Ah!!! The swoosh of a blade, the crack of a puck against the boards…these melodious sounds can be heard from Thanksgiving until March as children and adults alike take to the ice at The New Canaan Winter Club for fresh air and good clean fun. There is a marvelous story behind the creation of the Winter Club and it involved many wonderful families. This is how it happened…
Before the Winter Club, Hardon Pond was one of the many area spots where families would gather for recreational skating and pick-up hockey whenever the weather was cold enough for ice. But for Jane Resor, the amount of available skating time was simply not enough. As a child, Jane had spent countless hours on the ice at her family’s lakeside home in Minnesota, and she wanted her children to have the same wonderful experience.
In an article appearing in the New Canaan Country School Bulletin in December of 1957, teacher Annalee Fadiman wrote, “she was used to three months of pure skating, and she tried to find as much of it for her children as possible in New Canaan’s unpredictable winters, even skating on Mud Pond when two thirds of it was open water, persuading the Fire Department to flood Hardon Pond when its surface was snow pitted.”
Jane’s husband Stan shared her love of skating, and together, they embarked on a project that would forever benefit their kids and other community families. The Resor’s solicited the help of other parents to explore the possibility of building an artificial ice rink. Albert Bergfeld, a trustee of NCCS, and father of Dan, Kristen, and Lisa, quickly got involved, as did Jane and Endicott Davison, parents of Chipper, David and Mike. Together, these individuals worked to enlist the help of others who would formulate the plan, select the site, and define the budget for a fundraising campaign. The group negotiated with Country School for a two-acre site on Frogtown Road, which included Hardon Pond. In Jane Resor’s mind, the location was absolutely perfect – not only would there be a consistent artificial ice surface, but skaters could continue to enjoy the use of the pond whenever the ice froze. Country School agreed to sell the site to the Winter Club for an initial “determinable fee” of $4,500; in return, the Winter Club guaranteed NCCS the use of necessary ice time per week at agreed upon costs for skating time for all grades. This contract was to remain in effect for as long as the Winter Club continued to be a skating club. Today, NCCS continues to use the ice for school skating, which accounts for approximately 12 percent of the club’s total ice time.
The rink and a clubhouse, including the cost of the refrigeration machinery and a Zamboni, would cost $250,000, so the founding committee began visiting families to raise money, utilizing a bond investment process. Ten-year bonds, based on the estimated life of the rink’s pipes, were sold for $500 each. As added incentive, annual dues of $125 would be waived for five years for families who bought five bonds. Buying a bond was not a prerequisite to membership – the club was to be all–inclusive, as it remains today, and anyone who wished to join was encouraged to apply.
According to Stan Resor, raising the money was relatively easy – virtually everyone embraced the idea and couldn’t wait to get the rink built!
A tremendous amount of research and expertise went into the design of the rink and clubhouse. The architect was Michael Irving, a member, and father of Michelle, Duncan, Cully and Fiona. The committee made visits to existing rinks, consulted the founders of the Greenwich Skating Club which had already opened, and hired the general contractors who had built the Hotchkiss School’s rink to run the project. A landscaping company from Darien prepared the construction site, smartly preserving the elegant willow trees which remain today. The idea to elevate the clubhouse above rink level was taken from the rink design at the Groton School. The decision to use rubber matting and benches with cubbies to hold skates and shoes came from the rink at St. Paul’s School.
The two most essential pieces of equipment – the compressors, necessary to refrigerate the ice, and the Zamboni – were the most expensive parts of the project. The compressors were bought from a company in Buffalo, New York, and Frank Zamboni from Los Angeles, personally delivered the Zamboni, the first on the East Coast.
The water to make the ice was originally to be pumped from the pond, but that plan quickly changed following advice that pond water might damage the equipment. Instead, NCCS Headmaster Henry Welles agreed to allow a hose to be strung from the old Upper School Building, down the hill, and across the road to carry tap water. Thanks to this ingenious solution, the Winter Club opened, on time, on Thanksgiving Day. Rumor has it that Jane and Stan Resor were swept around the ice on the Zamboni, while founding members sipped champagne rink-side and applauded!
In 2003, the Winter Club underwent an extensive renovation project. Intimately involved in the renovation were Don O’Brien, then Winter Club President, Elliot Siderides, designer and builder for the project, and Joe Merrill, chairman of the Building Committee.
The wonderful history of the Winter Club is apparent in every square foot of the new space, and it exudes the charm and purpose of yesteryear. The warm and inviting Adirondack-style lodge with a large central fireplace, and lots of glass for watching skaters on the pond and the rink sits on exactly the same footprint as the original building. Members honored Stanley Resor at the dedication of the new clubhouse on November 22, 2003. During his remarks, Mr. Resor praised his late wife Jane, stating that it was really her love and commitment to the sport of skating that made the New Canaan Winter Club a dream come true.
Today the Winter Club has over 300 regular, limited, special, non-resident and lifetime members, including several of the original members, and bondholders from the 1957 opening. While the majority of the club’s members are from New Canaan, a large number hail from Darien, Wilton, Stamford and neighboring communities. The programs offered members has swelled to include figure skating for all levels, travel and house league hockey for kids of all ages and adult hockey for men and women. Through the years the club has maintained its original charter–and charm–as a unique place for area families to take to the ice for fresh air and good clean fun.
The New Canaan Winter Club wishes to thank New Canaan Country School for allowing us to include this article, which appeared in Winter 2004 issue of the NCCS Bulletin, on our website and in our handbook. We also wish to join NCCS in thanking Mr. Stanley Resor for sharing his memories on the history of the club for the writing of this story. And finally, we dedicate this piece to the memory of Jane Resor, whose vision has helped shape so many childhoods and brought so much happiness to so many families.