Valley Railroad |
Yankee Peddler |
Steep Rock Reservation | In
the Spring of 1889, just as he was about to break ground
on his own country house in Washington, Connecticut, the
architect, Ehrick Rossiter, discovered that the wooded
hillsides in his dramatic view to the west were slated
for clear cutting. For him, there was only one thing to
do. Using the construction money for the house, he bought
the threatened land from the timber company and saved
forever the 100 acres that now form the heart of the Steep
During his 36 years of ownership, Rossiter built carriage
roads and small river crossings and invited his friends
and fellow townspeople to enjoy the wild beauty of this
section of the Shepaug River Valley. In 1925 Rossiter
donated the land, which included the Steep
Rock overlook, to a carefully chosen group of
trustees, thus ensuring its preservation. Four years later
the trustees purchased the area known as the Clam
Shell, and in doing so preserved the view from
Steep Rock. With
little of the fanfare that sometimes surrounds such efforts
today, these ten people quietly established a public land
trust long before the idea of land protection became common.
Since then, many landowners have given additional tracts
to the Steep Rock Association, and today Steep Rock's
holdings include over 2,700 acres.
Ehrick Rossiter graduates from The Gunnery, where
he develops a fondness for Washington and roaming
along the Shepaug River. A 235-foot curved tunnel
is blasted through bedrock to make way for the planned
Shepaug Valley Railroad begins operation, putting
Washington Depot (then known as the Hollow) within
a day's travel of New York City. Carrying both passengers
and freight, the railroad runs along the river.
Ehrick Rossiter buys 100 wooded acres along the Shepaug
River to save it from logging.
Philanthropist Edward I. Van Ingen builds Holiday
House (designed by Rossiter), a hotel built as a retreat
for young working women from New York City. (It no
Rossiter donates the land, called "Steep Rock,"
to a group of trustees, so that it be preserved. The
nine original trustees are Adrian Van Sinderen, George
W. Vaillant, Hamilton Gibson, Arthur L. Shipman, Arthur
C. Titus, Victor H. McCutcheon, E. Winthrop Rossiter,
H. Siddons Mowbray and Anne Van Ingen.
Steep Rock trustees purchase "the Clam Shell."
Ehrick Rossiter, born in 1854, distinguished architect
and founder of Steep Rock, dies.
Shepaug Valley Railroad ceases operation and tracks
The trustees invite 81 Steep Rock contributors to
a picnic at the Clam Shell. Subsequent picnics include
the whole town.
Great Flood wipes out parts of the Depot and bridges
and abutments along the Shepaug River. Boulders, uprooted
trees and tons and tons of debris litter the river
Steep Rock is formally incorporated as a land trust,
with 18 trustees serving three-year terms. The Steep
Rock reservation has increased to about 650 acres.
The Washington Horse Show is held in the newly built
riding ring in a meadow below the former Holiday House.
Each year, the show donates its profits to Steep Rock.
Jean and Adrian Van Sinderen donate 650 acres, now
called Hidden Valley, to the Steep Rock Association.
After intense debate, trustees accept a non-contiguous
piece of land on Church Hill, expanding Steep Rock's
role in preserving land throughout Washington.
A small wooden footbridge over Bee Brook allows dry
access to the Hidden Valley entrance just north of
the Rt. 47 highway bridge.
Hidden Valley footbridge is built across the Shepaug
River, forming a pleasant loop trail. Built by (then)
forester John Marsh and Michael Alex.
The McDonald family donates a conservation easement
-- Steep Rock's first -- of land on Lower Church Hill.
Trustees hire first director, shared with the Roxbury
Land Trust. 1987 New Hidden Valley footbridge replaces
the 1977 one.
Hauser footbridge, a wood and cable suspension bridge,
is built in the Steep Rock reservation across the
river just downstream of the old sawmill hole.
A parcel of 238 acres known as Meeker Swamp is purchased
with roughly equal contributions from the Town, State
and Steep Rock and its supporters, and dedicated as
the Macricostas Preserve in July 2001
born Rossiter first came to Washington from New York City
in 1865 as an eleven-year-old, to attend the Gunnery School,
where he remained until the fall of 1871. Washington
at that time was a primitive New England Village, a day’s
travel from New York, and unknown to the summer resident.
Rossiter’s early attachment formed for the place,
the school and the people led him repeatedly to return
during his college years, and those following his marriage.
Through his civic and domestic architecture and his purchase
of Steep Rock, he profoundly affected the way Washington
looks today. “Visions and Dreams of Beauty”
is a celebration of Rossiter’s life and accomplishments
in his adopted home