Lucy T. Hammer moved to Branford in 1927 after marrying her husband, Thorvald. He soon succeeded his father as president and general manager of Malleable Iron Fittings, a company that employed many Branford residents in an enormous factory on the Branford River. Mrs. Hammer was an important member of the Branford community in her own right, serving six years in the State House of Representatives and twelve in the Senate.

Lucy Hammer cherished this land for the ponds, the wildflowers, and the space for contemplation. In 1984, the Hammers donated 23 acres to the Branford Land Trust; eight years later Mrs. Hammer added another four acres, an open meadow fronting on Cherry Hill Road, which she called “The Lea.” At the time of her 1984 gift, Mrs. Hammer told the Branford Review, “I love the land. It sounds high-flown, but that’s all it is.”

The Hammer Woodlands preserve an interesting natural and cultural history. In 1674 the property was deeded to Isaac Bradley, whose family would clear the forest for grazing and agriculture over the next two centuries. The Bradleys also created the three ponds now on the property; these were part of Branford’s flourishing ice business in the first decades of the 20th century. After the ice was harvested in the winter, it was stored in a stone building, the foundation of which is still standing not far from Gurd’s Pond, named for Gurdon Bradley, the grandson of the original builder of the dam. Reforestation of the site began again in the mid-1800s as residents abandoned farming and took up industrial work.

The high point of the property is Todd’s Hill traprock ridges. Don’t miss the wildflowers, particularly noteworthy on the east side of Todd’s Hill Ridge, in early spring. To the north of the pond visitors will also find a collection of some of the older trees of Branford, mostly hardwoods, thriving in the nutrient-rich microclimate in the shadows of Todd’s Hill Ridge.