The Bennett Park Vision
For more than four decades, the most important spot welcoming visitors to the Village of Millbrook has become ever more blighted by the steady deterioration of the buildings that once comprised Bennett College. In 2021, with renovation of the Village’s historic Thorne Building into a community center already under way, the Millbrook Community Partnership, Inc. (MCP) saw – and seized upon – a once-in-a-century opportunity to reimagine two of the Village’s icons concurrently. After gaining title to the former Bennett campus, the MCP has begun the process of demolishing the buildings. In their stead, a new park will rise.
The MCP’s overarching vision is to connect the Thorne Center, which sits at the top of Franklin Avenue and will serve as a platform for a variety of indoor cultural activities, to the new Bennett Park, which sits at the bottom of Franklin Avenue and will serve as a platform for a variety of outdoor cultural activities. Each of these two historic sites sits on an axis with the Village’s third major public space, The Millbrook Tribute Garden and Village Green.
Establishment of the park on the former Bennett campus will make it possible for visitors and residents alike to walk or bike from Millbrook’s newest and largest public green space to the Tribute Garden, and from there up the gently sloping hill of Franklin Avenue to the Thorne Center, which will serve as the community’s cultural anchor and communal gathering space.
Sadly, the Bennett buildings were not maintained for more than 40 years, and they contained high levels of asbestos. Little of the buildings could be saved, however, MCP is preserving several features of the college and will incorporate them into the park design, including the the Halcyon Hall stonework and Otis Birdcage elevator.
Since receiving the 35-acre property as a gift from the Thorne Family and Tribute Garden, the founders of MCP have accomplished several steps to complete and clear the property, including:
Completing asbestos abatement and demolition of existing Bennett College structures,
Commencing grading, planting and construction of trails,
Reuniting the Great Lawn by acquiring land that had been ceded to the neighboring condominium association,
Securing Exmoore House (the former college president’s house) to serve as a Bennett College Museum and Visitor’s Center,
Working with renowned public garden designer Lynden Miller to develop park design.
Click on the links below to learn more about each Project Phase...