A chapter ("Lake Kitchawan," by Ronald G. Egloff) from A History of the Town of Lewisboro, by Alvin Jordan (1994 ed.)
Lake Kitchawan is a beautiful spring fed lake, half in Pound Ridge, half in Lewisboro. The name, "Lake Kitchawan," came from a tribe of Kitchawong Indians living between the southern end of Lake Kitchawan and the northern end of Trinity Lake. One of the grave sites for the Kitchawongs is on Kitchawan Road near the Pound Ridge line, part of the former Henry and Myrtle Birdsall farm.
The oldest building in the area was at the southern end of the lake in Pound Ridge. It was a group of four homes (better known as the "Lost Village"). The owners were Matthew Austin, a basketmaker, Harry Austin a farmer, Stephen Bouton who sold wild huckleberries and other produce and Clarence DeForest who was on the Lewisboro side. The houses were occupied from 1840 to the 1890's with the Raymond and Scott families living there in the latter part of the period. Tuberculosis and other diseases decimated the families and later the buildings were destroyed by fire.
In 1867, the Ridgefield and New York Railroad was projected for a 22 mile route to run from East Port Chester to Ridgefield. It ran parallel to the Byram River and proceeded to Greenwich and through the northwestern corner of Stamford, Mill River, east of Trinity Lake and Lake Kitchawan, then along the east side of Lewisboro to Ridgefield. Local farmers willingly accepted Ridgefield and New York Railroad stock as payment for their land. The soft, wide right of way was almost completely graded between Port Chester and Ridgefield and ready for the laying of the tracks when work was abandoned after the Panic of 1873. A new completion date was set for 1890 but at that point the New York, New Haven and Hartford Railroad acquired controlling interest and the project was allowed to lapse. You can still see this bed along the banks of Mill River just east of the river. Just think of the changes that could have taken place if this was completed.
Lake Kitchawan Park came about out of two parcels of land in 1925. One of these was the Southeastern Farms, Inc., which was on the southern end of the lake and Lake Kitchawan Grove which was on the northeastern side. This property was formerly the Craft property. A total of about 1250 lots fifty feet wide, 100 feet deep were laid out on narrow streets.
As early as July 18th, 1928, friends and property owners at Lake Kitchawan gathered together to raise money and gather thoughts to make the Lake Kitchawan community a better, safer place to live. The first project was the gathering of money to build a float 12 foot by 16 foot with two anchors and supported by two 1,000 gallon fuel tanks. There was a large diving tower on the float. The first meeting took place in the grove. The grove was the area of land that is now used as a parking lot. The first meeting of the property owners was held Saturday, August 11th, 1928 at 8 p.m. The purpose of this meeting was to form the Lake Kitchawan Park Owners Club. About 70 property owners were present, all full of enthusiasm. Mr. Samuel S. Skinner of Mt. Kisco was appointed temporary chairman with Charles D. Tarantino of Stamford recording secretary and Mr. A.T. DeForest treasurer. The next meeting took place in DeForest's store (later to become the Casino owned by Mr. A. Carlson) on Saturday, August 25th, 1928. This meeting was called for the election of officers. Mr. Skinner was elected President, Mr. Paul Gilbert of Stamford was elected Vice President and Mr. Charles Meade of New Canaan was elected treasurer. Mr. Tarantino was elected secretary. The main point of the meeting was the setting of $5.00 as the initiation fee and $2.00 for the dues. Mr. Henry of New Canaan gave a very thorough explanation of the water system which he was installing in Lake Kitchawan (later to become the Bob Carlo water system). The bylaws were brought up and voted on. A special meeting was called by the Vice President for the officers on April 21st, 1929 in Mr. Meade's cottage after word of Mr. Skinner's death. Vice President Gilbert presided at the meeting and was elected President. Other business taken up at this time was a letter from the Conservation Department of New York regarding stocking the lake with a fresh supply of small mouth bass and white perch. This stocking would make the lake one of the better fishing spots in Westchester. On May 5th, a special meeting was held for the purpose of arriving at a definite plan which would not be expensive but all homes could have electricity. This would have to be brought in from the main road at a cost of $2.00 per month, all year round, plus 5¢ per kilowatt hour over the first five kilowatt hours used. This brought light to Lake Kitchawan for the first time and at 3¢ cheaper than Stamford.
On September 29th, 1929, Mr. A.T. DeForest reported that $70.33 had been contributed for the new pier built on the north side of the beach. This was later removed and replaced by a large pier over 75 feet long on the south end which was made from the top of telephone poles. This lasted over 25 years and was removed in 1980.
In September of 1932, a gold medal was awarded to Andre "Smithy" Huges for saving a child from drowning. In those days there were no lifeguards but all of the people kept a close eye on the children and were awarded for their bravery.
During the 1930's, money was set aside to either build or buy a clubhouse for the members of Lake Kitchawan community. It was not until October of 1951 that the clubhouse was purchased after 30 years of saving money from cake sales, clambakes, fairs and carnivals.
On August 12th, 1934, John Mathison reported on the presentation of a gold medal to Charles Meade, Jr., for having saved two children from drowning. As you can see the "looking-out-for-others" system was working.
As early as 1935, Margaret Verratti was successful in organizing a Junior Association with 19 members. This Junior Membership was kept up until the middle of 1977. This is a program badly needed again in this community. They had elected officers and had a variety of activities for the younger members of the community.
On May 16th, 1937, the first road program started. At this time, the roads were all dirt and very narrow. They were privately owned by the property owners. A lot of hard work and long hours went into keeping the roads in good condition. It was not until October 1963 that the town took over the first of the roads. The first to be turned over to the town was Lake Kitchawan Drive, from Mill River to the Casino area. This came about from a petition of 162 people requesting that the town help with the upkeep of the roads. As of today, the town has taken over all of the roads in the Lake Kitchawan area except for 7 roads which the property owners still have to keep up. A tax is collected from the property owners to pay for the snow plowing and general repairs. The town cannot take over the remaining roads because of state ordinances on width and turning-around space, as all of the roads are dead end. Throughout the history of the Association much time and effort has had to be spent on the collection of the road tax. This has taken time away from other areas and programs that were needed in the community. Because all help is volunteer, we always need help with weed control, beach improvement, and keeping up relations with town officials and police officials. In 1977, efforts were picked up in putting all of these areas in good working order again. Today we have a weed harvest program to remove the weeds from the lake. In 1980, over 20 tons of weeds were removed. They were used in the new community garden, adjacent to the clubhouse, another successful program started through the efforts of the Lake Kitchawan Association and Mr. David Lieberman. Anyone living in Lake Kitchawan can take a garden spot. A new program that is in the working is the remodeling of the clubhouse. There will be a new roof, and modernized bathrooms and kitchen. The funds for this and the weed harvesting comes from a federal HUD grant to upgrade the community.
A lifelong resident of the neighborhood, Lewisboro Town Historian Maureen Koehl will gladly tell anyone who asks: "There's nobody in Lewisboro that knows more about the history of Lake Kitchawan than Ron Egloff."
Photo Credit (Above): Swimmers near the Lake Kitchawan Association Beach (circa 1946-1950). Wm. Morgan, Jr., Rutherford, NJ. Lake Kitchawan Photo Collection Postcards.