If you want to know what's going on in Greenwich, then you probably want to listen to our local radio station 1490 WGCH.  It's a quality source of information, and an important part of our community.  The station evolved as residents sought another source of news information besides the local newspaper.  We're very fortunate to have this service-oriented station, that focuses on the local community.

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The station owes its existence to Walter Lemmon. He was a Naval Communications Officer, who was on a boat returning from Versailles after the signing of the treaty that ended World War I.  President Woodrow Wilson was also on board, and Lemmon discussed the idea for an international shortwave radio station with him. Lemmon never gave up his quest for an international station, and eventually started one. He was a man of strong character and determination. was technologically gifted, a good businessman and highly creative. He went on to become a prominent electrical pioneer and inventor.  

On the local level, Lemmon was involved with the Greenwich Broadcasting Corporation, which founded WGCH FM in 1948. The station office was located at the top of Greenwich Avenue between the last store and Pickwick Arms Hotel.  It was the old Greenwich Press building behind Neilsen's.  Although it operated for several years, it turned out to be unprofitable.  There weren't enough FM sets available, so hardly anyone was listening!  This coincided with the introduction of television, which drew a lot of regular radio listeners.

Lemmon then turned his attention to AM radio. The Greenwich Broadcasting Corporation applied to the FCC for an AM license; but it struggled from the late 1940s until it received the approval in 1964.  There were several reasons for this.  Since Lemmon already owned an international station, they couldn't understand why he wanted a local station. Also, stations in Danbury, Stratford and Madison were trying to obtain the 1490 frequency for broadcasting.  There was concern about interference from WHOM 1480, a station out of New York City.  Eventually, it was all worked out, and in 1964 the FCC granted WGCH 1490 its license.

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OLD BUILDING AT 90 DAYTON AVENUE

COURTESY: HARTFORD RADIO HISTORY


WGCH 1490 has had several different locations over the years.  The first location was on East Putnam Avenue in the storefront next to Milbank Avenue.  This was across the street from the Second Congrgational Church.  While the front entrance was level with the street, the building itself was two-stories, with a back entrance opening to a lower parking lot.  In 1969, the station moved to 90 Dayton Avenue. Managment appealed to the Post Office and got them to renumber the building to 1490 Dayton Avenue.  In addition, they sought and obtained the telephone number 869-1490.  This was a marketing stroke of genius!  Today you can still see the transmitiing tower which is located near the Post Road Iron Works on West Putnam Avenue. Eventually, a new tower would be erected at to boost power. Due to some financial difficulties, it was necessary for the operation to move to 71 Lewis Street, where it is now located.


                                                    CURRENT HOME OF WGCH RADIO AT 71 LEWIS STREET


The radio station has changed owners several times over the years.  Mr. John Becker owned the station for 39 years, selling it to the Business Talk Radio Network in 2003.  The national network moved its studios and corporate offices to Greenwich until 2006 when it moved to 401 Shippan Avenue in Stamford.  WGCH AM remained in Greenwich.  Then, in 2011, the Blue Star Media Group headed by Michael Metter and Jeff Weber bought the station.  Unfortunately, Metter had some legal difficulties and the operatioon was sold to the Forte family in 2013.  Rocco Forte had been the former CFO of Abate Insurance and AIA Risk Management Services in New Haven.  He had homes in Lyme CT and Sarasota FL.  The new operating group was known as Forte Family Broadcasting Inc.

When it first started out in the 1960s, the station had no problem lining up advertisers.  Although the station conducted surveys from time to time to determine listenership, businesses knew immediately that their advertising was paying off because people would start using their services.  The radio station also received letters and phone calls from regular listeners.  It was estimatedthat the station had 10,000 listeners for one program!  The primary audience was Greenwich, but there were also listeners fromWestchester and Long Island.  It's broadcast area was considered to be an area bounded by Norwalk, New Canaan, White Plains, the Hudson River Valley, New Rochelle, Port Chester, Rye and Long Island.  Unfortunately, WGCH had to cut its power back to 250 watts in the evening, so it dropped off the air for some places.  The station attempted to find a new location for its antenna to boost the signal, but had to settle for renewing its lease for the site at 177 West Putnam Avenue in 2002.


ANTENNA SIMILAR TO THE ONE AT 177 WEST PUTNAM AVENUE

The station had to deal other problems.  There are some 30 radio stations broadcasting from New York City that compete for listeners.  On occassion during emergencies, there can be too many callers, inquiries and reports. Some broadcasters were terminated for different reasons.  Fires, storms and power outages have taken the station off the air.  Owners have faced legal problems.  The change in ownership has resulted in program changes - some unpopular.  Experienced and talented staff have been lured away to bigger stations. Changes in technology have changed broadcasting, and broadcasters have had to re-train to stay current.

Despite all these problems, the station today remains a community favorite. It has provides programming of the highest quality.  Rather than "editorialize", the station tries to present a balanced view of the issues.  It serves as a clearing house for information.  When schools are closed, or public meetings are cancelled, this is quickly communicated. During times of emergency, it can be a calming influence by keeping the people updated on police, fire or public utiliy progress.  Daily features include weather and traffic updates.  Although the emphasis is on local news, there's national and world news.  Some programs encourage listeners to call.  RTM and Board of Education meetings are broadcast entirely.  Special committee meetings of public concern are transmitted. 

Over the years, the station has presented a variety of entertaining programs such as "Fibber McGee and Molly", "The Shadow" and "Our Miss Brooks".  Music programming has included Italian, Greek, Country, Big Band, semi-classical and classical.  Less popular was a Rock and Roll segment and a Teen segment. Other special programs have included The Pet Patrol, The Swap Shop, and The Trading Post.  Sports programming includes Greenwich High School football, Red Sox and NE Patriots broadcasts.  Ex-Selectman Sam Romeo hosts a call-in show, while MaryAnne DeFelice and Darby Cartun have their own shows. Various community groups read Public Service Announcements for the benefit of the residents. Tony Savino handles the news, while meteorologist Bill Evans reports on the weather.  Bob Small, Operations Manager, does a fine job keeping everything on course.

Although other stations may have similar programming, supporters claim WGCH has a unique appeal.  It demonstrates a genuine concern for the community.  The reporting and programming is responsible, and the staff is talented and very able.  It serves the community in a very unique way.  Rather than compete with the local paper, it works with it, and respects its turf.  WGCH helps make Greenwich the community it is today.  As one person noted, we can't imagine what Greenwich would be like without WGCH.

SOURCE

WGCH: A Community Radio Station;  Oral History Project. Friends of the Greenwich Library
Greenwich, CT. : Greenwich Library, c1977


Catherine Hyder Ogden - Gentle Leader

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One of the kindest, gentlest and smartest people I have ever met passed away on January 23. Cathy Ogden, Chairman of the Oral History Project for 19 years, succumbed to ALS (Lou Gehrig's Disease).

Cathy was born in Lawrence, Kansas, to Clyde and Allena Hyder.  Her father was a distinguished professor of English Literature at the University of Kansas.  She graduated from Lawrence High School in 1963 and Swarthmore College in 1967.  Cathy and her husband, Ross, moved to Greenwich in 1969. 

Picture


CATHY  OGDEN

Photo Courtesy of The Oral History Project


Always civic-minded, Cathy volunteered with the League of Women Voters, the Brunswick School Parents Association, the American Red Cross and the First Presbyterian Church, where she served as a Deacon.  But her greatest legacy will be her leadership of the Oral History Project at Greenwich Library.

The Oral History project was organized by the Greenwich Library and Greenwich Historical Society in 1973 as part of the upcoming Bicentennial Celebration in 1976. In 1977, it became a permanent committee of the Friends of Greenwich Library.  It's staffed by volunteers, and it's a member of the Oral History Association, and the New England Association of Oral History.

Cathy joined the Project as an editor in 1981. In 1993, she took over the Chairmanship from MaryEllen LeBien and led the Project for 19 years. During this time, Cathy was the guiding force who raised the Project to visible prominence, and garnered for it several awards:

  • The 1991 Harvey A. Kantor Award by the New England Association of Oral History.
  • The 1995 CT Life Award, New Haven, Connecticut, for the preservation of personal histories which have created a priceless resource for Greenwich, and an inspiring model for other communities to follow.
  • The 1996 Publication Award from the Connecticut Library Association Public Relations Section, for an outstanding library publication.
  • The Town of Greenwich proclamation designating July 15, 2003, as Oral History Day in Greenwich.

During Cathy's tenure, she led the OHP through many changes in technology. A website and blog was developed. She served as moderator for a discussion relating to the publication of the Project's book  on Bruce Museum, and developed Oral History Days - an opportunity for residents to give half-hour interviews on local history. Cathy helped create and maintain a Subject Guide of interviews.

Perhaps the most fitting tribute was the fact that other similar groups across the nation use the OHP as the benchmark for a professional and quality organization.

Cathy was truly a champion of the Oral History Project.


SOURCES:

THE ORAL HISTORY PROJECT, FRIENDS OF THE GREENWICH LIBRARY

SEMMES, A.; GREENWICH TIME; Hearst Newspapers


Blythewood Sanitarium

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If you've ever looked at some early maps of Greenwich, you may have been surprised to see a caption for a Blythewood Sanitarium on Indian Rock Road off Orchard Street in Cos Cob.  This is where the Greenwich Baptist Church is now located across the street from Central Middle School.  The medical center was established by Mrs. Anna C. Wiley and her husband, Dr. William H. Wiley, in 1905.  It operated until 1965, when the Baptist Church bought the property. 

Mrs. Wiley was a nurse, who worked in mental hospitals in Canada and the United States.  She met her husband in a hospital while working as a nurse. Dr. William Wiley had been born in Chester PA,  and was educated at The Friends School of Pennsylvania and the University of Pennsylvania.   Mrs. Wiley had a reputation for being kind and philanthropic, and gave her patients  exceptional treatment. She believed patients should not be confined to buildings with a cold atmosphere.  They should be given freedom to move around.  Part of the rehabilitation should include creative outlets such as arts and crafts.  Mrs. Wiley was definitely progressive in her approach to mental health treatment.

The Sanitarium complex at one time featured 8 main buildings, 8 cottages, a chapel, an occupational therapy building and a small golf course on 50-acres of land.  Only the chapel remains today.  A small stream bisects the property.  It was known to be a rehabilitation center for the wealthy, although "charity" patients were included in the program but not identified.

A big iron gate marked the entrance to Blythewood.  Next to the gate was the main house with white columns.  This was the original main house of the estate, and served as the Blythewood Administrative building.  It conatined the doctor's offices and also served as a "Graduate House" for patients about to be released. 

When patients first arrived, they were held in a "Lockup House" for observation.  This could take anywhere from a few hours to a few days.  Depending on the diagnosis, patients would be assigned to the Violent House or Middle House. 

The Violent House was the farthest from the road.  Patients were usually strapped down to guernies when arriving, then delivered to padded cells for safety.  Sometimes their hands were restrained.  Occassional screams could be heard from the building.  Pottery classes were held to help with rehabilitation.

People who improved would move to the Middle House.  This was a 2-story building with a finished attic, common rooms, and central dining room.  Patients continued their rehabilitation here until they were ready to move to the Graduate House.

Patients saw their psychiatrist for an hour each day five days a week.  In general, improving patients were allowed maximum freedom of movement.  Activities were geared to give patients intellectual and creative expression.  Clubs were formed, a library was accessible, concerts and musicals were performed - some by famous artists.

One of the attending physicians, Dr. Tiebout, was a pioneer in treating alcoholism.  On July 30, 1979, the Greenwich Time ran an article that Greenwich was second only to the San Fernando Valley as the Alcoholic Capital of America!  Dr. Tiebout believed the only way to treat the disease was to have the patient give up alcohol all together.  He was one of the early doctors to help formulate the AA program.  Blythewood began to get more and more people admitted for alcohol treatment.

Blythewood had its share of problems over time.  There were rumors of experimentation gone bad, and several people committed suicide on the premises. A fire destroyed part of the sanitarium in December of 1939. Several patients were found drowned in a pond on the property.

When Dr. Wiley died on November 8, 1936, Mrs. Wiley took over as head and continued to run the hospital until she died on July 2, 1951.  The Putnam Operating Company took over in July 1951, and the company continued to operate using the same philosophy and ideals established by the Wileys.  Managers also focused on personnel and employees, making sure they were trained to provide top notch service to patients. 

The sanitarium continued to operate until 1965, when the Greenwich Baptist Church bought the property for its home.  The current patients were transferred to other facilities throughout Fairfield County.

SOURCES:

Brown, S. : A Biography of Mrs. Marty Mann: First Lady of Alcoholics Anonymous; Hazelden Information & Education Services, 2001.

Greenwich Time: Time-Warner Corporation.

Historical Happenings

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Using Newspapers For Family Research
Saturday - February 14, 2015 - 2 PM
Greenwich Library Meeting Room

Janeen Bjork will talk about using newspaper resources to
help you research your family tree.  Free and open to all.


Greenwich Historical Society Website
www.hstg.org

Make a point to look at the Greenwich Historical Society
website on a regular basis.  There's a lot of useful information
on upcoming events, exhibits and history.

Dingletown Church

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If you've ever driven on Stanwich Road, you've probably noticed a quaint little church on the corner of Barnstable Road. This is now known as the Dingletown Community Church.  It's non-denominational, but at one time it was a Methodist Protestant Church in north Cos Cob.  What you might not know is that this church was moved from its former location.

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CHURCH IN CURRENT LOCATION

COURTESY OF DINGLETOWN COMMUNITY CHURCH

Dingletown was one of the many villages or communities of Greenwich.  Some people claim it got its name from the constant jingling of cow bells as cattle crossed the farmlands.  Someone else suggested it might have been named after a "dingle", which is defined as a deep, narrow cleft between hills or a shady dell.  I believe Dingletown Road drops from a hill down to a bridge which crosses a stream between some hills.  This seems like the more logical explanation.

Although Dingletown was not as prominent a community as Stanwich or Round Hill, it still had an informal "church".  People would meet in a neighbor's house to worship.  It was probably time-consuming to travel to central Greenwich to attend church.  It became part of the Bedford circuit, and they shared a travelling minister for 15 years before they got a permanent preacher.  A small white church was built in 1845 about a mile south of its present location off Dingletown Road. It officially opened on November 26, 1845 as the Horseneck Society of the Methodist Protestant Church.

Orig Dingle004.jpgORIGINAL CHURCH ON DINGLETOWN ROAD.  CHURCH CAN BE SEEN IN UPPER RIGHT.

COURTESY OF THE DINGLETOWN COMMUNITY CHURCH

Some residents believe it is the oldest frame church in Greenwich.  It was constructed from unpeeled (roughhewn) logs.  The main floor was supported by beams.  Bent saplings were used for curved ceiling supports. A pot bellied stove was used to heat the interior.  Light was provided by oil lamps and pewter candle sconces. There was a pulpit and pews for the choir.  Music was provided by an old pump organ. A cupola was installed on the roof.  Attendance by church members was compulsory, and a fine was levied if they missed a service.

The church was finally able to hire a permanent preacher, and a parade of ministers passed through the church until 1921 when Dr. Albert Lunning took over the helm.  He ran the church until until October 1935, when he passed away.  The church suddenly closed on November 21, 1935, and Dr. William Darrach bought the property to preserve the New England landmark.

When World War II broke out and gas rationing was implemented, local residents in Dingletown curtailed their trips to Cos Cob and central Greenwich.  Dr. Darrach reopened the church for worship in 1942.  At this time it was called Dingletown Church.  At first, lay members led the services, until a permanent minister was appointed around 1950. He had attended the Yale Divinty School and was ordained at the church.

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DINGLETOWN CHURCH BEING MOVED

COURTESY OF DINGLETOWN COMMUNITY CHURCH

The church experienced a growth spurt in the fifties.  Since the church was built on a small plot of land, the building could not be expanded.  The Elders authorized the purchase of a larger lot on the corner of Barnstable Lane and Stanwich Road.  The building was purchased from the Darrach family, and plans were made to relocate the church.  Workers jacked up the building and rollers were placed underneath.  The cupola was removed, and trees along the route were cut.  On August 13, 1959, the church was moved to its present location.  One member of the church donated a steeple, while someone else provided a bell obtained from a locomotive once used by a Maine railroad.  A stonewall was added, as well as several large maple trees.

Moving005.jpg

CHURCH BEING RELOCATED

COURTESY OF THE DINGLETOWN COMMUNITY CHURCH

Today, the church is still a non-denominational congregation at 376 Stanwich Road.  It's open to people from all walks of life, as well as every religious persuasion.  I know many people who have chosen this church for weddings, baptisms and funerals. There's also a Memorial Garden - which has a "cosmic design" - on the property.   It's a very quaint and typical New England church. 


Recent Comments

  • Carl White: Thank you for that clarification. Since there are no physical read more
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