Historical Happenings

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Greenwich Library Community Survey

Greenwich Library is conducting an anonymous survey to examine the community's views about Library services and priorities. You can access the survey on our website:


It takes less than 10 minutes to complete but will help inform our choices about programming and other Library services for years to come.  

The survey is available online in English, Japanese and Spanish

Greenwich's September 11th Memorial

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Last May, I noticed some construction men working on a small hill near the Pavillion in Cos Cob Park.  Not too long after, I read in the newspaper that this was going to be the site for the new Greenwich September 11th Memorial.  Several years ago, I had donated money for a memorial, and was wondering when it would be built.  Then I received an invitation to attend the dedication on September 11th of this year.  I received a followup notice that shuttle buses would be provided from Bruce Park, River Road and the Cos Cob Marina.  They were expecting a large crowd.  They weren't disappointed.  Five-hundred people attended the dedication!

Thirty-three victims with a connection to Greenwich died on September 11, 2001.  As we all remember, two planes flew into the twin towers of the World Trade Center, resulting in their collapse.  Another plane crashed into the Pentagon, and one crashed into a field in Shanksville PA.  (It's believed a Greenwich man - Donald Freeman Greene - helped storm the cockpit and prevented United Airlines Flight 93 from hitting another target in Washington).  These were some of the most horrendous acts of terrorism ever perpetrated. 

A group of people in Greenwich in 2010 decided Greenwich should have a memorial to honor our local victims.  They started the Greenwich Community Projects Fund.  Although there is a monument on Great Captain's Island, this is only accessible to the public in the summer months (June to September) when the ferry operates.  At Sherwood Island Park in Westport there is a monument, but this requires some driving.  Greenwich residents wanted something close by to remember the fallen.   The project languished for years until several influential residents got involved.  There was even talk of abandoning the project and returning donations.  A series of events were held as fundraisers, including a benefit concert and a Vineyard Vines commemorative tie and scarf sale.  Donations varied from 1- to 50,000-dollars.  In the end, the non-profit group managed to raise $750,000 from 1,000 donors for the memorial.




The next hurdle was to find a location for the memorial that was easily accessible to all.  Some suggested Grass Island, but this was turned down because of its proximity to the Sewage Treatment Plant.  Another suggestion was Roger Sherman Baldwin Park.  People felt this wasn't a quiet enough location, given the loud concerts, auto shows and Interstate 95. The end of Steamboat Road and Byram Park were mentioned, but parking was an issue. Greenwich Point was also a consideration.  Once again the accessibility by out-of-towners was an issue. (Out-of-towners must pay a fee to enter.)  Finally, they settled on the newly created Cos Cob Park, which is an ideal location for the memorial.  The park is accessible to all during daylight hours.  It has plenty of parking.

Landscape designers Katherine Herman and Cheryl Brown from the Doyle Herman Design Association of Greenwich were employed to create an appropriate setting for the memorial.  They chose a knoll overlooking Cos Cob Harbor.  The DeLuca Construction Company excavated the knoll, creating gently curving sidewalks which lead up to a black granite paving stone base. (The curve of the sidewalks was based on the mathematically perfect shape of certain seashells.)



Charles Hilton Architects of Greenwich was chosen to create the actual memorial.  As you may recall, after Ground Zero had been cleared, two spotlights projected two beams of light toward the sky - in effect creating two towers of ghostly light - that could be seen from New Jersey to Connecticut.  The architects tried to capture the idea of the illuminated towers.  They also remembered the impromptu memorials around the Trade Center that contained flowers, pictures and names of loved ones and small American flags.   The glass towers with the victims' names seem to capture all the meaning and sentiment of those memorials.

The memorial consists of two glass towers, which are 12-feet high and 22-inches on a side.  Low-iron content glass was used to create the towers so the glass won't discolor over time.   An image of an American flag has been frosted into the towers with a field of stars at the top and stripes running down toward the ground.  Each stripe has the names of several victims engraved on it.  Radiating out from the base are three metallic compass points (embedded metal strips) with the names World Trade Center-New York, The Pentagon - Washington DC and Shanksville PA engraved on them respectively.  At the end of the World Trade Center compass needle is a piece of crumpled steel from the WTC buildings.  The approach to the monument is a gradual circular sidewalk, which brings you to a circular plaza composed of black paving stone.  This was meant to represent the WTC plaza.  There is a granite bench next to the memorial, where people can sit and view the beautifully sculptured glass while overlooking Cos Cob Harbor.



There have been other memorials in Town to the victims of 9-11.  The Second Congregational Church - located on the corner of Maple and West Putnam Avenue - created a Greenwich Labyrinth of Peace for people to quietly walk.  The Glenville Fire Department has an 8-foot section of a 1,700-pound I-Beam from the World Trade Center displayed outside the firehouse on Glenville Road.  There's also the monument on Great Captain's Island, and various plaques and memorial benches around town. 

The most impressive memorial to me is the Twin Tower sculpture in Cos Cob Park.  I was there one morning at sunrise. Sunlight seemed to be generated from within the glass tower, and the glass seemed to magnify the light. For some reason, despite the terrible trajedy marked by this memorial, I felt better as I viewed the reflecting glass.  There seemed to be an unexpected feeling of Hope, which surprised me.  I pray that this memorial gives the families, and loved ones, of the victims the same Hope I felt when I saw the Greenwich September 11th Memorial on that beautiful early morning.  As one relative said,  she felt a sense of closure because she could visit the Memorial here in Greenwich.


Dumas, Tim. The Incredible History Behind the 9/11 Memorial. Greenwich Sentinel. 11 September 2015.  A1. Google.  Accessed 25 Sept 2015.

Round Hill Highland Games

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One of the first things I heard about when I moved to Greenwich was the Round Hill Highland (Scottish) Games.  Around July Fourth, there would always be newspaper articles about a grand gathering of Scottish clans in backcountry Greenwich.  Usually this would include a picture of someone tossing what looked like a telephone pole across a field. I noticed several years ago that the Games were no longer held in Greenwich, but had moved to Stamford.  Recently I decided to research the history of the Games.  According to the Greenwich Time, the Round Hill Highland Games first started in 1923 on the 147-acre estate of Charles A. Moore on Round Hill Road.  He was born in Lynn, Massachusetts, and was the grandfather of actress Glenn Close. Moore was chairman of Manning, Maxwell and Moore - a New York City-based metal products firm. He died in 1949.

Charles Moore was of Scottish descent himself.  He allowed his Scottish-born domestic workers and gardeners to hold a family picnic on July 4th.  In this way, the people were able to celebrate their Scottish heritage.  The event grew in popularity, and competitive games were added. People started coming from all over the country.  They traveled by train to Greenwich, where they were met at the railroad station by bagpipers, and marched up Greenwich Avenue on their way to the Moore estate.  The participants  included Clansmen, athletes, bands, pipers, drummers, drum majors, and dancers.




In 1925, approximately 6,000 people came to see the games. The Round Hill Highland Games became the third oldest games in the United States.  Competitors came from all over the country to participate in the games.  These kilted warriors competed in the Caber Toss.  A Caber is a long, roughly hewn tree about the size of a telephone pole. Dimensions range form 17- to 19 - feet in length, and 4- to 8- inches in diameter. Men hold the pole upright, run with it and toss it so that it ends up landing on the opposite end.  A stone put (or shot put) pits people against each other to see who can throw the stone the furthest.  Children, as well as adults, compete in running races.  A tug-of-war is also held as a feat of strength. Women display their skills with a rolling pin toss!  Dance competition includes a dance competition according to age, and features the Highland Fling and a Sword Dance. Men, women and children can participate in any number of sack races.  Horseshoe throwing is very popular. Other events include Scottish food tasting, story-telling, sing-a-longs, craft sales, Scottish dancing, piping, bagpipe serenades and having photos taken. Subjects can chose to dress up as a Highland Bagpiper, Scottish Chieftain, Highland Dancer or even the Loch Ness Monster and have a picture taken.  Prizes are handed out to the best dressed Piper (bagpiper) and best sailor hornpipe player.

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Another attraction was the assortment of foods.  Scottish meat pies with hot sauce were sold for 35-cents.  A ham, cheese, and potato salad sold for 30-cents.  Beer was 15-cents and coffee went for 5-cents. Scotch whiskey, of course, was available.  Children could buy soda.  People could also buy hot dogs, hamburghers, and ice cream.  Some families brought their own picnic baskets to continue the early tradition.  Scottish Clans were housed in tents, and people stopped to talk with the different families.

For a few years, programs were handed out with advertising from such local companies as Fred Knapp, Stevens Laundry, McArdles Seed Co., Bon Ton Fish Market , Marks Brothers, Finch's Drug Store and Doran Brothers.  A local travel company also advertised trips to Scotland, Ireland and England for $181 (Tourist rate).  The festivities ended with a colorful fireworks display!

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The Round Hill Highlander Games were held almost every year.  During World War II, the games were suspended, and, more recently, in 2004, logistics problems have caused postponement to the next year. The Moore estate was sold to a developer in 1998.  The property was sub-divided so that a large tract of land was no longer gathering.  This began the nomadic travels of the RHHG.  It was held for a while on Yale Farm, which was off John Street. Then it moved to the Blind Brook Polo Club site, best known today as the Pepsico property in Purchase, NY.  It was held in Stamford until 1988, when it moved to Norwalk's Cranbury Park, where it remains.  Although the Games weren't held this year due to a scheduling problem, they are scheduled to return next year.

The Scottish Games originated in Greenwich, and will remain a part of our local history forever - regardless of where they are held.


Greenwich Time; Time Warner Company, Southwestern Connecticut Newspapers, Stamford CTJuly 3, 2005, June 16, 1990, July 3, 2005.

Historical Happenings

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Navigating Family Search and Ancestry with Ease
Saturday - September 26, 2015 - 10:30 AM
Cos Cob Community Room

Penny Hartzel will share her "tricks of the trade" for
using these powerful databases to research genealogy.
Free.  Open to all ages.

Indian Mariner's Project
Saturday - September 26, 2015 - 2PM
Greenwich Library Meeting Room

Rich Mancini will talk about how Native-Americans
used Long Island Sound for trade and commerce.
Free.  Open to all ages.

Greenwich's Bruce Museum

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One of my favorite places in Town has always been the Bruce Museum.  When I first came here in 1976, I was intrigued by the nature dioramas.  Loved to take my family there.  I even volunteered one time to escort my daughter's class to the museum ("Not cool, Dad!" my daughter told me!)  For this particular historical blog, I thought I'd research the museum's origin.

When banker, cotton broker, and Greenwich resident Robert Bruce died in 1909, he surprisingly bequeathed his house and $50,000 to the Town of Greenwich for a museum that would highlight natural history, historical items and art.  The house had originally been built by Reverend Francis L. Hawks, and coincidentally was known as "Hawk's Nest" because of its location on a hill. ( It was noted that a lot of hawks congregated in the area.) 

The Town held onto the Bruce money for several years until they could figure out how to start a museum.  An article was printed in the newspaper describing the bequest, and asking for help with creating a museum.  Local resident Dr. Edward Bigelow answered the call.  He lived in Old Greenwich, was the publisher of a small magazine called the "Guide To Nature", and ran a nature summer camp for girls.  He had been on an expedition with the New York Zoological Society's Dr. William BeeBee, and was considered a notable naturalist. Bigelow wrote many articles on natural science. The Town made him the museum's first Curator. 

Dr. Bigelow was Curator from 1912 to 1936.  On his watch, the Museum was renovated and a caretaker's cottage was completed in 1918.  He also added many art exhibits. (Bigelow noticed that whenever they had special events or exhibits, attendance increased dramatically.) He loved to lecture on science, and is credited with expanding the Museum's programs.

Initially, his budget was very meager - only $5,000 per year from the BET.  His salary was only $100 per month.  Fortunately, he had other resources to fall back on - money from writing and lecturing.  Bigelow spent his own money on specimens for the Museum.  Not only did he travel to Arizona and New Mexico to collect specimens, but he also traveled to South America, the West Indies, Panama and Dominica.  He added live sloths, squirrels, snakes, parrots, mice and monkeys.  When a baby monkey was born, attendance increased exponentially!

In addition to the specimens he was able to collect on his expeditions, Bigelow received minerals from a sculpture supply company.  The Smithsonian Institute donated a collection of shells and mollusks.  Individuals, as well as the National Academy of Design, donated paintings.  Indian (Native-American) ephemera was collected, but the collection was so big that much of it had to be placed in storage.  A small collection of Indian jewelry was exhibited.  For a time, the Greenwich Society of Art held its annual show at the museum.  Dr. Bigelow had a case built to honor Ernest Thompson Seton, who started Seton's Indians.  Dr. Bigelow even arranged to lend out movies of his expeditions around the world. 

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Because there was no money for coal, the museum closed to the public during the winter months.  He couldn't even leave specimens in jars filled with formaldehyde in the building because they would crack in the cold.  The staff still worked in the building, but had to contend with the cold.   There wasn't a lot of money available originally.   A lot of school groups and camp groups came to the museum regularly, but families and individuals were only attracted by special events. 

Before long, Dr. Bigelow realized the public was keenly interested in new exhibits and programs.  Like any good business man, he knew repeat business was the key to success.  The more attendance, the more money was generated.  He started to collect unusual specimens.  These included a two-headed calf, a two-bodied rabbit and a snake with two heads!  These only lasted a while, but drew a lot of attention.  They were eventually removed.

The Museum also served as a trout hatchery.  Egg sacks were placed in a series of trays and cold water poured over them to facilitate hatching.  A micro-projection apparatus (arc light) was set up to project and magnify the egg sacks.  The state hatchery provided the eggs, and these were eventually let loose in the water. 

All the changes in exhibits and programs eventually helped the museum's bottom line.  Attendance began to increase.  Dr. Bigelow retired in 1937 and passed away in 1938.  Curator Paul Griswold Howes took over the helm. 

Paul Howes was born in Stamford in 1892.  He studied at Heidelberg and Harvard, and had traveled six times to Europe to study.  In 1913, a very young Howes went on an expedition to the Andes  with the American Museum of Natural History, and helped establish the first South American research field station.  By 1918, be was the Curator at Bruce Museum under Dr. Bigelow.  When Bigelow retired, Howes became Director.  He ended up authoring 8 books and numerous magazine articles.  Paul Howes continued improving Bruce Museum.  He was responsible for adding many exhibits.  Many items were taken from his own, private collection. Since he was proficient in taxidermy, he was able to collect and stuff many animals to add to the natural scenes.  He also took many photos and created many films.  As luck would have it, the museum received a windfall for some damage caused by the construction of I-95 in the mid-1950s.  This was used to build an art gallery wing on the back of the main building in 1959.  Another patron donated $1000, but this was the exception rather than the rule. Howes stayed until 1966 when he retired.

 A direct descendant of Kit Carson, Ray Owen,  took over after Howes in 1967 and remained until 1978.  There were only 6 people on staff, and he brought in volunteers to help run the museum.  He also helped start the Museum Shop. Exhibits were added, and lectures were presented.  A Junior Art Show was added.  Owen improved the programming, and brought in many special exhibits from around the world.  In terms of physical plant improvements, he improved the lighting, installed alarms and closed-circuit television, added a public address system, and added air conditioning. He even organized the Associates (Friends) of Bruce Museum.

John B. Clark was Director from 1979 to 1992.  He'd worked at the Morris Museum of Modern Art and Science in Morristown NJ and the Stamford Museum.  Clark was the Curator of the geology and mineralogy collection.   When he came to Bruce Museum, he thought it was very small, with very little storage space.  Most everything was out on loan as exhibits.   He had a large sign erected so that commuters could see it from the train.   This drew people's attention to the museum.

Clark discovered that the old building was in need of repair.  It was not attractive.  The floor was covered with a black and white checkerboard tile.  The gallery rooms were all painted a different color - pink, candy yellow, robin egg blue, and lavender.  The windows were boarded up with wood and painted a battleship grey!  Clark wanted to remodel the space, but he needed to come up with a vision.  Would the Bruce be a children's , art, science or family museum?  Would the emphasis be on programs or exhibits?  After much consideration, he decided it should be a family museum.

John Clark managed to get assistance from two prominent women in the community.  Anne von Stuelnagel from the Board of the Greenwich Arts Society offered her assistance.  Sharon Feissel (from the Junior Women's Club) also helped with the Museum Shop. The Town increased its funding to $140,000.  Clark decided to increase the number of supporters and the Bruce Museum Association was formed.  Even though the museum only had $15,000 in assets, its financial position was about to improve!




The first step in remodeling the Bruce Museum involved transforming one of the galleries into the museum shop.  Clark used some of the existing cabinets to build new ones.  Henry Chitwood, Chairman of the Board of Bruce Library, lent the museum $3,000 for renovation.  As more and more people came to see the exhibits, more money was raised and the loan was paid off.  The Connecticut Commission on the Arts also gave the Museum several grants.

In 1981, Joseph and Olga Hirschhorn opened a National Tour of their (world renowned) scuptures at the Bruce.  This was the first time a professionally mounted exhibit was sponsored by the museum.  The main event was a benefit for the museum which included a progressive dinner, and wine, dessert and dancing at the Bruce. Hirshhorn had some of the old tile replaced with carpet.  This is not the last time the Hirschhorns would help out the museum.  The collection was eventually relocated to the Smithsonian Museum in Washington DC.

One program that really put the museum on the map was the Dinosaur Exhibit.  Jim Gray (1939 - 2006), an African-American artist from New Jersey, had sculpted large dinosaurs from automobile parts.  People came to view the art by the thousands.     Another popular program was a Ukranian Egg Exhibit, which was shown around Easter time.  People could come in and learn how to "blow out" eggs.  Public interest was piqued, and the institution established itself as a real family museum.

As time went on, Clark felt it was time to re-design the building. When Clark approached the BET for funding, he was told to seek private funding.  This freed him to undertake a large capital campaign. The Greenwich community answered the call.  An architectural firm was hired to come up with a functional design.  Ground was broken by the Pavarini Company in December 1992.  Since the head of the company was a Greenwich resident, he took a keen interest in the project.  The museum had to be emptied, and all items stored away for a year-and-a-half.  It took 30 truckloads to remove all the items.  A red brick building on Elm Street offered by Fleet Bank provided 7,000 square feet of storage.  The Museum only had to pay $1000 per month for utilities.  Fleet Bank also donated $50,000 in furniture to the museum.  Bruce Museum was closed for a year-and-a-half.

The project was not without its problems.  First of all, there were no blueprints for the building, which had been built in 1853.  There was no solid footing under one section since it was built on clay.  During construction, asbestos was found in the walls. The building had to be made ADA compliant. Photographs were taken to document the old building.  Once everything was removed, the museum staff and Board held a construction party.  Construction was completed in June 1993, and the museum officially opened in September 1993.  The cost was about $7-million.

One objective was to increase office space, which they did. In effect, the Museum doubled its size to 16,000 square feet.  The Museum was redesigned to have an Animal Hall, a Geology Hall and a Fossil Room.   There were not as many dioramas, the Museum gift shop was expanded and more space for paintings was created.   More programs were offered, including an art bizarre of sorts.  Once a year artists set up booths and sell their creations on the Museum site during the Outdoor Arts Festival.

From 1995 to 2000, Hollister Sturges III served as Director of the Bruce.  Sturges was the first art professional to be employed as Director.  His main achievement was to develop the museum's art collection, and obtain accreditation for the museum.  It became the second most visited art museum in Connecticut.  Noted experts on art came to lecture, which attracted many people.  A dinner lecture series was even created.  The Renaissance Ball was started as a major fund raiser.  The goal was to create a larger space for art, science and the permanent collection.  Much of the collection was still in storage. 

new front bruce176.jpg



As the museum improved its facilities, it became a venue for more important art exhibitions.  Bruce Museum was chosen for a Japanese exhibit (2002), an African art exhibit, and loans from the National Gallery in Washington DC and the National Museum of American Art.  In the late 1990s, it hosted the Linda McCartney photo exhibit.  An internship program was started for young scholars, who were interested in a museum career.

Hollister Sturges was dismissed in April 2000 under controversial circumstances.  Homer McK Rees was retired from the financial world, and was approached to serve as Interim Director.  He later served on the Board of the Bruce Museum and served as the Treasurer.  In April 2000, he took over the helm.

Rees was all business.  He reduced the size of the unwieldy Board of Directors, and streamlined their duties. It became less of a management board, and more of a governing board - the way it was meant to operate.  He reviewed the performance of the staff, and had their salaries increased.  Rees was able to apply his business expertise and philosophy to improve operations.

Homer McK Rees stayed for about a year-and-a-half until Peter Sutton was hired. Sutton graduated Magna Cum Laude from Harvard, and earned an MBA and PhD at Yale.  Job experience included work at the Philadelphia Museum of Art, the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston, and the Wadsworth Atheneum in Hartford.  He brought a strong art background to the job, and worked hard to promote the art collection.  (Greenwich has a high concentration of art collectors due to its proximity to New York City.)

Sutton had to restore confidence in the museum, and guide the museum after the reorganization of the Board.  He had to reclaim his role as manager, specifically hiring and firing, managing the budget and administering policy.  Private fund raising had to be increased to meet the demand, especially through endowments.  Sutton also expanded other programs in the museum, especially science.  He utilized the Brucemobile and Seaside Museum to reach out to young students.  The Museum Council - volunteers who help with the art collection - worked with the Director to keep it relevant.

Peter Sutton has been a real "hands-on" manager.  He has been actively involved in long-term planning.  This involves looking at renovation and expansion, as well as the use of multiple sites.  He has managed to increase attendance tremendously.  And his enthusiasm has been contagious!

Bruce Museum has come a long way since the Curator had to collect items for exhibits and personally build display cases. Individuals donate money, as well as their personal items, to underwrite exhibits.  Volunteers serve as docents and help with programs. The general populace has embraced the Museum, and many people have given their time, wealth and talent to preserving this wonderful educational and cultural institution.  The future looks very bright!


Clark, J.: The Bruce Museum;  Greenwich Library Oral History Project, Greenwich CT: 1955

Howes, P.: The Bruce Museum: The First Fifty Years: Greenwich Library Oral History Project, Greenwich CT 1978

Mortimer, H et al: The Bruce Museum: A Century of Change; Greenwich Library Oral History Project, Greenwich CT, 2007.

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