The United Nations Controversy

| No Comments

Last time, I wrote about the controversy involving the building of a World Headquarters for Xerox on King Street. This occured back in the 1970s.  However, there was another, bigger controversy that went back to 1946.  That was the controversy involving the creation of a site for the relatively new United Nations headquarters.

During December 1945 and January 1946, several newspapers announced that a United Nations Site Committee was looking at land in northwest Greenwich for a permanent home.  More specifically, the Greenwich-Stamford-North Castle area was being targeted.  Chairman Dr. Stoyan Gavrilovic of Yugoslavia was going to fly to London to report that the committee was recommending this general area as a preferred building site.

UN map792.jpg



This revelation stunned the community, which had no idea that these plans were in the works.  One of the people, who lived in northwest Greenwich and would be affected by this project, was John L. Gray.  He was a lawyer and partner in a law firm with Wilkie Bushby.  Gray immediately contacted Bushby, and they organized a protest meeting to be held at the Country Day School.  The group originally adopted the name the "Committee for Preservation of the Community of Greenwich", but eventually changed its name to the Greenwich People's Committee.  The meeting held on January 31 attracted 250 people.  Bushby was elected chairman.  He and Gray wrote a letter to Dr. Gavrilovic explaining that building the site would seriously disturb the rural nature of Greenwich.  The meeting voted to approve the letter.  A petiton was also circulated.  By February 2, 930 people had signed the petition.  Another 400 would later add their signatures.

A committee was formed to lead the opposition which included Wilkie Bushby, John Gray, Amedee Cole, Jack Paton and Henry Kilburn.  They worked 7-nights a week in addition to working their regular day jobs.  By calling, writing and talking to individuals, the committee was able to raise $29,000 for operating (legal) fees.  Greenwich Library's Marie Cole and others volunteered to handle the clerical work.

As luck would have it, a Town Meeting was scheduled for February 5 in the Greenwich High School auditorium.  The committee asked the group to take up the UN issue.  Although the room could hold up to 1,000 people, the venue was overcrowded!  The meeting agreed to discuss the UN problem.  A resolution was proposed to oppose any site in or adjacent to Greenwich.  The bill was amended to provide for a referendum. The bill passed easily. Even the three Town Selectman were unanmimously opposed to a Greenwich site. The results were cabled to the President of the UN in London, the Secretary General, the UN Site Committee, American representatives to the UN, the Connecticut Secretary of State, the Governor of Connecticut and our Congressmen.  Believe it or not, none of these parties replied!

On February 7th, an engineering report on Banksville, North Greenwich, Long Ridge and North Castle was completed.  This area was determined to have a favorable climate, was easily accessible to New York City for cultural events, and offered fine beaches along Long Island Sound.  It was also close to Westchester Airport.  This area was the favorite choice.  The site would be called the "Free City of the United Nations".  A new railroad spur line would be built to run along Lake Avenue to Banksville.  A four-lane highway was proposed, and a large sewage facility would have to be built .  The effluent would be discharged into the Mianus and Byram Rivers, as well as Horseneck Creek.  A residential and business section was planned, and an auditorium would be built for 5,000 people.  Other facilities included a hotel for 3,000 people, central heating and power plants, parking lots, churches, schools, hospital, sanitation and health departments, fire and police facilities and some residences!  A plan was put forth that suggested local residences could lease their homes to UN personnel.  The jewel of the project would be a 12-story administration building which would be designed like the Pentagon.  It would house some 50,000 people.  The site would mimic a moderate-sized city!

UN Man793.jpg



The original date for the referendum turned out to be George Washington's Birthday.  Since the committee leaders were afraid a lot of people would be out of town due to the holiday, the vote was rescheduled for Saturday, March 2.  Three polling places were open for 6 hours (as opposed to the usual 12).  It was a rainy day, which sometimes limits the turn out.  Nonetheless, about 7,500 voters turned out.  Seventy-three percent (or 5,505) voted against the site selection.  The general consensus was that people felt the site would change the character of the town.  A statement was issued shortly after the vote which indicated that the people didn't want the site in Greenwich, but that the people did support world peace and believed in the purpose of the organization.

There were a few people, however, who were in favor of the UN locating its site in Greenwich.  One was the First Selectman of Stamford, who no doubt saw a business advantage for his city.  Some real estate people saw increased sales as a plus.  Surprisingly, the church community was rather mute on the subject.

On March 6th and 7th, members of the Greenwich and Stamford committees met with Dr. Gavrilovic to report on the referendum.  They clarified their position, stressed their support for the UN and refuted the claim that they opposed peace.  The success of the UN was not dependent on location, they stated.  Furthermore, the site should be located so as not to disturb any sizable community of homeowners. 

On July 10, 1946, it was announced that the UN Site Committee was looking at alternate sites in Monroe, Ridgefield, Amawalk and Peekskill.  Greenwich residents heaved a collectivesigh of relief!  They thought they had dodged a bullet.  Then in October of that year, a Stamford group tried to get the UN to reconsider and build in the Greenwich; but the UN must have made up its mind because shortly after they voted to locate in Manhattan.  John D. Rockefeller donated land on the East Side - the site of its present location.

UN aerial799.jpg



On December 24th, the Greenwich People's Committee refunded 30% of the $29,000 it had raised to fight the plan.  This was a very pleasant Christmas present for many Greenwich residents!  With its work being completed, the committee disbanded.  It had achieved its goal of preserving Greenwich's rural character.

Some people played Devil's Advocate after the dust settled.  What would have happened if concerned citizens hadn't taken an interest and formed a committee?  Would the UN now be located in northwest Greenwich?  Would there be railroad lines and major highways passing through Greenwich?  Would Greenwich become part of a great metropolis?  Or would the UN not have moved here due to the great expense?  We'll never know.  One thing's for sure: the action of concerned citizens in town played an important role in the outcome. 


The United Nations Site Controversy: Gray, J.L.; Greenwich Library Oral History Project, 1976.

Historical Happenings

| No Comments

ASCH Conference: Work and Working People in Connecticut
Saturday - November 1 - 8:30 AM - 3:30 PM
Capitol Community College

This Association for the Study of Connecticut History conference will cover the working life of residents in various industries.  More information at:  or e-mail

Story Barn:  Victory
Friday - October 17 - 6:30 PM
Greenwich Historical Society

As part of the Greenwich Reads Together program, several speakers will
talk about their experiences based on the concept of victory.
Call 203-869-6899 for more information.


Civil War Monument

| No Comments

Most everyone driving east on Putnam Avenue from Greenwich Avenue toward Cos Cob has no doubt seen the impressive granite monument at the corner with Maple Street. This is known as "Civil War Monument to Soldiers and Sailors".  It was dedicated in 1890, and is a landmark sculpture in town.  It commemorates the bravery of the men of Greenwich who answered President Lincoln's call for volunteers to fight for the Union.

Out of approximately 6,100 residents, 437 men enlisted in the Army of the Republic. This represented 7% of the population. The enlilistment bounty (pay) was $100 in 1861and $300 in 1863.  Men served in the 26th Connecticut Regiment in the 10th and 17th Infantries.  They fought in every major battle of the War including the battles of Bull Run, Gettysburgh and the Seige of Petersburg.  Sixty-nine men died: 9 were KIA, 2 were MIA and 58 died from disease.  Forty-four men were captured. 

The monument was dedicated on October 22, 1890.  A parade led by Wheeler and Wilson Musicians from Briodgeport marched from Arch Street up Greenwich Avenue, left down Putnam Avenue to Field Point Road, back to Put's Hill, down Park Place to Mead Avenue, down North Street to Maple Avenue to the monument opposite the Second Congregational Church.  The Grand Army of the Republic Civil War Veterans marched in the parade. Dignitaries included Governor Morgan G. Buckley, US Senator Joseph R. Hawley and the Honorable Charles B. Anderson. Prominent Greenwich officials rode in carriages or on horses.  Colonel Heusted W.R. Hoyt gave the keynote address.  A speaker's stand had been erected for the occassion.  The monument was presented by Lt. Benjamin Wright to First Selectman J. Albert Lockwood.  Mrs. Louisa Ritch, widow of Major Daniel Mead, had the honor of unveiling the monument.


The granite monument stands 25 feet high.  The architect was W.L. Cottrell, and the sculptor was E.F. Patterson.  It cost $6,000 and was built on the site of an old Townhouse, which served as the old enlistment headquarters.  Located in a triangular park, it has a sharp grade making climbing difficult.  The main figure is a standard bearer in trousers and frock, collar turned down and right leg forward.  The right hand rests on the hilt of a sword, while the left arm encircles the folds of the flag.  Seals of the United States and State of Connecticut overlap.There are engravings on all four sides of the base in remembrance of the battles our volunteers fought in:

                                                      WEST FACE

                                        To Her Loyal Sons Who Fought
                                             1861   For The Union   1865    

                                                     MORRIS ISLAND  

                                                      SOUTH FACE

                                                     PORT HUDSON

                                                        EAST FACE
                                                          DEEP RUN
                                                     DREWRY'S BLUFF

                                                        NORTH FACE

                                                        FORT GREGG
                                                        FORT FISHER
                                                   DARBYTOWN ROAD
                                                           NEW BERN

The Town had always wanted to honor Civil War Veterans in some manner.  There was a question as to the best way to do it.  According to the newspaper, some supported the building of a monument.  One resident suggested raising $6,000 and joining forces with the Library Association to build a new structure to house the Library , the Grand Army and a lecture hall.  This would be more useful than the monument, which was beautiful, but had little use other than a sculpture.  The project was announced in June 1882, a committee was formed in June 1884 and the fund raising started in January 1889.  Obviously, the monument was chosen as the way to commemorate Greenwich's brave men.

Today, the monument site is maintained by the Town's Park and Recreation Tree Division.  The monument is surrounded by bushes and trees. In the Spring, when the crocuses bloom, it's a beautiful sight indeed.  We owe a lot to these brave men who served their country to save the Union.


Greenwich Graphic

Greenwich Before 2000, Richardson, S, Ed.: Historical Society of the Town of Greenwich, 1999.


Historical Happenings

| No Comments

 A Conversation With Cameron and Tyler Winklevoss
Tuesday - October 14 - 7 PM
Cole Auditorium - Greenwich Library

The Winklevoss brothers will talk about their
experiences participating in the 2008 US Olympic
rowing competition.  This is part of the Greenwich
Reads Together
Program.  No reservations are
required.  All ages welcomed.

Politics and the Olympics
Tuesday - October 20 - 7 PM
Cole Auditorium - Greenwich Library

NBC Executive Producer Jim Bell will talk
about the political impact of hosting
the Olympics. Another Greenwich Reads
program. No reservations required. 

Author Talk:  Daniel James Brown
Tuesday - October 28 - 7 PM
Cole Auditorium - Greenwich Library

The author of  the Greenwich Reads Together book
"The Boys in the Boat"  will speak at the library. 

 **Registration opens on October 16 at 9 AM.**


| No Comments

Genealogy: Newspaper Research Resources

Saturday - September 27 - 10:30 AM

*Cos Cob Library

Ms. Janeen Bjork will talk about using newspapers to find stories about your family and ancestors.  Free and open to the public.

Recent Comments

  • Carl White: Thank you for that information. I came across several people read more
  • pfalexla: LOTS MORE Thank you for this great effort. Not to read more
  • Michael A. Clar: Carl, I was surfing the web the other day for read more
  • Carl White: Heather - Thanks for this information. Could you tell me read more
  • Heather Converse: According to Edmund and Marquis were cousins. Please edit read more
  • Al Brecken: Carl , a brilliant musical composition is the "Second read more
  • Carl White: Karen - Thank you for your kind words! I tried read more
  • Karen Johnson: Good article. You have included Seton's lyrics. Can you include read more
  • Walter Ahrens: I lived In Cos Cob until 1958 and remember well read more
  • Al Brecken: read more

Recent Assets

  • UN aerial799.jpg
  • UN Man793.jpg
  • UN map792.jpg
  • Monu737.jpg
  • XeroxMap734.jpg
  • cartoon723.jpg
  • Americus721.jpg
  • Tweed720.jpg
  • SecCongo710.jpg
  • ChickMap696.jpg

Find recent content on the main index, or to browse all entries look in the all entries list or the archives.