George Dudley Seymour was a man of vision. In 1883, at the age of 24, he began his law career in New Haven. His great success as a patent attorney provided him with the wealth necessary to fulfill his desire of land preservation in many areas of the state. In addition to the acquisition of this 334 acre park which bears his name, Seymour and his foundation acquired all or part of seven other state parks: Beaver Brook, Becket Hill, Bigelow Hollow, Hurd, Millers Pond, Platt Hill, and Stoddard Hill state parks and the Nathan Hale State Forest.
This park location in Seymour’s name was once the estate of George, Henry and Thomas Clark. Their Clark Cutaway Harrow Company in Higganum successfully produced cider presses, disk harrows, hay spreaders, plows, carriage jacks and other necessities of the day in the late 1800s and into the early 1900s. Their wealth enabled them to purchase the land and build their family estate at this location along the Connecticut River. The estate was called Clarkhurst for their own surname, and -hurst, meaning a wooded piece of rising ground. Here along the floodplain their comfortable lives played out and their agricultural tools were tested.
Over the years Henry purchased the property from his brothers, but with his passing in 1914 the mansion and many buildings began their decline. Deeded to his daughter in 1921, she attempted the maintenance of the property through the development of a golf course and other recreational facilities. But by the depression years of the 1930s, overgrowth and structural collapse had sealed its fate. In 1942 the land was acquired by Mrs. Marion Guthrie who, though she attempted its quick sale ultimately held it until 1960. Gladly the George Dudley Seymour Foundation provided the $60,000 necessary and the Connecticut Forest and Park Association was able to purchase the land for the state.
Today: a trail leading from the end of Clarkhurst Road leads past old foundations to a broad, grassy, Connecticut River tidal flat. Interpretive signs assist the visitor in the interpretation of the foundations of the estate on the landscape. Rock cliffs offer scenic views to the west and south.
It is interesting to note that native grasses across the state have been altered or replaced over time as a result of various land uses. But here on these floodplain soils, grass species that date from the 1600s or earlier can be found. These grasses predate European colonization and represent a time only the Native peoples were witness to. These and other grasslands within the park provide an excellent location for bird watching. In the spring of some years the DEEP manages this habitat with mowing and through controlled burns.
Combined with Hurd State Park adjoining to the north, these two properties protect two and a half miles of Connecticut River frontage and 1,249 acres (nearly two square miles) of Connecticut River valley property.