West Hartford Land Trust Acquires Another Significant Contribution

Wojan's Woods is the newest West Hartford Land Trust property. Photo credit: Dorian Olivera

Brook runs through it: Wojan’s Woods

Wojan’s Woods is the newest West Hartford Land Trust property. Photo credit: Dorian Olivera

By Dorian Olivera, Associate Director WHLT

In late December 2020, papers were signed on a unique piece of land largely hidden from public view.

Save for a handful of modest trails that meander through the property, it remains close to its natural state. Documented as 142 Davenport Road, the 2.75-acre parcel is located just south of Wolcott School and is accessible from where Davenport Road ends as a short extension off Wolcott Road, and on the opposite end where Davenport Road reconnects to Red Top Drive.

Neighbors on all sides, most unfamiliar with its history, have benefited from its unrestricted yet close proximity. Given the relatively small amount of undeveloped land in West Hartford, parcels such as this one, in the midst of a thriving neighborhood, are rare. 

We can trace the recent history of this land to Bernard C. Wojan (1917-2012), a son of German immigrants who settled in Meriden, CT. He worked for Pratt & Whitney during WWII, although his primary career was as an educator and guidance counselor.

He also saw the value of land and acquired the 12 acres subdivided into what is now Barton Street and Chestnut Lane, which contains the 142 Davenport Road parcel, affectionately known as “Wojan’s Woods.” In 1951 Bernard married the love of his life, Ruth M. Steenburgh (1917-1983), a great-great granddaughter of the American Revolution.

For a time they lived in a home behind the Quaker Meetinghouse located on S. Quaker Lane and later moved to Red Top Drive. Ultimately Bernard moved back to his childhood home in Meriden, where he died at age 95

The West Hartford Land Trust is sincerely grateful to the Wojan-Steenburgh family for their foresight and generosity in protecting Wojan’s Woods over the years and in donating it so that it can be enjoyed by the residents of West Hartford now and in the future. Under the stewardship of the Land Trust, Wojan’s Woods will have an added layer of protection from development, providing a small oasis for plants and wildlife, as well as the West Hartford community.

Later this spring an informal dedication will be made at the property by request of the surviving family to honor the memory of their mother and father, Bernard and Ruth.

Courtesy West Hartford Land Trust

The West Hartford Land Trust was established in 2002 and currently oversees seven parcels in West Hartford. Our mission is important, to focus on the preservation and protection of open space and natural resources in West Hartford. The Land Trust is independent from town services and financial backing. We rely solely on volunteers and the generosity of others. Through ongoing public giving we can continue to build and set aside opportunities for residents to enjoy and appreciate even more open space within the natural beauty of our Town. Consider becoming a sustaining member and kindly visit us online to learn more. Better together.

Visit: https://wehalandtrust.org

Contact: [email protected]

Donate: https://donorbox.org/wehalandtrust

Wojan’s Woods is the newest West Hartford Land Trust property. Photo credit: Dorian Olivera

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  • Just as I was thinking my old neighborhood was being irrevocably lost to development, freeways and shopping malls, I was heartened to see that at least a small part of the woods I traipsed around in as a pre-teen in the early-mid 1950s would be preserved. There was a small pond in there where an extended Barton St. is today. In the winter, we kids waited for it to freeze over so we could ice skate.

    I moved to southern California in 1959, when I was 17 but those wonderful memories of growing up in West Hartford will always be with me. My thanks to the Wojan-Steenburgh family and the West Hartford Land Trust preserving this little piece of history, West Hartford’s and mine. Also thanks to WeHa.com for letting me know through their newsletter.

    • Mr. Bean, thank you for sharing your memories of the woods! We moved there in 1959 so just missed you. My siblings and I enjoyed playing in the woods as well. Thanks for adding the memory of the pond. I don’t remember that!

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