"A people without the knowledge of their past history, origin and culture is like a tree without roots." ~ Marcus Garvey
Before Trumbull was settled, the Pinewood area was the home of Mischa, a Paugussett Indian, who lived with his clan near a natural lake which the settlers later called Old Farm Pond. Old Farm Pond was about 1150 feet long and 775 feet at its widest part, tapering to points at both ends. This pond was fed by Booth Hill Brook and Bears Den Brook, which joined about 1550 feet above the pond.
During the period from 1836-1840, about 100 acres including Old Farm Pond were purchased from various local natives by the Pequonnock Manufacturing Company and Diantha Bunnell. These buyers had financial difficulties, and the property was transferred several times over the years.
Subsequent owners included William R. Bunnell, Dean and La Monts, James Reed and Christopher C. Chadwick of Boston, the Bridgeport Paper Company, George Curtis of Boston, and others.
The lake grew to 3600 feet in length with the addition of a dam for the Upper Pond, and a factory near it, apparently built before the Civil War. The factory produced woolen shirts and blankets for the soldiers. It was necessary in order to contain the water, to build a dike across the low neck of land on the southwest side of the pond. The dike is still visible below the water at the spillway, and it is the reason for the naming of Old Dike Road. Howard Curtis, who lived on Huntington Turnpike and owned property near the lake, recalled ox-drawn carts of timber being drawn across the dike. He also recalled the spring-fed pasture land north and to the south of the present day island at 181 Pinewood Trail.
On August 27, 1893, George Curtis sold the collected properties amounting to approximately hundred acres and the lake (then called Bunnell’s Pond) to the Bridgeport Hydraulic Company (now Aquarion). Bridgeport Hydraulic also purchased a large tract of land to the west as a watershed, and proceeded to raise the dam about eight feet, extending the length of the lake by 600 to 700 feet. The new dam was built over the old dam and north of it. The area around the lake was sparsely populated and several old time residents have owned up to sneaking in to go fishing and swimming in the reservoir. The size of the lake at its remoteness probably allowed for ample warning when the water company sent their patrols through for a look.
Pine Brook Country Club
In 1930, Benjamin Plotkin purchased 500 acres including what is now known as Pinewood Lake, formerly Upper Bunnell Reservoir, from the Bridgeport Hydraulic Co. Plotkin, who is described as affable and progressive, developed it as a resort for guests and renamed the lake as Pine Brook Country Club.
This area had no buildings or other facilities. He developed it with roads, electric light, buildings and a water supply, into a summer vacation resort for 500 people with cabins and recreation buildings. The present Clubhouse (including revolving stage), known as Pine Brook Lodge, was used for stage shows and dancing. The Dining Hall, no longer in existence, accommodated 500 at a sitting. During the summer about 100 college boys were employed.
Pine Brook Lodge was built very quickly, in a matter of two months by 130 carpenters. Mr. Plotkin’s vision was to market the Pine Brook Lodge as a place to enjoy theatre productions. Pine Brook is best known for having been the 1936 summer rehearsal headquarters of the most important experiment in the history of American theatre. The Group Theatre (New York) was formed in New York City in 1931 by Harold Clurman, Cheryl Crawford and Lee Strasberg.
Mr. Plotkin combined the lure of leading-edge theatre productions with important playwrights and actors with the peaceful vistas of the lake, low prices, and a short trip time from New York. Anyone who either didn’t want to take the popular but longer and more expensive trips to the Catskills could reach Pine Brook in a matter of hours for a round trip railroad fare of $1.25 in the 1930s. The resort flourished for several years but eventually became unprofitable, no doubt in part because of the many impacts of World War II.
Pine Brook Country Club
Pinewood Lake Association is founded
Eventually a bank was appointed as trustee. Mortgages were held by the bank and by Bridgeport Hydraulic Company. The bank changed the name to Pinewood Lake, and divided the property around the lake into building lots.
The bank created the Pinewood Lake Association and gave purchasers the option of becoming members of the Association which included privileges for the use of the Clubhouse. Sales proceeds were sufficient to clear the entire total of mortgage debts.
A large parcel to the west of Pinewood Lake was purchased by E. Merrill and Florence G. Beach, who later donated it to the Town of Trumbull as a park in memory of their son Robert Greening Beach, who perished in World War II. Beach Park today includes a Town Pool, and abuts Twin Brooks park to create an even larger and untouched wilderness area.
Pinewood lake measures 60.2 acres per CT DEEP survey in 2014.
Written by Mr. E. Merrill Beach. Information collected from Trumbull town records, history books, maps, local habitants, and personal experiences. Additional information added by Mary Keane and John Girard.
Pinewood Lake 1984