By Kaitlin Bradshaw on December 22, 2014
Lotte Fields, a former Redding and New York resident, died in 2013 but made headlines last spring when $6 million was endowed to the New York Public Library in addition to several other beneficiaries, including the Redding Land Trust.
In her will, Mrs. Fields left the 21.83 acres of her George Hull Hill Road estate to the land trust to preserve forever as open space. The Redding Land Trust accepted the endowment and will now call the land the Lotte and Henry Fields Preserve.
The land consists of two adjacent parcels, 28 George Hull Hill Road and 48 George Hull Hill Road. The land is in a secluded, northwestern portion of Redding along an infrequently traveled dirt road, according to Sean McNamara of the land trust. The home and five acres of land have been sold.
In 1961, Mrs. Fields and her late husband, Henry, bought 17 acres on George Hull Hill Road. They built a house in the woods on the edge of a bluff overlooking the Saugatuck River, and in 1971 they purchased nine more acres. On weekends and in the summer the two would escape the hustle and bustle of Manhattan to their home in the woods — all on land where a dairy farm once stood
Mrs. Fields came to the United States in 1939 from Germany to escape the Holocaust. She finished high school in New York and attended Wellesley College on a full scholarship. Soon after graduation she became an economic affairs officer at the United Nations. She then went on to be a financial expert for the Girl Scouts of America and ultimately a skilled arbitrator in major financial disputes as well as an accomplished ceramic artist.
She married Henry Fields, a leader in the international wood industry, and they resided in New York and Redding.
It was in both Mrs. and Mr. Fields’ wills that nearly all of their land on George Hull Hill Road extending down to the Saugatuck River and beyond was to be given to the Redding Land Trust after both died.
Mr. Fields died in 1991 and Mrs. Fields lived for many years after.
Mrs. Fields’ close friend and Redding neighbor Marion Grebow, along with other friends, said they were pleased to know that Henry and Lotte’s legacy is now safely in the hands of the Redding Land Trust.
Ms. Grebow and her family moved to Redding in 1991. During their first Thanksgiving in town, Ms. Grebow and her family went on a hike behind their home.
“We went up the wrong path and emerged onto someone’s driveway just as the homeowner was driving up to her house. We were mortified to be trespassing on private land, apologized and introduced ourselves to the driver, Lotte Fields, who was quite taken aback by our sudden appearance but was none the less gracious,” said Ms. Grebow.
Over the next couple of months Ms. Grebow and her family would run into Mrs. Fields while out on walks and they would stop and chat.
“Within the year we would spend time together every weekend. Lotte became a beloved friend and a member of our family,” she said.
“Lotte, a Wellesley graduate, was very intelligent and well read. She loved art, traveled the world and found great joy in observing nature. She was blessed with an avid curiosity for life, taking classes and attending lectures in the city up to the last few years of her life,” said Ms. Grewbow. “Lotte was a very loved and cherished friend. Our lives were enriched by the time we spent together. Her wisdom, curiosity and love of beauty as well as her generous spirit were treasures we were fortunate to have known. It is true to her nature that she has left this world a bit better for heaving been in it.”
About the Land
According to Mr. McNamara, the most significant feature of the land is that the Saugatuck River passes through the northern section of the land. It is one of the last places in Redding where the river passes through privately held land on both banks. The river then flows for about 900 feet before entering Aquarion and state of Connecticut land to the east.
The land is covered by hardwood forest, primarily white and red oak, sugar and red maple, black birch and some hemlock, said Mr. McNamara. Several stone walls remain and mark the border between the two parcels as well as the location of the border with the state land to the east.
Because the river flows between the two parcels and the land is low and flat, the land trust believes it would make a nice area for a hiking path along the wide and rapid river.
To the south of the property, the land features rugged terrain. The land rises to a rocky ledge with an impressive view, according to Mr. McNamara. There are several vernal pools, and springs lead downhill and feed the bog to the east where the Saugatuck River flows. Preservation of this land protects the Saugatuck Reservoir watershed. The western part of the land is mired by invasive barberry, he said.
The management plan for the property is to create a trail that follows the river at 48 George Hull Hill Road and then crosses to an upland climb to the ledges at 28 George Hull Hill Road, according to Mr. McNamara. The land trust would make sure the use of the land was sensitive to the watershed, but it also want to remove some of the invasive barberry from the property to make it less attractive to ticks.