From Monakewego to Greenwich Point
written by Susan Richardson and Amy Braitsch
The Siwanoy Indians used it as a fishing camp and called it Monakewego – shining sands. Purchased
by Daniel Patrick and Robert and Elizabeth Feake in 1640 (along with the rest of what is now Old
Greenwich), it became known as Elizabeth’s Neck. A member of the Ferris family bought the land in
1730, where it remained for more than 150 years.
But in 1884, this beautiful spot so close to New York City caught the eye of wealthy banker
J. Kennedy Tod. Buying parcels through various agents, Tod acquired the Ferris property over
the next three years and began the process that eventually turned the “shining sands” into
Tod’s vision for the waterfront estate he called Innis Arden was bold. Joining two small islands
with fill, he built a tide-control gate and created a lake from a tidal marsh. Next came a road around
the lake and a causeway to provide access to the mainland. A stone mansion, boat house, guest
cottage and other buildings were erected; a barn housed cows and sheep grazed on the nine-hole
golf course. For some years the Point’s sandy beach and golf course were open to Old Greenwich
neighbors and guests staying at the local inns, but Tod eventually believed his hospitality was abused
and the Point was closed to all but invited guests.
Acquisition by the Town
Tod died in 1925, his widow in 1939, and Tod’s Point became the property of the Presbyterian Hospital of New York. The RTM adopted a resolution in 1940 that the town acquire the Point – and the beach was leased for town use from 1942 to 1945. It took five years to overcome strong opposition to the purchase from some town residents and to negotiate the price.
Finally, on December 13, 1944 (according to RTM records), “The Trustees of Presbyterian Hospital voted to accept $550,000 for 148.5 acres including Great and Pelican Islands. We have assured the citizens of Greenwich that it is our intention and desire that the use of Tod’s Point should be along dignified lines without undesirable concessions or other features which would be unattractive or objectionable to the general neighborhood or to those making use of the property for bathing and wholesome recreation.”
Town records show that in July, 1943, 17,704 persons came to Greenwich Point; by July of 1944, that figure was 71,830.
In 1946 the still-impressive stone house was converted (by its future occupants) into family apartments for returning WWII vets. But by 1960 the building had deteriorated and needed extensive repairs to bring it up to safety codes. Again amidst controversy, Tod’s grand mansion was razed in 1961.
Many of the original buildings remain: the Queen Anne Building houses lockers and marine biology classes; the Chimes Building is used by the Old Greenwich Yacht Club’s Community Sailing program and provides storage lockers for sailors; the Cowbarn and former stables serve as storage and work areas for the park staff. The gates that once marked the entrance to Tod’s estate can be seen on the grounds at the Innis Arden Club in Old Greenwich.
Compiled from 67 interviews and richly illustrated,Tod's Point, An Oral History is available at TheGreenwich Library
Oral History Project.