American Flyer Displays & History

Paradise Park & Game Preserve  Paradise Park & Game Preserve Photos

A.C. Gilbert & Paradise Log CabinA.C. Gilbert, in addition to being a manufacturer of toys and appliances, was also a real estate developer.  In the 1930's he was actively involved in this pursuit in various areas in Connecticut. The area that was to become Paradise Game Preserve and Paradise Park appears to have been a special passion for him. He discovered the area in the 1930's in the course of looking for laurel trees to plant at Maraldene, his estate in North Haven. He found the land to be well suited for a game preserve where he and other hunters could go to hunt. The area finally chosen was about 600 acres near Hamden, Connecticut.

He constructed a one room log cabin on the preserve and for several years it was managed by a game keeper. Gilbert also developed his Dunbar Hills residential area adjacent to the game preserve, though he preferred the name Laurel Hills. Later developments added were the dairy farm, which provided both milk for the factory cafeteria and flies for the slides packed with the microscopes. His dream was to create a park for the enjoyment of his factory employees, whom he referred to as "co-workers." He developed the park, mostly during World War II, but because of zoning was unable to operate it as a private club. To keep it operating he had to turn it into a community club managed by a community association. It essentially became an adjunct to his Dunbar Hills development. Nevertheless, he preserved the right to hold the company picnic there every year.

In 1952, Gilbert built a residence for his family on the Northern end of the game preserve, near the original log cabin. His children were grown with homes of their own and he no longer felt the need to live in Maraldene, the large family home in North Haven, Connecticut. The new home was called Mountain View, though his wife called it Hilltop, presumably because it's exact location was the highest point on the preserve.

Some of Gilbert's Paradise property was subdivided for single family residential us.  Another part became the Laurel View Country Club, which operates as a golf course.  There is also a Paradise Country Club, which features family recreation and is located at the southern end of the property.  Neither of these entities acknowledges any connection with A.C Gilbert on their web pages.  Gilbert's Mountain View home was torn down and his trophies were donated to the Peabody Museum of Natural History at Yale University.  Some were later sold, with a large bear bringing $4000 at auction.

More information on Gilbert's real estate developments can be found on the website of the Eli Whitney Museum at the following link.

Click on the photo above or the link below to see a slide show.

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More Information on Paradise

In some articles, small portions of text and photo were cut off in the source clippings.

"Paradise in Hamden," - The New Haven Register, November 11, 1962

"He Lived in Paradise," - The Hamden Chronicle, 1977

"A $24.5 Million Development," by Walter Dudar - The New Haven Register, September 3, 1978

"A Touch of Paradise," by Brad Durrell - The Hamden Journal, August 25, 1999

"A Sportsman's Legacy," by Scott Trauner - The New Haven Register, May 22, 2004