In 1970 Arthur Collins, with the backing of Bill Purcell and Arthur Emil, purchased the Lyon Farm on Weaver Street with the goal of constructing roughly 200 condominiums in cluster groupings, a landscape design that the State of California had recently legalized. He bought approximately 150 acres that had been in the same family eleven generations. The patriarch of the family, Thomas Lyon, had arrived in the Stamford/Greenwich area in 1638 and, a decade later, married the granddaughter of the most powerful and influential man in New England at the time, Governor John Winthrop. Family scandal and territorial disputes between the English and the Dutch and between the New Haven and Greenwich settlements meant that Thomas did not receive his land grant from the town until the early 1670s. His son, Thomas Lyon, built the small saltbox that now stands on the Post Road near the border with NY. Two descendants built more substantial houses at 128 and 158 Weaver Street in the mid 18th and 19th centuries respectively as the family’s property and wealth grew. None of those houses were included in the sale.
To bring his vision for the property to fruition, Collins and his partners at CEP Development Group had to get the zoning laws of the Town of Greenwich changed, donate a third of the West Lyon property to create what is now Pemberwick Park, and negotiate endless minutiae to do with the development. Determined to maintain the integrity of the contours of land and its rural feel, Collins spent hours situating the free standing condos and their garages so that he disturbed the walls, rocks, and trees on the property as little as possible and provided a view and a modicum of privacy to unit owners.
The 50 acres on the east side of Weaver Street were developed first into what became the East Lyon Farm Condominium Association. He sold 28 one acre lots for individual development and constructed 37 free standing houses with adjacent two car garages on the remaining 32 acres. The five different models, many of which had roof lines designed to evoke memories of New England saltbox houses, were clustered in cul-de-sacs of 6 to 8 homes. This configuration left acres of open space with rambling stone walls, mature trees, a pond, and an original barn, which served first as the sales office and later as a community gathering spot with adjacent pool and paddle tennis court.
By 1974, construction had started on the west side of Weaver Street. The Greenwich zoning board required the CEP to give 36 of the approximately 100 acres to the town, which formed a virtual apron around the development. Like on the east side, Collins situated 154 homes in clusters on roughly half the remaining land, which maintained the rural feeling and left room for seven ponds, rolling open spaces, a playground, two tennis courts, and a pool. Another old barn was rehabilitated to serve as the Administrative Offices of the West Lyon Farm Association and meeting place for its various committees. Financial and design considerations led to the construction of 31 town homes with attached single garages in addition to the 123 free standing homes with two car garages. A covered bridge lent further uniqueness and charm to the west side development. By the end of 1978, it appears that all construction had ended, and all units had been purchased.
The beauty of the landscape and unit design of the Lyon Farm development garnered significant recognition. House and Home Magazine gave it an Award of Merit in its ‘Homes for Better Living Program,’ and it received an Honor Design Award from the Connecticut Society of Architects as “an example of land use that conserves large areas of open space.” The Greenwich Art Council chimed in by giving its first ever Architectural Award.
If you would like to read more about the fascinating histories both of the Lyon family and Arthur Collins’ development of the property, click here.