The Hamm Pavilion Classroom was officially opened during a sunset ceremony before nearly 100 guests Wednesday, Aug. 26, 2015 at the Denison Pequotsepos Nature Center’s Coogan Farm.
The Hamm Pavilion Classroom is a cornerstone of the Denison Pequotsepos Nature Center’s plan for Coogan Farm. Generously sponsored by Charles and Irene Hamm of Mystic, the pavilion will serve as an outdoor classroom at Coogan, epitomizing all that was envisioned for the property when the campaign to save the farm was first launched in 2012. The Pavilion, and all the programs planned for it, will serve to connect children and adults to the ecology and the history of the Coogan property, which has seen 400 years of Mystic history, and which is home to critical successional habitats and wildlife.
The Pavilion is located in the meadow above the Paddock. It is the terminus for the Greenmanville Trail, which starts at Route 27 and runs through the lower Coogan property. The Pavilion is located in the northernmost corner of what was once called Greenmanville.
The Hamms’ donation to the Campaign to Save Coogan Farm and for the construction of the Pavilion speak to their interest in connecting education to the land, and the history of that land, noted Maggie Jones, executive director of the Nature Center, in her remarks at the dedication. Charles Hamm likens the Coogan property to a birthplace of Mystic and the American spirit, Jones said.
“When the vision to protect Coogan Farm began to coalesce, it was all about saving the habitat and creating a greenway,” Jones said. “But as we explored the property, we discovered this treasure trove of meaningful history. Yes, this is the last significant greenway along the Mystic River. But it is also the first. It was settled in the 1650s by John Gallup. By saving Coogan Farm, we are maintaining a centuries’ old connection to 14 generations of families. This is a keystone piece in our larger historical landscape.”
Noted Jones, “Charlie and Irene Hamm walked this property with me in June 2012. Charlie took a chance by making a commitment to the Coogan Farm, and the rest is history. It rippled throughout the community. Charlie and Irene embody the very best of philanthropy. Coogan Farm and this pavilion are a gift to generations to come, to help them form a deeper connection to the planet.
“This is a magical place, and how wonderful that it will be that way forever.”
Charles Hamm was born in Brooklyn, N.Y. in 1937, and had a successful career on advertising and marketing, including managing the Coca-Cola business worldwide for Interpublic/McCann Erickson. He had a second successful career as chairman and CEO of the Independence Community Bank Corp. in Brooklyn. He retired in 2004, and now devotes his time to painting, art collection and philanthropy. Irene Hamm spent her career as a special education teacher in New York for 32 years.
“It’s perfect,” said Charlie Hamm as he looked around the pavilion and the meadow. “And it’s a little spiritual. We love ecology, nature, the birds and the bees. We love history and the American spirit. To honor the character of our American heritage — what better place than under this wonderful structure? We hope this pavilion becomes the Pavilion of the American Spirit. Irene and I want to thank you all for supporting all of this, this expression of the human spirit as a learning center.”