Stanford, Connecticut is a city with big plans. These must have suffered a bit of a setback, like so many through the banking crisis and recession. But the green shoots of renewal mean that ambition is once again abroad in Stanford.
So it was particularly good to visit Grey Cliffs. Five lodges within easy reach of each other occupy six beautifully landscaped acres on one of the most superb waterside locations on Long Island Sound. I thought of it as a sort of Camp David by-the-sea. The presidential enclave has always intrigued. A collection of cabins in the woods fit for a president. Well here is a mini Camp David that perhaps goes one better in its magnificent waterside location.
About eighty years ago a gentleman who had made his fortune during the years of prohibition, established a sanctuary here for his family. He had started on road to riches in the floristry business in Manhattan. Later he opened his own shop and then branched out into liquor and food. He worked out that the three areas of business that would withstand a recession, or even depression, were “food, booze and flowers”. He was right then. And of course he would be right today.
When I visited on a cold but clear early March day with the snowdrops braving the chill, the crocuses thinking about it and the magnolias yet to bud, it was clear that here was a property for a big multi-branch family that liked to stick together. Or perhaps as a facility for one of the new breed of businesses that are setting up in Stanford. Downtown is only ten minutes’ drive away and Grand Central Station, NYC, only fifty minutes on the train. Recent good news is, in a $100 million deal, NBC Sports Group are taking over the old Clairol HQ, about a mile away from Grey Cliffs, and building a studio that will bring about 450 new jobs to the area, and no doubt kick start yet more regeneration and bring fresh talent to the city.
As I wandered down the pathway past the magnificent copper beech – one of so many trees that make Grey Cliffs an arboretum – to the pretty beach house and private beach with its sturdy little jetty, I reflected that this was a property fit for any president, be it the president of a country, a company or a family.
In the summer the big classic yachts in Long Island Sound thunder past Grey Cliffs as they have done for over a hundred years. Watching them from the shore may well trigger intrigue and perhaps a little envy. But spare a thought for the racers who may reflect back those feelings as they sail past. They may be privileged to be afloat in their boat but the residents of Grey Cliffs are particularly privileged to be at hand on their land.