Early in the 20th century, with help from the famous Olmsted Brothers firm of landscape architects, Clarence Wadsworth designed and planted the arboretum on Long Lane in Middletown to extend and enhance the approach to his Long Hill estate. The collection included at least one of each variety of forest tree found in the northeastern United States. Subsequent additions have been planted by the City of Middletown Public Works Department, Middletown Urban Forestry Commission, Middletown Garden Club, individuals and The Rockfall Foundation.
In 1994 Rockfall signed a Letter of Agreement with the city of Middletown and the state of Connecticut “to preserve, maintain, and develop the Arboretum as an historical, recreational, and educational natural resource.” The agreement officially recognized the arboretum as the “Wadsworth/Kerste deBoer Arboretum.” Kerste deBoer, a Middletown resident who lived nearby, passionately defended the preservation of the arboretum when the city of Middletown planned a roadway improvement that would have decimated this important collection of trees.
The arboretum marked its 100th anniversary in 2009 and is now jointly owned by the city of Middletown and Wesleyan University. It currently includes more than 200 trees, representing over 50 species, including every native oak known to grow in Connecticut. Rockfall continues to work with Middletown’s Urban Forestry commission to:
- Contribute to management plans
- Encourage regular updates to the tree inventory
- Develop maps of the arboretum
- Coordinate and fund the installation of descriptive tree tags and commemorative memorial plaques
- Organize walks and guided tours through the collection.
The arboretum is located on both sides of Long Lane between Church and Wadsworth streets in Middletown. Parking is usually available near the old brownstone gate on the east side at 170 Long Lane, or on the west side in the lot next to the Long Lane Farm sign.