Our History
1960 Earthplace Groundbreaking

1960 – Groundbreaking Ceremony, John Ripley Forbes speaking

Earthplace, formally known as the Westport Nature Center, was founded in 1958. It has grown to include many mission-related resources including a state-licensed preschool, a nature based exhibit hall, and Harbor Watch, our locally renowned water quality research program. Our wildlife sanctuary consists of 62 contiguous acres of open space that supports a variety of habitats and several miles of walking trails—including a trail suitable for wheelchairs and strollers. We are also home to the live Connecticut Birds of Prey Exhibit and the indoor Animal Hall for daily viewing of our animal ambassadors. Earthplace works toward our mission every day by providing a diverse continuum of hands-on, nature-based learning experiences throughout childhood and young adulthood, as well as environmental programs and volunteer opportunities for adults.


History of Earthplace Timeline

2017Publicly-accessible playscape constructed, inspired by how children play in nature.
2016125-seat, open-air ampitheater constructed with lumber donated by a neighbor.
2015Dr. Sarah Crosby named Harbor Watch director replacing Dick Harris who founded the program and dedicated decades to our local waterways.
2013Tony McDowell named Executive Director of Earthplace.
200722-acre Partrick Wetlands open space donated to Earthplace.
2006Grand re-opening of Natureplace after renovations to modernize and create interactive and interpretative natural history information.
2003Wheels In The Woods IV Trail established.
2002Name changed to Earthplace, The Discovery Nature Center.
1993Building expanded to 22,000 square feet.
1988Protected lands expanded to 62 acres.
1986Harbor Watch established as an Earthplace Science Program.
1985Dr. John D. Horkel, Ph.D. becomes the new Executive Director.
1974Edward T. Peach appointed as Executive Director.
1973Name changed to The Nature Center for Environmental Activities.
1970John Gardner named Director.
1967The preschool was founded under the leadership of Donna Weiss and Carole Rubenstein.
1965Sculpture of mother bear and cubs donated by artist, Anna Hyatt Huntington.
1962Formation of Women's League. Instructional program agreement with Westport, Norwalk, and Wilton school systems.
1961Dedication of building.
1960Alan Mahl chosen as the organization's first Director.
Programs originate in a barn at the corner of King's Highway and Wilton Road.
Junior Staff program formed.
1959Groundbreaking ceremony for The Mid-Fairfield County Youth Museum, designed by the firm of Gibbons and Heidtmann.
1958The first Board of Trustees is established and led by President Dr. Andreas Lazlo and Chairman John Ripley Forbes.
The first 10 acres of land donated to the organization by Mrs. Dudley Wadsworth.
The initial 53.75 acres of the sanctuary were either gifted to or purchased by the organization between 1958 and the early 1960s.
Founders: John Ripley Forbes, Dr. Andreas Laszlo, Mrs. Dudley Wadsworth, Miss Katherine Ordway, Henry Gund, Bern Dibner, James B. McMahon, Jr., Daniel M. McKeon, Mrs. Edward J. Churchill, Mrs. Barbara Gray Mills, Dr. Guy F. Robbins, Aaron Rabinowitz, Harvey L. Koizim, Mrs. John T. Curtis, Dr. George E. Ingham