Exploring Fodor Farm
November 30, 2017
What’s the best thing about living in Fairfield County — Connecticut’s southeastern coastal region? Is it the proximity to the harbor? The fantastic views of the water? The inimitable Norwalk housing, shopping, and other conveniences? Or perhaps, it’s the fact that being in a place like this, one that’s so rich with history, makes it easier than ever to find some of the most out of the ordinary attractions to visit, the kind that harken back to an era long past and are a big draw for all those who like to explore the intrigue of times gone by. If that last one speaks to you, then you’ll probably be interested in what’s going on at Fodor Farms, as a “triple threat” of events will be swinging in and providing residents with ample action.
What’s Fodor Farm?
It’d be easy to simply overlook Fodor Farm as one of the town’s run-of-the-mill recreational areas. After all, it’s got a (not particularly thrilling) page on The Norwalk City Government’s website, on which, primarily, advertises the ability to rent out Fodor Barn for events. Delve a bit deeper, though, into Historic Fodor Farm, and you’ll get to see things in an entirely new light.
It turns out Fodor Farm served as one of Norwalk’s primary means of agricultural production for years during the time of European settlement:
“It was definitely a working farm. They sold milk, eggs, and lambs that I can remember. People also used to come to us for well water. All the fields in back were either for hay or pasture for the animals. There was a huge garden with every kind of vegetable you can think of.”
When agriculture and farming in the area waned, Fodor Farm stuck around as a kind of nod to the past:
“Fodor provided a tangible reminder of the important role of agriculture in the history of Norwalk. While Norwalk is now a city with a dense pattern of settlement, it, like all of the colonial towns of Connecticut, has a long agricultural history.”
In its present form, the site is now a newly-renovated place of learning. They feature a series of communal gardens, a barn for events and demonstrations about gardening and cooking, along with all of the restored attractions of the farm open for people to walk among and marvel at. In other words, it’s a glimpse into the past that few other areas can provide.
What’s Happening At Fodor Farm?
According to the Daily Voice, Fodor Farm is getting ready to kick off not one or two, but three new exhibits focused on its history and significance, organized by the Norwalk Historical Commission and The Norwalk Historical Society:
“"The History of Fodor Farm," "Saving Fodor Farm" and "Fodor Farm through the Lens of Dan Lenore" will be unveiled on Thursday, Nov. 16 from 6 to 7:30 p.m. at Fodor Farm, located at 328 Flax Hill Road in Norwalk. A reception, open to the general public, will celebrate the new exhibitions curated by guest curator Elizabeth Pratt Fox.”
What will these exhibits entail? The article goes on to lay out a short description of each, which can also be found on the Norwalk Historical Society’s page detailing the events.
The History Of Fodor Farm
This event will talk about the history of ownership of the farm, stretching back as far as 1802 and running up into the present day, with “an emphasis on the Fodor family, the longest owners of the property.” The farm has changed hands several times, once being owned by one Eliphalet Lockwood, passing on to an individual named Alexander Lauder as well.
Saving Fodor Farm
Like The History Of Fodor Farm, Saving Fodor Farm will include plenty of story time, but not just for educational purposes this time. Specifically, this is a focus on “the grass roots movement to stop the farm from being developed into a subdivision of 48 houses.” Apparently, developers had been eyeing the land for some time, reasoning the location is a prime one for putting up some property and turning a profit. This exhibition will “trace the story through the plans for the development, the rallying of the Save The Farm Group, the city taking the land through eminent domain and the success of open land proponents, historical preservationists, and the city to develop the site for all the residents of Norwalk.”
The story of redevelopment, if you’re interested, is an interesting one. According to an article from Nancy Chapman, written back in 2014 (when significant renovations were in full swing) the Farm was in serious disrepair and serious danger of being torn down completely. Quoting one visitor to the property during that time:
“It was such a wreck. It was just, I would say, The only thing that could fix this was a match.”
Through sustained efforts, though, the restoration team was able to turn the farm into something to marvel at once again, a fact that many visitors championed:
“George and John Fodor were special. I moved here in ‘83 to Townhouse of the Pines. My first experience when I moved in, my back was to the farm and the movers were coming in and there was this great big ‘moo.’ I turned around and there was this big brown cow looking at me. They had two cows, they had 16 sheep. John, he looked like Einstein... He would ride around on his tractor… This is really exciting. It was so sad to watch it fade.”
The restoration cost the city some $300,000, according to The Hour, but has since gone on to recoup costs through renting the barn out for baptisms, birthday parties, anniversaries, etc. It’s a marvel that the volunteers’ efforts have been so successful.
Fodor Farm Through The Lens Of Dan Lenore
Norwalk Photographer Dan Lenore took a particular shine to the property between 2006 and 2007, and took a series of shots detailing Fodor Farm and its condition. This exhibit will feature those photographs, which “documented the farm before the transformation into a park.”
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