenwich Point Park is owned by the Town of Greenwich and operated by Greenwich’s Parks and Recreation Department in coordination with the Conservation Commission.
Greenwich Point Park is situated on the southerly side of Greenwich Cove. Greenwich Cove is located between Cos Cob Harbor and Stamford Harbor in the “Old Greenwich” section of town. The park is essentially an island, connected to the mainland by a causeway which supports the park access road known as Tod’s Driftway.
There are seven parking lots in the park, five of which are paved. The topography ranges from sea level to a maximum elevation of +40 feet Above Sea Level (ASL). The majority of the park lies within 10-20 foot ASL, with three pronounced knolls rising above the surrounding landscape, in the western, central and eastern portions of the park.
Greenwich Point Park is a Recognized Important Bird Area (IBA) and due to the park’s peninsular geography and the variety of habitats available it is an important migrant stopover habitat for many species of birds. Good numbers of waterfowl winter offshore and in Eagle Pond, many raptors pass the park in fall migration and the park acts as stopover habitat for some of them.
In the winter, the Point is a popular place for dog walkers to walk their dogs. Leashed dogs are allowed at the Point from December 1 to March 31.
The Point was known by the Siwanoy Indians as “Monekewaygo” (shining sands). Beginnning in 1640 with the purchase by Elizabeth Feake, the Point was known as “Elizabeth’s Neck.” Following its purchase by the Tods in the 1880’s, the Point was known as “Innis Arden. Tod and his wife, Marie Howard Potter Tod, owned the land and its estate from 1884 to 1939, the year she died. He willed the property to New York’s Presbyterian Hospital.
On January 10, 1945, the Town of Greenwich purchased Tod’s Point and the Innis Arden estate for $550,000. Upon acquisition, the Town changed the name of the peninsula from Innis Arden (or Tod’s Point) to Greenwich Point, a designation it retains, although many continue to call it Tod’s Point. The Town made immediate changes to its new property, including the renovation of the Tods’ formal walled garden, known today as the Seaside Garden, by the Garden Club of Old Greenwich. In addition, the Old Greenwich Boating Association, which later became the Old Greenwich Yacht Club, transferred its headquarters to Greenwich Point.
For a more detailed history, scroll to the bottom of the page for external links.
Paved Loop – Greenwich Point has a 2.25 mile paved loop that offers a scenic opportunity for walking and jogging, as well as, roller blading, biking, and in-line skating.
Beach Loop – Greenwich Point also offers a wonderful 2.35 mile beach loop. After cutting off from Tod’s Driftway you will be on a packed sand and small stone path that allows enjoyment of the ever changing marsh.
There are trails that wander off from both the Paved Loop and the Beach Loop towards the interior of the park that are worth exploring as well. You will encounter less people along these trails.
On Sundays 9:00 AM – 12:30 PM from mid November to mid April the Friends of Greenwich Point in cooperation with the Greenwich Department of Parks and Recreation, sponsors Safe Roads. Visitors can enjoy the open roads as all roads past the main parking lots are closed to vehicular traffic. However, an occasional car is permitted to pass under certain circumstances, so please be aware.
I had this park on my list for many years, but was hesitant to go there because of the “residents-only policy.” Very little information was available online and the park’s website was unclear about non-residents visiting the park. Fast forward a few years and I found that: “In 1968, a Greenwich residents-only policy was instituted on the Point, but that restriction was lifted when the Supreme Court of Connecticut overturned it in 2001.” They do charge a hefty fee for non-residents in season, but November 1st through April 30th, no fees are charged to enter Greenwich Point Park.
We visited this park on two consecutive weekends. On our first visit, it was quite cold and we stuck to the westernmost section of the park, visiting the stone ruins, Seaside Garden, etc. We only walked about 1.5 miles, although we drove a loop through the park at the beginning and picked out a spot to park. The red line on the map below indicates our walking route on that day. The following week, we began at the first parking lot, just past the original entrance gate and walked clockwise. The purple track indicates the route we walked on that day, which totaled about 3.4 miles. The terrain is mostly flat with about 30-40 feet of elevation gain.
Although we covered most of the park on our two visits, there is more to see that is not listed here. This is the type of park that is worth visiting more than once.
Points of Interest:
- Sue H. Baker Pavilion at the Old Barn ~ Originally built by the Tods in 1887, the old livestock and storage barn is the oldest surviving structure at Greenwich Point. Once the town purchased the estate in 1945, the barn underwent many renovations until, at last, it housed a concession stand, a first aid station, and lifeguard lockers.
In 2012, Superstorm Sandy pummeled the coastline with 80 miles per hour winds and tidal floods. While the barn had already been slated for renovation by the Greenwich Point Conservancy, completion of the $650,000 project became urgent. In 2015, the renovated structure was renamed the Sue H. Baker Pavilion at the Old Barn in honor of the co-founder of the Conservancy.
- Innis Arden Cottage ~ In 1903, the Tods added a guest cottage just south of the access road to their property. Innis Arden Cottage was built to provide a temporary home for Maria Tod’s widowed sister-in-law, Mrs. Cranston Potter, and her three young daughters. The girls attended the all-girl school, Rosemary Hall, in Rock Ridge for a short time before the family returned to their home in the state of Washington.
From 1906 through 1913, the Tods made the Cottage available as a summer retreat for Anna C. Maxwell and her nursing students from the New York Presbyterian Hospital. Maxwell, often referred to as the “American Florence Nightingale,” performed pioneering work in the development of the nursing profession. The Tods’ support of the hospital, and Maxwell in particular, most probably derives from J. S. Kennedy’s tenure as president of the hospital’s board of directors. Besides donating one million dollars to establish a nursing school at the hospital (now known as the Columbia University School of Nursing), Kennedy also recommended Maxwell to be its first director. Maxwell was one of the first women to be buried with full military honors at Arlington National Cemetery.
From the back of Innis Arden Cottage, looking slightly northeast, about 1.5 miles away, the Stamford Harbor Ledge Lighthouse is visible on a clear day. The sparkplug lighthouse was built in 1882 and was manufactured in Boston. It was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1991.
- Original Entrance Gate ~ The original entrance gate to Innis Arden, the 147-acre estate of Mr. and Mrs. J.Kennedy Tod. It is located between Innis Arden Cottage and The Old Barn. The Gate Lodge which was built in 1887, was destroyed by fire in 1904.
A plaque mounted on one of the stone columns, details some of the history of the structures located within the park.
- 375th Anniversary Plaque ~ On Founders’ Day, July 18, 2016, the town attached a commemorative bronze plaque to a small boulder on the bluff at the southeastern tip of the Point. The plaque features a replica of the original deed to the land they now call Old Greenwich.
The plaque also contains the town’s coat-of-arms designed in 1940. The design features a windmill representing the town’s early Dutch influence, a horse’s head for Horseneck (an early name for the land between the Mianus and Byram Rivers), a plow for the agricultural history of the founders, a ship from the coat-of-arms of Greenwich, England, and a clamshell representing the early maritime trade in the town.
- Eagle Pond ~ As you head farther out on the Point, you come to the northern land bridge at Eagle Pond; across the Pond is the southern land bridge. Tod created both to connect the two islands. Tod considered himself a naturalist and built the Pond as a bird sanctuary, populated by swans, pelicans, and ducks.
View over Eagle Pond towards the Long Island Sound from the Innis Arden House Site. The thin strip of land between the Pond and the Long Island Sound, is the southern land bridge.
View of Eagle Pond from Mansion Road.
The Pond takes its name from the eagle sculpture that Tod installed in 1905 on the small island on the southern side of the Pond. Local Stamford sculptor and New York hotelier James Knowles created a new bronze eagle for the island in 1979 through the generosity of Helen Binney Kitchel.
Ospreys build a stick nest on top of the 14-foot wingspan of the eagle each year from which they can easily see their enemies approaching. The sculpture and nest are best viewed from the eastern side of the pond.
- The Holly Grove ~ Mr. and Mrs. Allan Farrand Kitchel donated twenty-one different species of holly to the town in 1959 in celebration of their 50th wedding anniversary. In 2016, the Friends of Greenwich Point, in celebration of their 60th anniversary, began working with the town to restore the Holly Grove. In addition to clearing brush, trimming trees, and planting new hollies, they rebuilt the entrance post with a new sign.
- Innis Arden House Site ~ J. Kennedy Tod was among the wealthy elite of New York who made the Connecticut coast their playground. Soon after he married Maria Howard Potter, while residing in NYC, they began acquiring acreage on the Point on which they planned to build their summer cottage. By 1887, they had secured title to most of the peninsula. By 1889, the house was complete.
The style of the manor house was eclectic and uniquely suited to the site. It was designed in the High Victorian Gothic and American Romanesque styles. Thirty European stonemasons, having been brought to America specifically for this work, built the 37-room mansion and its surroundings.
This magnificent house had to be torn down in 1962 as it needed extensive repairs and required more money, time, and attention than the public coffers could provide.
The stone mansion and estate built by railroad tycoon J. Kennedy Tod was the height of seaside luxury. Tod, who was born in Glasgow, Scotland, named it Innis Arden, Gaelic for the high meadows.
Mr. and Mrs. Tod had no children. They passed away in this house in 1925 and 1939, respectively. After Mrs. Tod passed, the estate was ultimately given to the NY Presbyterian Hospital to site a convalescent hospital.
The Town of Greenwich purchased the property in 1945 and, subsequently, converted the mansion into 13 apartments for returning WWII veterans. Rent was nominal. Approximately 30 veterans’ families lived in the former mansion over the next 15 years. Only the “tower” and part of the foundation remain.
The view over Eagle Pond and beyond.
The paved road leading from the Innis Arden House.
Stone steps on Mansion Road, by the west side of Eagle Pond.
- The Seaside Garden ~ As mentioned earlier, J. Kennedy Tod joined two islands together. The island to the west has twin peaks. The Seaside Garden occupies the northern peak and Innis Arden House, the southern peak. The Tods commissioned Marian Cruger Coffin to design and build the walled garden in 1918.
In 1945, the Garden Club of Old Greenwich restored Mrs. Tod’s walled garden. In 1964, the Knollwood Garden Club assumed responsibility for the care and preservation of the garden.
- Shell Beach ~ is a strip of shoreline that is covered in sea shells along the westernmost section of the park.
- Views ~ Surrounded by water on three sides, Greenwich Point Park, on a clear day, affords magnificent views of the Long Island Sound, with the New York City skyline to the southwest. To the north there are views over Greenwich Cove.
Views are pretty much everywhere you walk. Below is a view of Eagle Pond from the southern end of Mansion Road.
- Wildlife ~ Officially designated an Important Bird Area, Greenwich Point Park, is a great place to watch birds year round. Migrating songbirds, shorebirds, flycatchers, hawks and more stop by in spring and fall, a variety of waterfowl feed in the waters of Long Island Sound in the winter, and summer brings breeding birds and waders.
On our visit we saw a variety of waterfowl and plenty of seagulls, but the prize was watching a Bald Eagle soar overhead and land in a tree by the parking lot near the original entrance gate shortly after we arrived.
This park is absolutely gorgeous and the amount of people that flock here, even in winter, confirms it. On our first visit, it was in the low to mid 30’s and I was quite surprised at how many people were walking around. Although there were many people out walking, quite a few with their leashed dogs, it never felt crowded. Foot traffic is mostly concentrated along the paved paths/roads. There is a lot to see and photograph here, so bring your camera and check it out for yourself.
Scenic landscape, historical features, gorgeous views, serene environment.
Hefty fees in season for non-residents, attracts crowds year-round.