History of Marsh Sanctuary
History of Brookside
In 1907, a tornado came right through Martha's backyard, destroying many of the beautiful American chestnut trees that were there. She found this to be such a shame as she cleaned up her property that she had the chestnut logs cut, milled and then fluted, creating a set of columns. This was perhaps the beginning of the idea for an open air, Greek-style amphitheater. The hillside already had a bit of the shape, was cleared by the tornado, and she now had fluted columns available. Martha planned and constructed the new amphitheater, the first of its kind in Westchester County.
Martha Leonard wrote plays under the name pen name "Martia" Leonard, and produced and directed them in the Brookside theater and in New York City theaters. With so many high society friends, Martia's productions at Brookside drew crowds from Connecticut, New York City and Westchester County, charging $3 for adult admission. The amphitheater was the first location in New York to showcase barefoot girls dancing - a very liberal and bold statement of women's rights. This was a topic for which Martia was known to have written in the local and major newspapers. Other dramatic works included Madame Butterfly, Lysistrata, Dream of the Wings, The Treason of Benedict Arnold, and A Midsummer Night's Dream, to name just a few.
Plays were held in the amphitheater into the 1920's, after which they seem to have dwindled, perhaps due to the hard times of the Great Depression or Ms. Leonard's age. Martia lived at Brookside until she was far too old to maintain the home, but she continued to develop her garden. Martia wrote her own memoir / guide to gardening entitled "O All Ye Green Things" when she was in her 80's. She eventually moved out and the new owners did what they could to bring the house back into livable condition after years of neglect. Ownership of Brookside changed a few times from the 1940's into the 1950's.