Property Information

The Berger/Treiber Refuge & Park Pond

With 113 wooded acres and the longest frontage (over 1,400 feet) on Park Pond, The Julia Berger/William Treiber Refuge is the jewel in the crown of Heritage Land Preservation Trust. There is a stream, a canal, a diversion dam, and marshes on the property. The main access is on Ashley Road, also known as Route 263, between West Road and Blue Street in Winchester. The access is just west of a small bridge, where we have a sign.

The year 1978 marked the first acquisition of property outside of Torrington. Sherwood Berger of Winchester gave the trust a beautiful piece of 46 acres bordering Park Pond to be called the Julia Berger Wildlife Refuge. The property was significantly enhanced shortly after with the donation of 28 adjoining acres by William and Elizabeth Treiber. This parcel was designated to remain in its original condition. In 1998 another 40 acres were donated by the Treibers, increasing the Berger/Treiber parcel to 114 acres.

The Julia Berger/William Treiber Refuge is near the heart of Winchester Center, on the north side of Park Pond. Heritage has over 1,400 feet of water frontage, the longest of any landowner on the pond, and this beautiful property is the jewel in the Heritage crown.

Park Pond is unique in that it drains into both branches of the Naugatuck River. It is home to a longtime summer camp and bald eagles have been known to frequent the area.

The Julia Berger/William Treiber Refuge 

The Refuge is a complicated piece of property with many sides and angles. There are two access points- one on West Road that courses along a cornfield and another access on Ashley Road (Rte. 263), where one can find a well-crafted sign. There originally was a right-of-way to Newfield Road which was rescinded back in 1985.

Two individuals have donated property. One was Sherwood Berger. He was active in the Winchester Grange, leading the effort to rebuild after it burned down in the 1950s. Berger also provided land for the recently closed Camp Maud Isbell Berger, which was run by the Grange. Long after his passing in 1994, he is still spoken well of by residents of Winchester Center. The other donor was William Treiber, a vice president of the Federal Reserve Bank in New York who kept the country out of trouble when the Penn Central Railroad went bankrupt during the Nixon administration.

Why did Heritage Acquire This Land? Heritage acquired this land because the trust was in existence earlier than most.

Park Pond

Park Pond was created when a low-lying wet area was impounded by Theron Bronson (1809-1873). He was the son of Isaac Bronson, once reputedly the largest landowner in Winchester. Theron owned a mill on the east branch, which of course was powered by a water wheel. In order to have a more reliable source of power, Bronson built a log dam sometime between 1852 and 1868, and created what was called “Old Park.” An 1868 map of Winchester shows a pond that was set back several hundred feet from Blue Street and contained less than half the acreage of today’s eighty-two.

By the late 19th century, industries in Torrington became interested in the water coming from Park Pond. Particularly interested was the Torrington Electric Light Company, which had just started to produce electricity on Franklin Street. Water was used to turn their generator, which provided a startling 50 volts of electricity. The waterwheel was later replaced by steam engines, which required even more water from the river.

The Electric Company happened to be owned by the same people running the Turner and Seymour factory on South Main Street. Turner and Seymour bought Old Park from William Munsill, Albert and Anna Dayton, and the heirs of Theron Bronson in 1889, with plans to finish a new dam by October. That still was not enough and the height of the dam was increased at least twice more.

In 1907 the Light Company took over Park from Turner and Seymour. Still needing ever more water, the Company purchased land on Norfolk Road in Winchester, and built a 600-foot long concrete dam, 16 feet high, which created the 320-acre Lake Winchester, which empties into Park Pond. That dam cost some $50,000.

As a side note, it is not known if this was deemed a wise decision, for by the late 1920s the Electric Company chose to buy power from Falls Village, and the Franklin Street generators were relegated to backup status. Torrington Electric eventually was absorbed by the Hartford Electric Light Company. In 1958 Helco merged with the Connecticut Power Company, becoming the Connecticut Light and Power Company. That company held on to the property around Park Pond until the mid-20th century.

About the Names of Some of the Area Roads

Ashley Road is named after Dr. Dexter D. Ashley (1864-1949) who was, according to local historian George Beach, “one of the foremost bone specialists in the country at one time.” Dr. Ashley’s summer home, Ashley Acres, was famous for its orchards – Beach wrote “people came from all over the State to get the fruit from Ashley Acres.” When the house was destroyed by lightning, Beach noted that “when it burned one of the best front doors in these parts was destroyed, too.” Dr. Ashley’s most famous patient was probably actor Lionel Barrymore. Barrymore was in a wheelchair in “It’s a Wonderful Life” because he had to be. He had twice broken a hip and was so debilitated from arthritic knees that he could walk only with great difficulty.

There was once a road (now abandoned) going from the Center to a point near the Wahnee/Mundry Road intersection. This road was near where a rustic log building stood that served as Winchester’s first church.

According to John O’Brien’s Winchester: Beginning of a Town, Blue Street was so named “from a sort of agreement made among the settlers on that street, amounting to a regular code of (blue) laws. One rule was that every man must have his wood pile cut out by such a day in Spring, and every man must have his grain threshed out by a certain date.”

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