Edit ModuleShow Tags
Edit ModuleShow Tags

Time Machine

This lovely family has restored and reinvigorated this 1780 Whipstick Farm, continuing its warm and welcoming tradition



Trevor Tondro

“You feel like you’re a blip on the farm’s radar,” says Leslie Partington. “It’s a privilege to live here right now.” Leslie, husband Michael, their two children, and, on some weekends, his two children from a first marriage, have lived at Whipstick Farm for the past three years. The farm has been there since 1780. 

Partington was drawn to Ridgefield from Boston by her college friend Mimi van Wees, when Michael took a job in Westport. “When we went to look at the house, every room had more light than the next.” Since their dating days, she and Michael have dreamed of owning a farm—but for different reasons. Leslie was a professional event planner, and saw a barn as the perfect backdrop for entertaining friends and family. Michael, raised in England, was drawn to the idea of land. 

At Whipstick, their visions of parties and land ownership have come together. The Partingtons’ legacy for Whipstick will be the couple’s warmth and legendary parties. Last winter, guests donned kilts, wrote speeches, and enjoyed appetizing catering by The Cutting Board and unappetizing haggis at a Robert Byrnes Dinner. This year, they enjoyed massages at The Partingtons’ version of a Chinese New Years Party. Barn bashes at Halloween have their friends scrambling to put together worthy costumes. In fact, they entertain so much that their many new friends from Ridgefield have become friends with their old Boston pals. This spring, Leslie, and local artist and stylist Donna von Holdt paired up to create a Potluck Dinner. Styled with burlap and featuring the van Wees orange VW Beetle, the party was vintage Leslie. “I love to listen to people, and help them give a party that is about them,” says von Holdt, delighted that Leslie’s friends had commented to her that the party was “so you.” Von Holdt’s artwork decorated the large dairy barn. “We displayed our friend Allison Meyler’s paintings, at a Halloween party a couple of years ago,” says Leslie, “so having Donna’s paintings was very much in keeping with the way we do things.”  The magnificent potluck table was cleared away for the band and post-dinner dancing. 

Von Holdt was impressed with Leslie’s ability to juggle a Ridgefield Magazine photographer, greeting old friends pulling in from Boston, and party preparation in her characteristically unflappable way. Leslie’s motto to “keep it fun and warm” was reflected in every aspect of the event and throughout her house. Baskets of slippers outside the guest rooms and appetizers on hand for an impromptu gathering are just two examples of Leslie’s thoughtful hospitality. 

Only five owners have inhabited Whipstick. The Partingtons purchased the land from David and Valerie Lee, who relocated here from Texas in 1993. The Lees had always wanted an antique house, but quickly realized that the low ceilings in the 1790s tenant house were going to be problem for David’s six-foot-three-inch frame. The Lees embarked on a massive restoration and addition to the 1780 original cottage the Partingtons now live in. 

 From the two-room house, Valerie, once a decorator with a shop on Bailey Avenue, created a six-bedroom showcase for her good taste. “The house took on a life of its own,” comments David Lee, “as we conquered project after project.” David describes ripping up seven layers of flooring, and finding shots from old muskets around the gracious stone fireplace. David built a sunroom, and added a pool and a playhouse. They filled the party barn with antiques, and had weekend sales, earning Whipstick the nickname The Tag Sale Farm.

Valerie Lee passed away in 2008 after a ten-year battle with cancer. David said she cried with relief to see that Whipstick Farm had passed on to the Partington family rather than be subdivided. Donna von Holdt knew Valerie well, and said that she would have liked the Partingtons’ contemporary updates to the home. 

The Collins family owned Whipstick from 1932 until Mrs. Collins’ death. Mr. Collins owned the Ridgefield Water Supply Company. Although they did not keep cows or chickens, the Collins started a Christmas-tree farm on the property, and were rumored to serve spiked punch to locals. Mrs. Collins old home, now referred to as The Guest House is often full of Leslie and Michael’s family on holidays and friends on the barn-party weekends.

In the 1800s, A. Barton Hepburn, who made a fortune in finance, becoming President of Chase Manhattan Bank, bought the farm from the Benedict family, the original owner. An official State of Connecticut document has Barton Hepburn as the uncle of the actress Katharine Hepburn, but further research does not corroborate the familial connection. Hepburn with his wife owned a mansion on High Ridge, which later became the Altnacraig Nursing home. He built the 1915 dairy barn and turned the property into a gentleman’s farm to provide fresh milk and eggs. Hepburn named the property Whipstick Farm because it is in the Whipstick area of Ridgefield—which includes Wilton Road East and Nod Road. Also uncorroborated is the notion that the name Whipstick comes from the area’s proximity to the Colonial whipping post. Newsman Jack Sanders in a 1983 Ridgefield Press article calls this story “quaint” but “far-fetched,” and argues that the name is more likely to come from the area’s swampy vegetation, ideal for cutting sticks for whipping horses and oxen. 

While right now the only animal in residence is the Partingtons’ dog, a Goldendoodle named Fergie, there are many vestiges of the livestock that once lived there. The gracious chicken coop at one time held more than 350 chickens. The 1790s guest house still has a pasteurization room from the farm’s dairy days. Milking stations in the barn and a silo tell the layers of Whipstick’s history, and have become more funky than functional. The potting shed could be in an Anthropologie catalog shoot. 

Like Ridgefield itself, Whipstick Farm is a living history—a colonial property with a vibrant present. “The perfect place,” says Leslie, “to raise a family.” n

Connect With Us

            

Edit ModuleShow Tags
Edit ModuleShow Tags

Archive »Related Content

Brought to Light

Designer Maureen Rivard was put off by the overgrown property and dark, outdated interior of her future home when she first visited it. It took six visits, including one accompanied by a builder friend, before Rivard realized that cosmetic changes were really all that were needed to convert the house into a charming residence.

Collectors Welcome

When these homeowners returned from abroad, they wanted an antique house large enough to hold the trappings of their travels. They found that and much, much more. A house that's been around more than 250 years is bound to have a few secrets.

Maurie’s House

Simon Says

Modern Love

Turning an 1800s colonial into a modern gem takes a mighty vision

Profiles

Your Guides to Leading Local Professionals

Edit ModuleShow Tags Edit ModuleShow Tags

Edit ModuleShow Tags

November 2018

Meet us under the Dome and catch all the excitement! Come out for the 16th Annual Festival of Trees to benefit Ann’s Place at the Danbury Sports Dome for a weekend filled with live events...

Cost: Ages 3 to 64, $10; Seniors, $5; kids under 3, free.

Where:
Danbury Sports Dome
25 Shelter Rock Ln
Danbury, CT  06810
View map »


Sponsor: Ann's Place
Telephone: 203-790-6568
Contact Name: Michelle Frosch
Website »

More information

Acclaimed soprano Justine Aronson (seen in photo with Alma Mahler) and Music from Copland House present rare performances of Schoenberg's Ein Stelldichein,...

Cost: $25, $10 (Students)

Where:
Copland House at Merestead
455 Byram Lake Road
Mount Kisco, NY  10549
View map »


Sponsor: Copland House
Telephone: 914-788-4659
Website »

More information

Founders Hall's First-Ever Gingerbread House Decorating Contest! At this year’s bi-annual Wreath Festival, Founders Hall (https://founders-hall.org/) is introducing a fun new contest...

Cost: Entry Fee: $10 / Event is FREE

Where:
Founders Hall of Ridgefield
193 Danbury Road
Ridgefield, CT  06877
View map »


Sponsor: Founders Hall
Telephone: 860-799-5207
Contact Name: Michelle McQueen
Website »

More information

Ridgefield Guild of Artists' 14th Annual Festive Home...All That Glitters! opens Friday evening, November 16th with a preview party from 6-8pm.  For an entry fee of $20, attendees will...

Cost: $20 Preview Night Party/Free Days

Where:
Ridgefield Guild of Artists
34 Halpin Lane
Ridgefield, CT  06877
View map »


Sponsor: Ridgefield Guild of Artists
Telephone: 203.438.8863
Contact Name: Mary Pat Devine
Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...

Cost: Free

Where:
Ridgefield Town Hall, Lower Conference Room
400 Main Street
Ridgefield, CT  06877
View map »


Sponsor: Commission on Aging Town Committee
Contact Name: Debra Franceschini-Gatje

More information

Founders Hall's First-Ever Gingerbread House Decorating Contest! At this year’s bi-annual Wreath Festival, Founders Hall (https://founders-hall.org/) is introducing a fun new contest...

Cost: Entry Fee: $10 / Event is FREE

Where:
Founders Hall of Ridgefield
193 Danbury Road
Ridgefield, CT  06877
View map »


Sponsor: Founders Hall
Telephone: 860-799-5207
Contact Name: Michelle McQueen
Website »

More information

Ridgefield Guild of Artists' 14th Annual Festive Home...All That Glitters! opens Friday evening, November 16th with a preview party from 6-8pm.  For an entry fee of $20, attendees will...

Cost: $20 Preview Night Party/Free Days

Where:
Ridgefield Guild of Artists
34 Halpin Lane
Ridgefield, CT  06877
View map »


Sponsor: Ridgefield Guild of Artists
Telephone: 203.438.8863
Contact Name: Mary Pat Devine
Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...

Ridgefield Guild of Artists' 14th Annual Festive Home...All That Glitters! opens Friday evening, November 16th with a preview party from 6-8pm.  For an entry fee of $20, attendees will...

Cost: $20 Preview Night Party/Free Days

Where:
Ridgefield Guild of Artists
34 Halpin Lane
Ridgefield, CT  06877
View map »


Sponsor: Ridgefield Guild of Artists
Telephone: 203.438.8863
Contact Name: Mary Pat Devine
Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...

Facilitated by Nina Bertolino This program will meet every other Wednesday from 10:30 - 12:30 on the following dates: September 12th & 26th, October 10th & 24th, November 7th & 21st, December 5th...

Cost: Free

Where:
Ruth Keeler Memorial Library
276 Titicus Road
North Salem, NY  10560
View map »


Sponsor: Keeler Library
Telephone: 914-669-5161
Contact Name: Carolyn Reznick
Website »

More information

Ridgefield Guild of Artists' 14th Annual Festive Home...All That Glitters! opens Friday evening, November 16th with a preview party from 6-8pm.  For an entry fee of $20, attendees will...

Cost: $20 Preview Night Party/Free Days

Where:
Ridgefield Guild of Artists
34 Halpin Lane
Ridgefield, CT  06877
View map »


Sponsor: Ridgefield Guild of Artists
Telephone: 203.438.8863
Contact Name: Mary Pat Devine
Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...

Ridgefield Guild of Artists' 14th Annual Festive Home...All That Glitters! opens Friday evening, November 16th with a preview party from 6-8pm.  For an entry fee of $20, attendees will...

Cost: $20 Preview Night Party/Free Days

Where:
Ridgefield Guild of Artists
34 Halpin Lane
Ridgefield, CT  06877
View map »


Sponsor: Ridgefield Guild of Artists
Telephone: 203.438.8863
Contact Name: Mary Pat Devine
Website »

More information

EVERY THURSDAY | 7:30 PM - 10:00 pm Music | Spoken Word | Comedy | More Hosted by Don Lowe Hunt Hill Farm is excited to announce OpenMic night every Thursday night.  Please stop by to...

Cost: donation

Where:
Hunt Hill Farm
44 Upland Road
New Milford, CT  06776
View map »


Sponsor: Hunt Hill Farm
Telephone: 860.355.0300
Contact Name: John C. Maxwell III
Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...

Draw inspiration from your favorite emoticons in this workshop inspired by emojis! Design symbols that convey emotion, represent an object or favorite food, or faces that make you giggle! All ages

Cost: Free for members or with Museum admission

Where:
The Aldrich Contemporary Art Museum
258 Main Street
Ridgefield, CT  06877
View map »


Website »

More information

Friday mornings from 10:30 to 12:30. Free, no registration. Open to adults and older teens. Participants are asked to bring their own supplies in, but some basic supplies will be provided by the...

Cost: Free

Where:
Ruth Keeler Memorial Library
276 Titicus Road
North Salem, NY  10560
View map »


Sponsor: Keeler Library
Telephone: 914-669-5161
Contact Name: Carolyn Reznick
Website »

More information

Ridgefield Guild of Artists' 14th Annual Festive Home...All That Glitters! opens Friday evening, November 16th with a preview party from 6-8pm.  For an entry fee of $20, attendees will...

Cost: $20 Preview Night Party/Free Days

Where:
Ridgefield Guild of Artists
34 Halpin Lane
Ridgefield, CT  06877
View map »


Sponsor: Ridgefield Guild of Artists
Telephone: 203.438.8863
Contact Name: Mary Pat Devine
Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...

Ridgefield Guild of Artists' 14th Annual Festive Home...All That Glitters! opens Friday evening, November 16th with a preview party from 6-8pm.  For an entry fee of $20, attendees will...

Cost: $20 Preview Night Party/Free Days

Where:
Ridgefield Guild of Artists
34 Halpin Lane
Ridgefield, CT  06877
View map »


Sponsor: Ridgefield Guild of Artists
Telephone: 203.438.8863
Contact Name: Mary Pat Devine
Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...
Edit ModuleShow Tags
Edit ModuleShow Tags