Civic - Minded William E. Hall

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Many important and influential people have made Greenwich their home over the years. This is no doubt due to the proximity of New York City as well as our beautiful countryside.  One of these people was lawyer and business executive William Edwin Hall.

Mr. Hall was born in St. Mary's, Pennsylvania, on March 25, 1878.  His father was involved in a number of industries including lumber, coal, natural gas, public utilities and banking.  He attended Haverford and Lawrenceville schools preparing for college.  In 1900,  he received a PhD from Yale, and in 1903,  a LLB from Harvard.  After college, he was a member of several law firms.  A former Justice of the Supreme Court, the Honorable Martin L. Stover, was a senior partner at one firm.  William became  head of the Hall, Cunningham and Haywood law firm in New York City.

William Hall served on a number of corporate boards including the Trojan Powder Company, the Duriron Company, St Mary's National Bank, Speer Carbon Company, International Graphite and Electrode Company, Greenwich Trust and a host of others. No doubt his legal expertise was invaluable, and he was held in great esteem. When the war broke out in 1914, he served on the Commission for Relief in Belgium under Herbert Hoover.

Mr. Hall devoted a good part of his life to helping underpriveleged boys.  He became president of the Boys Clubs of America in 1916.  This included 350 clubs in 200 cities.  The clubs provided gymnasiums, vocational classes and libraries.  Dues were only a few cents a month.  He served as vice-president of the Crime Prevention Bureau of New York City from 1928 to 1933.  This group worked to prevent boys from becoming juvenile delinquents.  In 1928 he became a trustee for the Children's Aid Society.   

Hall received many honors for his efforts.  Harvard University presented him with an honorary degree in 1936.  That same year, he received a Gold Medal from the National Institute of Social Sciences.  The CYO (Catholic Youth Organization) awarded him the Medal of Champions. (By the way, he was an Episcopalian and a warden of Christ Church).  The Boy Scouts of America gave him the Silver Buffalo medal for his focus on improving the lives of young boys. Mayor LaGuardia presented him with the Boys' Exposition Gold Medal on behalf of his efforts. He also served on many professional boards such as the National Institute of Science, the Yale Club and the Greenwich Community Chest.  Locally he was a member of the Field Club, Round Hill Club and Boys Club.

Use Me Hall.jpg

William E. Hall died on January 25, 1961 in Palm Beach, Florida.  He used his station in life to help improve the lives of those less fortunate than him.  His efforts no doubt changed the lives of many young men.

Greenwich has had many residents, who have been active in community service.  That's one thing that makes this a special community.  Thank you to Mr. Hall, and all the other residents, who work for the benefit of all.


SOURCE

Who's Who In Greenwich, Greenwich Time; 9/21/1942.

Historical Happenings

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Lecture: First World War
Wednesday - Nov 5 - 7 PM
Cole Auditorium - Greenwich Library

 
Judge James E. Baker will talk about the First World War
as part of the Historical Society's Distinguished Author
series.  Free.  Call (203) 869-6899 for more info.

 


Your German Ancestors
Saturday - November 15 - 10:30 AM
Cos Cob Library


Joseph Lieby will talk about researching your German
Ancestors.  Refreshments.  Free.

 


Vitally Vital Records
Saturday - November 22 - 10:30 AM
Cos Cob Library

 
Ms. Toni McKeen will tell you how to use vital records
to research your ancestors.  Refreshments.  Free.

 

The United Nations Controversy

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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


PROPOSED SITE OF UN IN GREENWICH

SOURCE: ORAL HISTORY PROJECT

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

CURRENT LOCATION OF UN ON EAST SIDE OF NYC

SOURCE: GOOGLE

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

AERIAL PHOTO OF UNITED NATIONS COMPLEX IN MANHATTAN

SOURCE:  GOOGLE

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. 

SOURCE

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


Historical Happenings

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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:

http://asch-cthistory.org/contact2  or e-mail info@ASCH-cthistory.org


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

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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.

Monu737.jpg

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

                                                        Greenwich
                                        To Her Loyal Sons Who Fought
                                             1861   For The Union   1865    
                                                                                                                                        

                                                        ANTIENTAM
                                                     MORRIS ISLAND  
                                                         KINGSTON

                                                                    
                                                      SOUTH FACE

                                                     PORT HUDSON
                                                       VICKSBURG
                                                      GETTYSBURG
                                                      APPOMATTOX


                                                        EAST FACE
                                                                      
                                                          DEEP RUN
                                                       PETERSBURG
                                                     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.

SOURCES

Greenwich Graphic

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

            

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