Selectmen vote to name Darien’s hunt club property High Field Farm

Irish tenor John McCormack (courtesy Wikipedia)

The Board of Selectmen has decided on the name High Field Farm for the 16-acre property purchased from the Ox Ridge Riding & Racquet Club Club last year. Suggested by Selectman Marc Thorne, the name is an homage to Irish tenor John McCormack, a former owner of the property at 560 Middlesex Road.

McCormack, a well-known performer of opera and Irish folk songs, operated a dairy farm on the land spanning the town property and the neighboring Ox Ridge Riding & Racquet Club. Together with Town Clerk Donna Rajczewski, Thorne reviewed property records and learned that McCormack referred to the whole property as High Field Farm. According to the Ox Ridge website, the club’s name was also inspired by cattle on the farm.

“He was very successful in running concerts, in many countries in Europe and all over the United States,” Thorne said. “This was a time when radio was new, recordings were new, he was the newest stuff and he was very popular.”

High Field Farm was not the only name in consideration, as the Board of Selectmen discussed a few options during its meeting on May 7. Selectman Pam Sparkman said she had considered naming the field after the Siwanoy Native American tribe that lived in Darien prior to the town’s settlement. Though some suggested the property be named a meadow rather than a field, Selectman Susan Marks pointed out that the other meadows in town had more restricted uses than what is proposed for the 560 Middlesex property. While First Selectman Jayme Stevenson acknowledged that High Field was a somewhat innocuous name, it does appeal to the property’s history.

Stevenson said the town would like to avoid naming the landmarks and other town property after specific individuals, in case those figures are eventually seen as problematic in the future. Last year many monuments across the country came under scrutiny for celebrating Confederate leaders and other controversial historical figures in the wake of the Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville, Va., last year.

“There is some thought among the body of town government that we shouldn’t name things after people,” Stevenson said. “It sets a precedent that is somewhat difficult to keep up with and there’s also the idea that if we don’t fully research that individual’s history that we could end up with some embarrassment in the future.”

The name High Field Farm was tentatively approved with a unanimous vote; Stevenson said she would like to consult with Town Historian Marian Castell and John Reese, who authored a book on Darien’s history.

The town is still working to formally approve a site plan and allowed uses for the field. On May 15 at 8 p.m. the Planning & Zoning Commission will hold a public hearing at Town Hall allowing residents to discuss the Board of Selectmen’s recommended hours and terms of use for the property.