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      by Anya Laurence

Edith Morton Chase

   Born in Waterbury, Connecticut, on April 3, 1891, the daughter of Alice Morton and Henry Sabin Chase, Edith was not only one of the most generous philanthropists in the state, but was also an astute business woman, increasing her inheritance and other holdings with discrimination and prudence. When she died on June 6, 1972, she left her entire estate, Topsmead State Forest ‘for the pleasure and enjoyment of the people of Connecticut.’

   Edith’s father, Henry Sabin Chase, one of three sons of Augustus Sabin Chase, was head of the Waterbury Manufacturing Company (later called Chase Brass and Copper Company); his brother Irving Hall Chase was President-Treasurer of Waterbury Clock Company and the other brother, Frederick Starkweather Chase was President of the Chase Family holdings. The family was extremely wealthy and prominent in Waterbury society.

A 1910 graduate of Miss Porter’s School in Farmington, in 1917 Edith received a gift of 16 acres of land on Jefferson Hill from her father which would ultimately, after many additions, become Topsmead in the hills of Litchfield. It was here that Edith built a rustic cabin which she replaced in 1925 with the Cotswold cottage that proudly stands on the 511 acres of hills, meadows, farmland and forest which today is Topsmead State Forest.
   The cottage was designed by Richard Henry Dana, Jr., a famous architect of the time, and the exterior has cypress beams which support a slate roof. Exquisite English-style architecture and landscaping which includes holly, lilac and juniper bushes, makes the outdoors almost a part of the house. The interior of the house is neither ornate nor austere but simple and understated. Edith shared her home until her death with two friends, Lucy and Mary Burrall, who had been neighbors when she lived at 42 Church Street in Waterbury.
Henry Chase |

Edith Morton Chase was a talented businesswoman, managed her holdings with care. and served for many years on the board of the Connecticut Forest and Park Association. Her gift to the state was tied to an endowment to be used to keep Topsmead “in a state of natural beauty.”

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