As the story goes, it all began in 1891 with a gift of a dozen elk, given by a friend to Chester W. Chapin Jr., a successful New York City entrepreneur and nature lover. To provide a safe home for the elk and other game he hoped to secure, Chapin acquired parcel after parcel of land in the Catskills’ Sullivan County until he finally knit together an 18,000-acre private game and wildlife preserve known as Chapin Park.
A self-taught expert in agriculture and animal husbandry, Chapin worked tirelessly for 31 years to preserve and enhance his wild lands—restoring its hills, valleys, lakes and winding brooks back to Mother Nature’s original blueprint. He fenced off a tract of nearly 6,000 acres and stocked it with deer, elk, trout and native pickerel. Other native wildlife flourished as well, including eagles, mink, foxes and bear. It’s been said Chapin’s strong sense of preservation—ranging from his protection of animals to the intelligent farming practices he demanded of his workmen—mirrored that of none other than Teddy Roosevelt who, more than anyone else, awakened America to the need for conservation of its natural resources. For instance, by sheltering his deer and elk from indiscriminate hunting, Chapin was contributing to the re-establishment of two species that might never have returned to their native area.
Shortly after Chapin’s death in 1922, Rockland Light and Power Company acquired the property, and for the past 80 years it has been maintained in its pristine state. Now in the capable, careful hands of new ownership, The Chapin Estate is a one-of-a-kind private sanctuary amidst the wonders of nature reserved for the urban entrepreneurs of today.
Chester Chapin’s dream was to create a private retreat not three hours from his principal residence in Manhattan—an escape that would simultaneously afford him and selected guests a sense of that “back to the wilderness” feeling so valued by successful urban business professionals of the time. He would be pleased to know that today, more than 125 years later, his dream continues.