James L. Goodwin was one of the state’s earliest conservationists. He attended the Yale School of Forestry when it was still in its infancy and graduated in 1910.
Three years after his graduation, in 1913, Goodwin came to Hampton and purchased his first piece of property. Of these three acres of white pine and 25 acres of open field Goodwin wrote, "…it was my ambition to own, develop, and operate my own timber acres according to the best forestry principles."
He continued to expand and improve his forest lands through the years. His initial crop was Christmas trees which he planted in 1921. He sold a crop every year from 1924 until 1964. He experimented with red pines, spruces, white pines, and Norwegian pines as his "Pine Acres Farm" grew. Ultimately, the approximately 2,000 acres included Christmas trees, stands of timber, and apple orchards.
In 1933 he built a dam on Cedar Swamp Brook flooding the existing swamp and impounded what is now the 135 acre Pine Acres Lake. Black Spruce Pond and another smaller lake was also constructed on the property. In all, Goodwin accumulated nearly 2,000 contiguous acres split between the towns of Chaplin and Hampton.
Philip Goodwin, James’s brother, turned the run-down farmhouse into his home enabling James to live on the property. That farmhouse, located at 23 Potter Road in Hampton, is now the Goodwin Conservation Center and interpretive museum which focuses on explaining the natural sciences and the art of forestry.
James Lippincott Goodwin made a generous gift of this, his personal forest, to the state of Connecticut in 1964. Thus was born the Goodwin Forest Conservation Education Center.
Today the land surrounding the Goodwin Conservation Center and Pine Acres Lake is a living display of forest practices common in Connecticut. The interpretive museum adjacent to the center explains the natural sciences of the art of forestry. The lake vicinity has become the central hiking area of the forest and a great place to observe wildlife.