History of the SM&NC

In 1936, the Museum's founders envisioned a safe and stimulating sanctuary where children and families could learn about the natural world, the agricultural sciences, astronomy, art, and history. Today, more than 175,000 visitors each year participate in our educational activities built around these very same disciplines. We are proud to continue the tradition of educational excellence

Dr. G.R.R. Hertzberg
established over the past eighty years as we welcome new generations of visitors to the Stamford Museum & Nature Center.

Dr. G.R.R. Hertzberg, a prominent Stamford surgeon and the founding father of the museum, brought this philosophy to the first organizational meeting of the Museum on January 20, 1936. Five months after Dr. Hertzberg held the first meeting, there were four hundred and sixty memberships and $3,000 to cover one year's rent and a year's salary of $1,000 for a curator. Three rooms were rented in the Stamford Trust Company building at 300 Main Street. The official title of the Museum was The Stamford Museum, which permitted it to expand its scope to include art as well as natural science. The Museum opened to the public on June 27, 1936, with a number of natural science collections forming its nucleus.

In 1939, the Museum was incorporated under a State charter which enabled it to receive public funds while still remaining autonomous. The Town and City of Stamford (there were two governments at that time) began contributing, and as the Museum grew, so did the city and town's contributions.

Stamford Museum at Courtland Park
When the E.Y. Weber Estate deeded eight acres to the City of Stamford, Courtland Park was created. In 1945, the former carriage house was leased to the Museum for its new home. A small barnyard and a wildlife area were constructed. Art exhibits came into full bloom. A convertible planetarium was constructed, and the weather station was established. Again, programs, events and exhibits soon outgrew their space. In 1955, the Connecticut Turnpike claimed six of the Museum's eight acres in Courtland Park, forcing the Museum to look for an alternative location.

Through the hard work of Board members, fundraising committees and the generosity of the public, the Henri Bendel estate with three buildings and eighty acres of woodland became the Museum's new home in 1955. In 1929, in North Stamford, on the Museum's present site, fashion magnate Henri Bendel built his large, asymmetrical 10,000 square-feet, neo-Tudor mansion as a summer home. This property had belonged previously to George Blickensderfer, inventor and manufacturer of the Blickensderfer typewriter. The mansion was set high on the site to take advantage of the stunning views of the property.

The Museum grew considerably in nineteen years from three rooms in the center of Stamford to eight acres in Courtland Park, to eighty acres on Scofieldtown Road. An additional sixteen acres of the Bird Sanctuary owned by the City of Stamford were made accessible. Another property of eight acres was donated by Board member Benjamin D. Gilbert. A right of way of three acres making the Museum accessible to the Bartlett Arboretum trails was donated by Mr. & Mrs. Dwight Marshall. In 1980, eleven acres abutting these properties was purchased by the City of Stamford, with the Museum having permanent property rights, bringing the Museum's total property to 118 acres.

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