Welcome to The Shade Swamp Sanctuary

Shade Swamp Sanctuary – Farmington, CT

The Shade Swamp Nature Trail and Sanctuary is a forgotten experimental project, developed in Farmington during the 1920s and 1930s. The Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) and Works Progress Administration (WPA) created a variety of projects during the 1930s and 1940s. One such project was the Shade Swamp Sanctuary. The Sanctuary demonstrated the collaboration of the State and Federal governments. The State Board of Fisheries and Game collaborated with the Connecticut State Nature League in the setting up and running of the Sanctuary. Unfortunately, the Sanctuary has deteriorated over the years. The question is whether it has a future or at least a history that can be viewed by the public?

The Sanctuary began as a great experiment in many ways. History remembers the project as ‘The Little Zoo,’ a place for animal rehabilitations. Injured animals and birds were brought to the zoo. The Sanctuary created a unique place for wildlife and plants. The CCC built a shelter that remains today. The WPA built cages and ‘natural’ dens to house native animals. Today the area hardly resembles the trail and zoo that thousands walked through it in the 1930s. It is located on Route 6 near Farmington, Connecticut. It is almost forgotten except for an occasional article and is barely noticed when driving by it.

Historian Robert Leighninger proposed that President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s New Deal agencies give definition to current public spaces. Leighninger declared the WPA and CCC created facilities in the United States. During their short histories are still visible and useful today. Shade Swamp Sanctuary only shows the decaying shells done there. He writes of roads, bridges, schools, courthouses, waterworks, parks, museums, community centers, fairgrounds, tennis courts, zoos, botanical gardens and many other projects. The “little zoo” and its rehabilitation cages are sad reminders of New Deal accomplishments. [1]

Leighninger cited architectural historian Diane Ghirardo, questioning about the recipients of the projects. While there are questions for which the projects built, they did get built and he thought for everyone. Segregation deprived African Americans from these projects at one time, but now they are available to all. Ghirardo called the projects a reminder, that public life was given items of variety and quality.[2]

[1] Robert Leighninger, Jr., (Columbia, S.C. University of South Carolina Press, 2007), 226.

[2] Leighninger, Jr., The Legacy of New Deal Public Space, 235. Architecture Professor Diane Ghirardo from the University of Southern California has written books on architecture history and theory.

2 thoughts on “Welcome to The Shade Swamp Sanctuary

  1. Christy

    Very detailed website about a fascinating piece of history. Great job Craig! Looking forward to reading more about it and taking a trip to see it in person.

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