Sound Beach Revolt

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As many people know, Old Greenwich was at one time known as "Sound Beach". Hence, the street name "Sound Beach Avenue".  It was also the first business center of town, although most business was conducted in nearby Stamford.  North Mianus became the business center once the mail route was established in 1673 over the King's Highway (over Palmer's Hill).  Boats would carry products from farms and mills to market from the upper and lower landings on the Mianus River.  North Mianus would remain the business center of town for over 100 years.  By 1885, most produce was being used locally and market boats stopped running.  Business gradually shifted to Horseneck (central Greenwich).

EastMap413.jpg

MAP SHOWING EAST SOCIETY IN YELLOW.  CHARLES WEBB 1773

The Town was divided into an East Society and a West Society for religious purposes, marked by the Mianus River. It was decided that half of the Town meetings would be held in Horseneck as well as Sound Beach in 1703.  Eventually, the business and government center also shifted to that part of Town.

As a result, Sound Beach lost some of its political clout and prestige. Only 8% of the voting population for the entire Town resided in Sound Beach.  There was also religious strife between the two sections, which resulted in the building the Second Congregational Church in 1705 in Horseneck.

Over the years, there were rumblings of dissatisfaction with the Town Selectmen. There was no Representative Town Meeting at first.  Sound Beach citizens felt they were being deprived of their fair share of public funding.  Due to their geographic location, they felt separated from the rest of Town, and that their interests were not getting the same attention as the West Society's.

Several prominent Sound Beach men formed a Local Improvement League, which approached the Committee of Taxation and Township in 1907.  Not much is known about the men who comprised this group.  There is no surviving documentation on the matter, and many may have wished to forget the incident as it was unsuccessful in its quest.  They wanted to create a new Town east of the Mianus which had the same boundaries as the Sound Beach School District.  Thus began the Sound Beach secession movement.

The citizens seemed to have legitamate complaints.  The group gathered and organized a great deal of information to support their case.  There were few cement roads in that part of Town, and the dirt roads were in bad shape. Little had been done to maintain them.   There were also no sidewalks, which created a safety hazard.  As more and more automobiles began to show up, this was becoming a problem.   The lack of maintenance to the public infrastructure did not help with attracting new citizens to Sound Beach.  Yet, the debt began to climb.  There was a great deal of corruption in government as  "log rolling" became entrenched.  This was the process of special interests convincing other groups to vote for their pet projects in return for their support. "You scratch my back, I'll scratch yours." Town funds were being spent on extravagant projects which were ill-advised.

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PRESENT DAY SOUND BEACH AVENUE LOOKING SOUTH     WIKIPEDIA

Although Sound Beach never did succeed in becoming a separate town, it's efforts were considered instrumental in creating a new form of government and cleaning up the financial discrepancies. A Committee of 28 was appointed in 1908 after irregularities in town finances was uncovered.  They were asked to make recommendations on the structure of town government. 

In 1928, the Town Meeting rejected an attempt to reorganize government.  Newspapers began advocating for a local government system similar to those in Massachusetts towns.  Finally,  a Representative Town Meeting was formed in 1933 and a new government watchdog, The Board of Taxation ( predecessor of the BET was created.  The Town was now well on its way to financial solvency.  On August 6, 1954, the Town paid off its bonded indebtedness, dating back to the Civil War.  In November 1954, the BET held a ceremony and burned the last bond.  And Sound Beach has remained a part of the Town of Greenwich.

By the way, on July 1, 1927, the Town Meeting voted to repave Sound Beach Avenue with cement ! 

 

SOURCES:

Hubbard, F; Greenwich History: The Judge's Corner, 2001; Nicholson, F (Editor) 

 Mead, S. ; Ye Historie of Ye Town of Greenwich; Knickerbocher Press, 1913

 Richardson, S. (Editor); Greenwich Before 2000: A Chronology of the Town of Greenwich 1640-1999; Historical Society of the Town of Greenwich; 2000.


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About this Entry

This page contains a single entry by Carl White published on October 26, 2013 10:50 AM.

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