Sunday, April 21, 2024

Stratford: The Stories We Tell


Boothe Memorial Park

By David Wright
Town Historian

Stratford’s New Town Park, 1949

When David Boothe passed away February 20, 1949, he and his brother Stephen’s joint Will left their property to the Town for a town park. Stephen, though the younger brother, preceded David in death.  Their Will was almost immediately contested by a cousin, Francis E. Beach, of Trumbull. Beach’s claim was that David was of unsound mind when he executed the Will in July of 1948. 

After four years of court proceedings and legal wrangling, the Town was finally awarded the Boothe estate. By mid-1952 there was discussion in Town that part of the Boothe estate should be set aside as a home for a proposed Shakespearean theater. Provisions in David and Stephen Booth’s Will prevented the proposed theater from being located at Boothe Park.

From The Stratford News of February 25, 1949, on the occasion of David’s death, “It was the brothers’ pleasure to entertain there at huge public gatherings, the most notable of which, perhaps, was that on the three hundredth anniversary of the founding of Stratford. No one was allowed to smoke in the building. Generous on their own terms, the brothers often set the tables for picnics at which lobster was served, or at strawberry festivals, for which they charged 10 or 13 cents admission.  David Boothe was for the last thirty years of his life a vegetarian.”

Perhaps what David was best known for was his dispute with the town over the taxation of the clock in the Boothe’s bell tower. The Bridgeport Farmer April 24, 1919: “Everybody who travels the river road to Derby knows the big yellow mansion, at Putney center, in which David Boothe lives, and the big four dialed clock, in the tower over the barn.

David is well-to-do and generous; also patriotic. ‘When the Whippet tank came along, yesterday afternoon, David said: ‘Put the tank through its paces right here, and I’ll do the right thing by Uncle Sam.’ The tank gracefully disported on the spacious Boothe greensward, and David took $3,000 in Victory bonds, which was twice the total government asked of Putney. Then he subscribed $4,000 more for the credit of Bridgeport, whereby hangs a tale.

David bought the clock, which is worth a great deal of money and it told the time right merrily, for all the public. Along came a Stratford assessor with a mean disposition, and put the clock on the tax list of the town, as if it were a luxury instead of a beneficence.

He kept the clock, but disconnected the hands.”

Returning to The Stratford News article of February ,1949: “Today, as the mourners moved away from the cemetery ceremony, the black wooden hands against the white face read one o’clock. Actually, it was 3:15.”

We are very fortunate to have had such generous brothers residing in our town, desiring to leave the residents such a precious legacy as Boothe Memorial Park.


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