Heckscher Farm History
A small farmyard containing a miniature barn was constructed at Courtland Park, and it became home to a lamb, a young goat, bantams, a hen and rooster, and numerous rabbits. Many orphaned or injured animals were brought to the Museum where they were cared for by the Junior Curators, a group of students who were studying in the nature and wildlife conservation classes. Before long, they developed a small wildlife area including an American bald eagle, a golden eagle, a fox, opossum, skunks, squirrels, and woodchucks.
By September 1955, plans were drawn for a model farmyard and barn at the new Scofieldtown Road site, and by July 1956, the farm was completed. In what was to be the beginning of continued generous support of the farm, the Heckscher Foundation for Children funded the building of the red barn and silo which became familiar to thousands of visitors. A sheep shelter and chicken house were added in 1957.
In the fall of 1957, the first of fifteen wildlife exhibits was constructed. By 1963, bobcats, fox, porcupines, raccoons, woodchucks, and birds of prey were located along the roadway through the farm. A medical facility was added in 1975 to ensure proper care of the animals.
In the spring of 1977, the Board of Directors and the Museum staff considered the possibility of creating a period farm typical of one which would have been commonplace in Southern New England during the 19th century. It was indeed a challenge, but long-range it would provide a specific focus and strengthen the educational programming. It was to prove a sound idea since the City of Stamford was quickly turning from a quiet suburban community into a corporate center. Small farms in the area were rapidly disappearing as industry and housing gobbled up the land. Here at the Museum, the Heckscher Farm would provide a striking example of our rural heritage.
During the next five years, projects developed at a rapid pace. Land was cleared to create pastures, colonial fencing was installed, and a magnificent historic Cheshire barn, circa 1750, was moved from Cheshire, Connecticut and reassembled at the farm on a hand-laid stone foundation. The farm became home to animals typical of the era and area: now oxen, cows, sheep, pigs, goat, and chickens. Today, a distinctive focus of our animals is the heirloom breeds we continue to showcase and champion on the Heckscher Farm.
Building of the Cheshire Barn
At the Heckscher Farm, first-hand encounters with farm life were new and exciting experiences for children and adults. As the farm grew, annual programs were created such as Sheep-to-Shawl Day, Maple Sugaring, Ice Harvesting, and Harvest Day. The most popular farm class has always been the Junior Curator program.