Before 1936, the people of New Hartford used Greenwood’s Pond, the impoundment of the Farmington River above the North Village, as their local swimming hole and as an ideal location for yacht races. Following the failure of the dam, boats obviously could no longer use the area, though people still recall swimming above the remains of the dam abutments during their lunch hours, as the dam was right next to the Greenwoods Factory buildings. It is probable that swimming in New Hartford would have been confined to West Hill Lake and the rivers, had it not been for the construction of the reservoirs. The MDC’s purchase of substantial amounts of land in New Hartford and Barkhamsted, nearly a quarter of the latter town and about a sixth of New Hartford, caused local outrage. One of the issues was that neither town gained any benefits from the reservoirs. Though today, the open space preserved by them is a clear benefit; at the time, the issue of open space was unheard of.
An agreement was reached that the two towns could use the Compensating Reservoir for recreation. This was possible because the Compensating is not a drinking water supply, instead it maintains the appropriate stream flow downstream of the Nepaug and Barkhamsted Reservoirs. Stanclift Cove, therefore, was created as a park open only to residents of those two towns. The MDC would later open another area as a recreation site for the general public; but Stanclift Cove remains an essentially private park.
It was named after the Stanclift family, who had farmed in that area for many years. They had been prominent in the affairs of both towns, serving in local offices and running a livery and freight service.