In 1886, Joseph Dillaway Sawyer (1849-1933), a textile executive who commuted between New York and Boston, came in search of a convenient country place. He paid $8,500 for the widow Sabina Bowen’s 78-acre farm atop Palmer’s Hill, most of it located in the Town of Greenwich, moved her century-old house by ox cart to what is now #53 Hillcrest Park Road, remodeled it, and called his new property Hillcrest Farm. After a fling at dairy farming, Sawyer turned to real estate development, seeing a potential in building large summer homes for New Yorkers.
At one time Sawyer owned 250 acres of land in Greenwich and by 1911 had built some 30 substantial residences, most of them to his own designs, in this area and along the shoreline of Long Island Sound.
Sawyer’s Buena Vista, a large Mediterranean-style villa often referred to as “The Castle,” and his Stony Crest are nearby with Palmer Hill Road addresses. Hillcrest Hall, Storm King, Brier Cliff and The Gables, once located in the Park, no longer exist.
Over the years Sawyer-built estate outbuildings have been transformed into private residences, many retaining picturesque features. On Hillcrest Park Road they include #60 and #105. On Rickibeth Lane, named many years ago for a granddaughter of a Croftleigh owner, there are #11 and #7 . The latter, once a stables-carriage house with ballroom, was said to be a casino in the “Roaring Twenties” frequented by New York’s colorful Mayor Jimmy Walker.
In the 1930’s, architect W. Stuart Thompson designed several attractive colonial-style brick residences on Hillcrest Park Road. They include #65, #69 , #73 , #87 and #93. As prized one-acre lots became available in our private association, other property owners built comfortable homes in various styles.
* plaqued by The Historical Society, Town of Greenwich