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Helen Binney Kitchel Papers Edit


Finding Aid Author
Processed by Jill Wistrand, April 2002, converted to Archives Space by Ashley Aberg, November 2023
Finding Aid Date
November 20, 2023
Description Rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Finding Aid Note
Part of the Manuscript Collections, Greenwich Historical Society Contact: Christopher Shields, Curator of Library and Archives 47 Strickland Road Cos Cob, CT 06807 United Stated


  • 1890-1983 (Creation)


  • 12 Linear Feet (Whole)
    12 document boxes, 3 banker's boxes of scrap books, broadsides



  • Scope and Contents

    This collection contains the papers of Helen Binney Kitchel. A Connecticut State Representative from 1931-1939, Mrs. Kitchel was a prominent figure on the Greenwich political scene, serving as a member of the Representative Town Meeting, the Chamber of Commerce, the Greenwich Reorganization Committee, the Greenwich League of Women Coters, as well as being a member of the Historical Society of the Town of Greenwich and the Old Greenwich Garden Club among other organizations. The daughter of Edwin Binney, co-founder of the Binney and Smith Corporation and Alice Stead Binney, musician and one of the founding members of the Historical Society of the Town of Greenwich, she married Allan Farrand Kitchel in 1909. Mr. Kitchel later became the president of the Binney and Smith Corp. and they remained life-long Old Greenwich residents. The bulk of the collection concerns Mrs. Kitchel's legislative work to eradicate billboards along Connecticut's scenic highways. This collection also contains papers relating to her extensive involvement in local committees and legislation, personal correspondence, the papers of Allan F. Kitchel and Alice Stead Binney, materials relating to the 1939 World's Fair, World War II, and various photographs and ephemera.

  • Conditions Governing Access

    There are no conditions governing access to this material.

  • Preferred Citation

    [Identification of item], The Helen Binney Kitchel Papers, Greenwich Historical Society

  • Arrangement

    This collection has been arranged into six series with subseries.

    Series I: Personal and Family, 1922-1960 Series II: State Government, 1923-1954 Series III: Local Government, 1936-1970 Series IV: Papers Relating to Local and National History, 1927-1983 Series V: Ephemera, 1895-1970 Series VI: Scrapbooks, 1894-1984

  • Biographical / Historical

    Born on September 9, 1890, in Old Greenwich, Helen Binney Kitchel was te daughter of Edwin Binney and Alice Stead Binney. Edwin Binney, along with his cousin C. Harold Smith, founded Binney and Smith, a crayon and carbon manufacturing firm perhaps best known for the Crayola Crayon. Mr. Binney was also the founder of the Columbian Carbon Company. In 1887 he married Alice Stead Binney, originally of London, England. A graduate of Normal College, now Hunter College, Mrs. Binney taught grammar school in Manhattan before marrying. She was well-known for her musical ability, publishing many songs including "Bobolink", "Helen's Caprice", "Love's Meeting", "Mammy Clo", and "God is Love." Mrs Binney had many of her poems published as well. Original sheet music, copyright agreements and correspondence relating to Mrs. Binney's compositions are included in this collection.

    While on a carriage ride to Stamford along Shore Road in 1887, Mr. and Mrs. Binney were captivated by the beauty of the landscape. In 1889 they bought property along the waterfront and subsequently became the first family to live along the shore in Old Greenwich. In 1895 they built a stately fieldstone house, calling it "Rocklyn." Their great appreciation of nature inspired a lifelong passion in their daughter. Mr. and Mrs. Binney were also dedicated to many philanthropic activities, most notably aws their involvement in the First Congregational Church on Sound Beach Avenue and the Perrot Memorial Library in Old Greenwich. The June Binney Memorial Parish House at First Congregational Church is named after their son, Edwin Binney Jr., "June" to friends and family, who died in 1920. They also puchased and donated land neighboring the Perrot Library to create an outdoor reading room. Mrs. Binney was a founding member of The Historical Society of the Town of Greenwich and served as its president for many years. Along with June and Helen, Mr. and Mrs. Binney had two other children, daughters Dorothy and Mary.

    Helen Binney Kitchel aws educated at the Catherine Aiken School in Stamford, Connecticut. She married Allan Farrand Kitchel in the summer of 1909 at the age of 18, shortly after his graduation from Yale University. They moved into a home on Binney Lane that was a wedding gift from her parents. Adjacent to Rocklyn, they christened this house "Oaklyn." Allan Kitchel joined Binney and Smith and would later serve as its president. He was involved in many town committees, including the Budget Committee of the Community Chest and the Charter Commission in the 1960's. In 1931, he was elected to the board of Estimation and Taxation, becomings its Chairman in 1945 until his retirement in 1949. Together Helen and Allan Kitchel had four children: two sons, Allan F. Kitchel Jr. (referred to in the collection as "Tim") and Douglas, and two daughters, Barbara ("Bobbie" and Happy.

    "I should not say that politics or a career and domesticity were incompatible" said Mrs. Kitchel in a 1934 interview with the Bridgeport Sunday Post, "but for me they were." Her political career began once her children were in college. A seemingly benign membership in the Garden Club of Old Greenwich became the impetus for many of her strongest political campaigns, cinluding anti-billboard legislation in the 1930's, conservation activism in the 1950's and 1960's, and it was the catalys for the successful 1931 campaign to restore the name Old Greenwich to what was then known as Sound Beach. That same year she was elected to the first of four consecutive terms as the Greenwich Representative in the Connecticut House of Representatives in Hartford. There she supported legislation to replace the Town Meeting Format with the Representative Town Meeting, a more efficient system in a town with a growing population like Greenwich. During her tenure, Mrs. Kitchel also spearheaded a campaign to prohibit billboards along scenic roadways in Connecticut, becoming the first woman in Connecticut to ever have a bill named after her. This collection includes a generous amount of Mrs. Kitchel's personal and legislative correspondence and publications regarding the billboard struggle. While a State House Member, she also served as the clerk of the Public Health and Safety Committee and as the House Chair of the State Parks Committee.

    Mrs. Kitchel was an influential member of many town committees, including the Town Reorganization Committee in the 1930's, the Representative Town Meeting, the Greenwich Flood and Erosion Control Board, the Riverside branch of the League of Women Voters (later the Greenwich League of Women Voters), and he Greenwich Point Committee. She was the recipient of the Margaret Douglas medal in 1965 because of her conservation efforts, the highest honor bestoed by the Garden Club of America. She also continued her mother's work as a member of The Historical Society of the Town of Greenwich. Mrs. Kitchel served on the Connecticut State Advisory Committee on Women's Participation for the 1939 New York World's Fair. Her efforts included fundraising for the renovation of Greenwich Hospital and extensive work for the Red Cross, the United Nations Relief and Rehabilitation Administration, and for financial aid to Greenwich's sister city, Greenwich, England during World War II.

    Mrs. Kitchel's conservation efforts extended as far north as East Burke, Vermont, where she bought 300 acres of woodland, dedicating it in memory of her father before finally donating it to the Lyndon Institute, a forestry school. She also provided for two generous land donations to a nature preserve in Colebrook, Connecticut, which now totals appropximately two thousand acres. After failing to save Will Mark's two-hundred acre farm along Laddins Rock Road in Old Greenwich from developers in 1932, Mrs. Kitchel and her sister Mary persuaded their father to buy and landscape what in 1933 was dedicated Binney Park. The ten acre plot was later expanded to twenty acres when her mother purchased the hilly area overlooking the park on Arch Street and a piece of land on the corner of Laddins Rock Road and Sound Beach Avenue. In 1934 Mrs. Kitchel, Mrs. Binney, and Old Greenwich resident Daniel Waid purchased ten acres for preservation between Laddins Rock Road, Harding Road, and Brown House Road. In 1991, the year after Mrs. Kitchel's death, this plot of land was dedicated the Helen Binney Kitchel Natural Park. Mrs. Kitchel aws also responsible for creating the Seaside Museum branch of the Bruce Museum at Greenwich Point, as well as the Holley Grove there as a commemoration of her and Mr. Kitchel's Golden Wedding anniversary.

    Mrs. Binney wrote prolifically about the history of Greenwich and Old Greenwich. Many of her articles were published in the Greenwich Time and the Village Gazette. She also wrote frou books, Memorites, More Memories, Memories Overfloweing, and Oakly, all about her experience growing up in Connecticut. In Memories she writes of her dear Old Greenwich "I can see the open fields, stone walls, apple orchard with long-stemmed violets, tall oaks, whild cherry and hockry nut trees - the rocks and beaches and the limitless sea - a paradise indeed...but the best of all the memories was of our loving, beloved home - my childhood heaven." She dedicated most of her life to preserving her "childhood heaven" for future generations of Greenwich residents to enjoy.