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Historical Happenings

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GHS Digital Archives

The Greenwich Historical Society has 40,000 images in its
digital archive.  Access a representative sample through the
link above.

Greenwich Library Digital Collections

Greenwich Library has uploaded 1000 images, which can be
accessed through our Digital Collections.  Return frequently
to see new images.

Town Historian William E. Finch, Jr.

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Frequently people ask me if I'm the Town Historian.  I politely inform them that I am the Local History and Genealogy Librarian at Greenwich Library.  My job is to help people find sources to help them with their research.  By assimilation, I've learned a lot about Greenwich local history, but  I am by no means an expert historian.  That honor goes to Mr. William E. Finch, Jr., who devoted a good portion of his life to researching the history of the Town.

Mr. Finch was born on May 28, 1912 in Greenwich.  He was eleveneth in descent from Abraham Finch (1585 - 1638), who migrated from Massachusetts in 1634 to help found Wethersfield.  His son, John Finch, helped found Stamford, who's son, Joseph, purchased meadowland in Mianus Neck in 1664.  Later, he became one of the "27 Proprietors of Greenwich"  .  Joseph's son was William Edwin Finch.  He was the largest independent druggist in the state.  Finch owned 3 stores at one time - one on Greenwich Avenue, one on West Putnam Avenue and one in Glenville. (He also had ties to Finch's Country Store in Banksville.)  William was active in civic affairs and was a naturalist.  He was nicknamed "The First Citizen of Greenwich".  William E. Finch, Jr. was named after his father.



The Finch family has a storied history.  The family could trace its ancestors back to seven signers of the Mayflower Compact.  Four were original settlers of Greenwich in 1640, and seven were settlers of Horseneck. Captain John Finch was a member of George Washington's staff.  Grandfather Jared Finch was the first to volunteer from Greenwich during the Civil War.  They intermarried with many important families of Greenwich:  Close, Ferris, Knapp, Lockwood, Lyon, Mead, Palmer, Peck and Todd.  The name was derived from the occupation to train and sell Bullfinches. 

When William Jr. was 10 or 11, he began researching his family lineage by visiting the Greenwich Library.  In 1932, he graduated from Brunswick School.  Then he spent the next 20 years working in his father's drugstore.  He never gave up his interest in family history, and continued to research it at Greenwich Library as well as the New York Public Library.  William firmly believed we could all benefit from reading about the past.  He was a Charter Member of the Historical Society of the Town of Greenwich when it was founded in 1931 (at age 19), and became a Board member (1934) and served as President (1947).

The family sold the drugstore in 1947.  This freed William up to pursue history full-time.  In 1956, he became the first curator/historian.  He lived on the second floor of the Bush-Holley House on Strickland Road.  In 1978, the Board of Selectmen named Bill Finch the official Town Historian in honor of his dedication to preserving Greenwich history.  He retired in 1980, and became Curator Emeritus.  When the HSTG opened their records building in 1982, it was named the William E. Finch Jr. Archives. In 1990, a bust of William was unveiled at the Bush-Holley Historic site as a tribute.  He brought honor to his family, which became known as "The First Family of Greenwich".

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William E. Finch Jr. was also very active in other historical and civic groups.  He was a founding member of the Captain Matthews Mead Branch #11 of the Connecticut Sons of the American revolution.  He was awarded the Patriot Medal by the Historical Society of the Town of Greenwich - it's highest honor.  William was a member of the North Castle Historical Society, and Greenwich Rotary Club, which awarded him the Paul Harrish Fellowship.  He served 64 years on the Board of Directors of the Middle Patent Rural cemetery Association in Banksville, twenty-five years as President.  if that wasn't enough, he was a lifelong member of Christ Church, and served on the Vestry (Board of Deacons).

A funeral was held for William on September 27, 2000, at Christ Church in Greenwich.  Hundreds turned out to honor the resident history expert.  His body was laid to rest during a private ceremony at the Middle Patent Rural Cemetery. 

William E. Finch, Jr. was truly a Town Treasure.  His efforts helped preserve Greenwich history, and his passion is an example for us all. 

If you're looking for two knowledgable historians in town, then I suggest you talk to Davidde Strackbein or Susan Larkin at the Greenwich Historical Society. 


Greenwich Time; Time Warner Company, Southwestern Connecticut Newspapers, Stamford CT;  

Greenwich Magazine,: Moffly Publications, Inc., [1990-], Greenwich CT

Nutmegger: the Magazine of Greenwich: Tucker Communications, Greenwich, 1989


Ghost Stories of Greenwich

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Note:  This article is written primarily for entertainment purposes.  There is no way to verify this data.  It's presented in the spirit of Halloween, and is based on "urban legend".  Furthermore, I've embellished them to make them more interesing.  I guess you could consider them "fiction". Many years ago, I remember seeing an article in the Greenwich Time about Halloween legends in Town.  Since Halloween is now upon us, I decided to research some of these local tales.  I was surprised to find so much information.  Here I present a few of the ghostly tales!

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As the story goes, there was an Irish girl (an immigrant) who worked in a mansion in Belle Haven in the late 1800s. She met and fell in love with a piper. He worked as a servant in another Belle Haven residence, and loved to serenade people with his flute - especially his love interest. They spent a lot of time together in the area near the Bruce mansion.  The two were very much in love, and planned to marry.  However, the man mysteriously disappeared and was never to be seen again.  The girl was heartbroken, and became very homesick.  She decided to return to her family in Ireland.  So she booked passage on a ship out of New York, and returned to her native homeland.  Unfortunately, she contracted Consumption (Tuberculosis) and died.

Years later (early 1900s), people began reporting that they had spotted two ghostly apparitions outside of what is now the Bruce Museum.  A man would be playing a small flute for a young girl, who listened very attentively.  On occassion an evil voice could be herad, beckoning the two to come into the mansion to play the flute and sing; but the couple refused to go inside because they said they knew they would never be able to come out!  They would then suddenly disapper into thin air.

In 1996, a young girl claims she was driving through Bruce Park at night, when suddenly a line of approximately 10 cars cut her off.  She had to slam on her brakes to avoid a collision.  Several passengers appeared to have a terrified look on their faces as they looked back into the dark woods.  She also tried to look in that general direction, but spotted nothing.  Once all the traffic had gone, she continued on her way.

As it so happened, the next day the young lady pulled into a gas station to fill up her car.  When she went in to the station to pay for her gas, she overheard several men talking about an incident in Bruce Park durihg the previous night.  Seveal teenagers were drinikng beer and raising Cain in one of the park's picnic areas.  When they became very rowdy, a ghost suddenly appeared!  The body was that of a woman, but the head was a collection of snakes, which twisted and hissed at the teenagers!  Needless to say, the teens jumped in their cars and fled the scene!  The girl makes a point to avoid Bruce Park when she drives at night.
Local author Anya Seton - who wrote The Winthrop Woman and other historic novels - was a strong believer in ghosts.  She swore there was a ghost of a slave girl living in an old wash house on the Bush-Holley property.  As many people know, the owners of the inn had slaves living in the attic.  These men and women were servants and kitchen help.  Living in such tight qurters, they could very easily contract any number of diseases.  It's very possible that the young girl died while living at Bush-Holley.  Anya even reported that the apparition of the young child would scream from time to time.  Perhaps there is some truth to the story.


One of the most popular (and historical) hotels in town is the Homestead Inn of Belle Haven.  Indians and settlers first used the land for horse pasture and farmland. It's situated on land purchased by the Mead family in 1799. Over the years, it was passed down from generation to generation.  A circular summer house was built, and became an Inn and restaurant for travelers and summer guests. One of the attractions of the Inn was a ship's figurehead, which was located on the proch.  It had rosy cheeks, black eyes and a flowing white robe over a hoop skirt. Originally, this was mounted on the bow of the Lady Lancashire.  A Captain, who lived next door to the Inn, had carved the piece in 1830.  It had been removed from the ship for maintenance one time before the ship set sail.  Eerily, the ship subsequently sank and the figurehead had no home.  So it was given to the Mead family, who placed it on the front porch.

Over the years, there were reports of strange noises by guests who stayed at the Inn.  One guest claimed she heard unexplained footsteps in the second floor Bride's Room.  It sounded like someone was pacing all night long!  In another bedroom - the Groom's Room - a woman claims she saw the figure of a ghostly woman dressed in an old fashioned white dress.  The woman appeared to be looking out the window, as if waiting for a sailor to return.  Coincidently, the figurehead was directly below this window.  Perhaps it's the ghostly figure of a woman waiting for the return of someone from the Lady Lancashire.

Another story involves a woman who was walking into a local church one Sunday morning.  The young girl is met in the lobby by a man who asks her if she is alright.  Although she finds this to be a strange question, she says she is alright and continues into the sanctuary.  Just as she is going to sit in a pew, the man touches her on the shoulder, and asks her again if she is alright!  She again states that she's fine. The man disappeared, and she didn't see him anymore.

That night, she is looking through her deceased grandmother's photo album.  The young girl is startled to see the image of a man who is wearing the same clothes as the man who talked to her in the church.  She asks her mother who the man is in the photo.  Her mother explains that this is her grandmother's husband - her grandfather that she had never met!  He had met an untimely death, right around the time that the girl was born. A horse and buggy had accidently struck him while he was crossing the street.  His spirit was apparently attempting to make contact from the spirit world.

A family in Cos Cob - which will remain anonymous - experienced a strange occurence several years ago.  One night, a young boy woke up from a sound sleep in his bedroom on the second floor.   He was screaming and crying.  The boy was all scratched up and was shaking like a leaf - as if he had seen a ghost!  He claimed a man had come into the room, and was trying to drag him somewhere.  The man kept on repeating the words "Johnson Maddey".  Furthermore, the man's face appeared to be on fire!

There's also the story of a girl in Riversville, who experienced contact with a ghostly spirit in the 1990s.  She decided to take a shortcut through some woods near the intersection of Riversville Road and John Street.  It was dusk, and there were many piles of leaves on the ground.  As she walked uphill on a curving trail, she heard the sound of leaves rustling behind her as if someone was following.  When she stopped, it stopped.  When she walked, it walked. So she decided to stop suddenly.  The leaves rustled about 50-feet behind her until it suddenly stopped.  She started to walk again, then heard something (or someone) stop.  This time she stopped and cried out "Who's there?"  The rustling started again, and it seemed as if something had come within 10-feet of her. She screamed and ran up the hill.  It felt as though something was very close to her!  The young lady ran frightened all the way home.  She never walked in those woods at dusk ever again!

Happy Halloween, everybody!




Historical Happenings

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Newspapers and Genealogy: Tracking Your family One Character At A Time
Saturday - October 31 - 10:30 AM
Cos Cob Library

Janeen Bjork will show participants her tricks and techniques for
searching her family history.  Free and open to all.

Community Mapping Project
October 29 to December 9
Flinn Gallery - Greenwich Library

In conjunction with the 375th Anniversary of Greenwich,
The Flinn Gallery at Greenwich Library invites you to
participate in a community mapping project. Stop by
the Flinn Gallery during the month of October to create
your own hand drawn map of Greenwich. All materials will
be provided and maps will be displayed within the Library.

The Great Patent Medicine Era
Saturday - November 17 - 2 PM
Second Floor Meeting Room

Bill Cameron will talk about the charlatans who took advantage of
people with their bogus elixirs.  Free and open to all.
Registration required.

The Art Barn of Greenwich


NOTE:  Many thanks to James C. Reilly for his help and input for this important blog.

There are some vertical files in the Local History Office, which contain all kinds of newspaper and magazine articles, brochures, and posters on many subjects of interest.  One of these is a file labeled "Art".  I recently looked through this file, and found several articles on the Art Barn.  I remembered seeing articles in the "Arts and Leisure" section of the Greenwich Time on Sundays which referred to the Barn.  All I remember is that it was located somewhere near Lower Cross Lane.  I was recently talking to Jim Reilly, who used to be the Executive Director of the Barn, and decided to research it.

Today, a barn-like ambulance facility is located on the original Art Barn site, which is adjacent to Parkway School at 143 Lower Cross Road, one mile west of North Street.  The original main hay barn was built circa 1747, and the farmland passed down from family to family.  Along the way, a dairy barn was added.  It was known as the Harmony Farm at one point.  In the 1950s, before it's sale to the Town, the Barn was used to raise Black Angus Show Bulls, and was named the Parkway Barn.  The Board of Education bought the Parkway Barn property for a new school, and the new school being built was named the Parkway School after the Barn Complex.

The Barn Complex was originally slated to be razed at the start of building the Parkway School, in 1962;  but at the request of Miss Blanch Hart, who was in charge of all the art classes for the Board of Education, the demolition was cancelled.  Miss Hart proposed that the Barn be used as an Experimental Art Center.  The Board of Ed  was quick to agree, especially with Miss Hart's extensive educational background, and her long relationship with the Board of Education.  With support from artists and art educators, a group was formed to start a facility that would be an inspiration to many.

An open-ended lease was negotiated with the Board in 1962. Miss Hart, with several artists and art educators, along with the Board of Education, got the Town to agree to "lease" the facility for a non-profit art center. This new creative group, known as The Art Barn, Inc. was formed with prominent local businessmen, artists and art-oriented individuals, not just from Greenwich, but from all parts of the New York City metropolitan area. These art-oriented citizens set up the studios to handle many creative mediums. 

The studio workshops that evolved over the Art Barn's first few years were very productive, inspiring many. The great art collector Joseph Hirshhorn became a member, showing parts of his collection at the Barn, with several pieces from his collection put on full-time display for many years.  These art works are now at the Smithsonian Hirshhorn Museum in Washington DC.

With the Board of Directors made up of artists, art enthusiasts, architects, craftspeople and art educators, the non-profit group promoted itself as "The Art Barn, Inc:  An Experimental Center for Arts, and Crafts in Greenwich".  It defined its purpose as follows:  "To provide facilities, guidance and a stimulating atmosphere for creative ideas in arts and crafts, and to encourage and develop self-expression and individual growth , free from commercial or competitive pressures." 

Set among some hills in a natural wood setting, the site was very bucolic. The original space provided good lighting, large rooms and potential for expansion. The first step was to start working on art projects, while the remodeling of space was going on to provide studios, classrooms and a gallery space.    When the remodeling was completed, courses and workshops were set up.  The crafts taught included printing, welding, stained glass/glass art, sculpture, jewelry work, printing, weaving/ fiber arts, bookbinding, pottery, drawing, painting and castings.  The courses ran from April to December of each year.  Downtime, due to the extremely cold months at the beginning of each year,  allowed administrators to plan for the upcoming session.

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Approximately 100 adult and 50 young students from Fairfield and Westchester Counties took advantage of the facilities and courses. They first had to become members of the Art Barn.  Individuals paid $15 for this membership, while families could purchase a membership for $25.  A Lifetime membership could be acquired for $300.  The fee for courses ranged from $37 to $112.  Membership drives and course fees were only two ways to raise money.  The Art Barn also held a Craft Fair the first week of November as its main fundraiser.  It usually raised about $4500 per year. Artists both paid for display booths to show their art, and made and donated decorations, cards and gifts for an Annual Christmas Fair,  A Guide to Greenwich pamphlet and tour maps were designed by the artists and were sold for $1 to raise money.  Artwork was sold year round to make money. No money was provided by the Town of Greenwich for the operating budget, which ranged from $50,000 to $60,000 per year.  In March 1984, Vietnam Era Veteran James C. Reilly was appointed Executive Director.  Jim had studied art at the University of Pennsylvania, and recieved a degree in painting from the prestigious Silvermine Guild.  Many will remember the creative Totem Pole he carved at Greenwich Point.  He was also involved in creating a metal Town seal.

The Parkway School closed in 1981, just after the passing of Miss Blanch Hart, who had not only proposed this great art center, but was a driving force, keeping the Art Barn on a steady course.  The two events were catastrophic, having a devastating effect on the Art Barn. The steady stream of traffic to the school, which meant potential customers, was eliminated. Walk-in traffic dropped.  Nancy Hamilton, an artist with expertise in Fiber Art and Bookbinding, became the director.   At the height of the Art Barn's popularity, Nancy Hamilton had provided instruction in  weaving, bookbinding, and in general fiber arts. Nancy, who played a major role in the Barn for many years, made a valiant effort in 1982 and 1983 to save the operation, as the Art Barn started floundering.  She left the Barn at the end of 1983 to marry, and instruct weaving in Vermont.  

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Reilly undertook some creative fundraising by collaborating with the Vietnam Veterans Agent Orange Victims  Association, and creating several special scenic prints for commemorative sale.  He tried many fund raising projects to restore the Art Barn, including trying to organize an old fashioned Barn Raising Party in back country Greenwich.  Yet, a Barn is just a Barn, and with a neighbor Ron Howard raising funds for the Bruce Museum expansion, it became very difficult to compete, even with Reilly's parent's help.  So the funds available were not enough, leaving the Art Barn in a holding pattern until the Selectman decided to terminate the lease.   Jim Reilly and his father, James J Reilly, a WWII veteran, retired executive of Lever Brothers (now Unilever) and environmental innovator, had a long meeting with First Selectman John Margenot on October 18, 1988 to negotiate the closing of this unique facility. 

It truly was a tragedy for Greenwich, and the art world in general, to lose such a creative place due to a lack of funds.  In a Town like Greenwich, Jim Reilly's struggled for four years to save the Art Barn. Unfortunately, the lack of money is what forced the Art Barn to close at the end of 1988.  Jim Reilly continued to work until 1991, with the then DPW Official Jeff Khan to see important structural work completed to preserve the Barn. The Barn was then used for a while to store the property of people who had been evicted from public housing.  Ironically, a fire at Cos Cob School in July of 1990 resulted in the reopening of Parkway School to handle the 300 students who were displaced by the fire.   In early 1990, GEMS (Greenwich Emergency Medical Services) started negotiating with First Selectman Margenot to take over the Barn as a station in the northern part of Greenwich.  For a while, GEMS leased the building until they decided it would make a great permanent site. Finally, the original Barn was torn down in 2008 to build a new GEMS ambulance station. Any hope of using the Barn at 143 Lower Cross Rd. in the pursuit of art by the Art Barn organization that Reilly has tried to keep alive was now unlikely.
It's hard to operate a non-profit operation without proper funding.  As we've seen recently, people donate money according to the economic climate and their own interests.  Without public support and generous endowments, some, unfortunately, fall by the wayside.  Greenwich is fortunate to have the Greenwich Arts Council, and people like Jim Reilly,  who care enough about the Arts to promote them locally.  Perhaps, as time goes along and the economic climate improves, Greenwich will have another Art Barn.


Greenwich Time; Time Warner Company, Southwestern Connecticut Newspapers, Stamford CT;  July 7, 1983: August 10, 1990: June 11, 1999.

Macauley, I,  A Barn Where Art Grows; November 11, 1977, Page 27;  New York Times, New-York [N.Y. : H.J. Raymond & Co.], 1857

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.

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. 

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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.

Snow White and The Seven Dwarfs

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If you've ever turned from Shore Road down Tomac Avenue in Old Greenwich, you may have noticed a white wall with painted images of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs separating 31 Shore Road from 3 Tomac Court.  I searched our newspaper index to see if I could find an article that had any information. Couldn't find anything.   I then decided to try and contact the owner of the wall.  This wasn't as easy as you'd think!   I couldn't tell who owned the wall.  So like any good Librarian, I checked out Google Maps to find the addresses of both properties, and used the Reverse Phone Directory to find some names and phone numbers.  I got no answer at either address, so had to leave my phone number.

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After several days of phone tag, I received a call from a gentleman who lived at 3 Tomac Court.  He told me that Lorraine and Fred Cofone on Shore Road had the wall painted, and that there was a very interesting story behind it.  Finally, I was able to get Lorraine Cofone on the phone, and she was very helpful.  She explained much of the history, and told me that her neighbor at the time had called the newspaper.  A reporter came down, interviewed them and took some pictures.  The article and photo appeared in the Thursday, November 20, 1975, edition of the Village Gazette.

According to the newspaper, the Cofones had painted the wall white, and it looked very plain.  When Lorraine asked her husband, Fred, what they should do about it, he suggested a painting of Snow White.  They had a 16-month son at the time, and they had it painted for him.




Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs was an animated fantasy developed by Walt Disney in 1937. Most of us know the story of the stepmother who tries to kill her, the Dwarfs who take her in, and the handsome Prince who awakens her with a kiss.  Disney was awarded an honorary Oscar, and the movie was nominated for the best musical score in 1938.  It was added to the National Film Registry in 1989, and is considered one of the American Film Institutes 100 Greatest Films of All Time.

The wall was first painted in 1975 by an artist, Marcia Tartaglia.  Marcia was a Cos Cob resident and friend of the family.  She graduated from Greenwich High School, had studied art at Norwalk Community College, worked at the Carnival Card Shop and designed labels for a line of seed packets. Residents may remember the images she painted for the Bon-Ton Fish Market on Greenwich Avenue years ago.  When the Cofones approached her to paint the Snow White mural on their wall, she looked in a Disney color book of Snow White for some ideas. 

Marcia began the process by sketching the image of Snow White on the white wall.  Then she painted in the colors.  This had to be done on days when the weather was good.  She then finished the dwarfs in order:  Dopey, Sneezy, Bashful, Sleepy, Happy, Grumpy and Doc. Marcia enhanced the painting by adding images of birds, small animals, a Diamond Mine and some grass. When you turn the corner from Shore Road, you see Snow White waving at you! 




The artist wasn't alone when she painted!  The family dog, Heidi, stayed close by, watching the progress.  The big, gentle German Shepherd loved to lie in the sun between the images of Sneezy and Bashful.  As a tribute to the dog, Marcia included Heidi's image at the far end of the wall.  It's a life-size portrait - one that the real Heidi likes to lie next to.

Marcia had never been to Disneyland in California;  but she had been to Walt Disney World in Florida.  She believed that was much better than the west coast attraction.

Over the years, the mural faded.  In the summer of 2014, the Cofones once again hired an artist to refurbish the wall.  Their current dog befriended the artist, and followed the painter around the property!

The wall is somewhat of a "tourist attraction".  School students come by on a bus for what's called an "Early American Tour".   It's considered a local historical site.  Strangers have stopped by to take pictures, and thank the Cofones for the mural.  Since it's very close to the intersection, drivers have to be very careful when they stop to take pictures. 

Many thanks to Lorraine Cofone for sharing this very interesting story with us!


Clark, El: "Disney World on Tomac Avenue!":  Village Gazette, Old Greenwich CT, 20 Nov. 1975, Print

Staying On Time

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No doubt you've noticed the clocks on Greenwich Avenue.  There are two of them:  one outside Betteridge Jewelers at 119 Greenwich Avenue, and one across from the old Post Office in front of the Christian Science Reading Room at 333 Greenwich Avenue.(There are also similar clocks in Old Greenwich, in front of the Town Hall and next to the Cos Cob Firehouse.)  I found out the original one at 333 Greenwich Avenue was manufactured by the E Howard Clock Company near Boston MA.  This company also built the steeple clock for Harkness Memorial Hall at Yale University in New Haven.

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According to The Greenwich Mail newspaper, the clock was installed at 333 Greenwich Avenue in 1926. It was originally built for someone else, but it was never picked up.  Mr. William D. Hill, who owned the Lester H. Denson Jeweler store, bought it for $500, which was a bargain back then. He used to go out and wind the clock.  If he forgot, someone passing by would stop in and remind him.  It was rumored that the clock was always within 30 seconds of the correct time.  I can envision train passengers checking the clock to make sure they were on time!  In the 1930s, the Town passed an ordinance banning advertising; the clock was considered advertising,  but disaster was averted when a variance was granted, and the clock remained.  The clock is 13-feet high, and was painted green to match the trim of the jewelry store.  Later it was painted black because the owner thought it looked better.  The face is made of marble, and the inside contains a wooden pendulum.  By 1978, the clock was still running well and only required an annual cleaning and oiling.  People rushing to the train station used to think it was running too fast, and would stop to tell the jewler; but it was very accurate, and commuters often missed their train!

Denson's son-in-law, William Dudley Hill, worked at the store and owned it from 1966 to 1978 - at which time he retired.  The new owner donated the clock to the town in the 1980s. The jewelry store finally closed, and a Christian Science Reading Room took its place.  A volunteer from the Reading Room would wind the clock until the the Town took over the winding duties.  A mail clerk from Town Hall would come over every Tuesday to wind it. A local TV station even came down to film the winding for one of its shows about Fairfield County.   At one point, the clock was even electrified to light it up and make it easier to read.   It was considered the Town's unofficial standard of time.     

In 1990, the clock began to show signs of wear and tear.  Eventually the clock stopped working all together, and the hands were stuck at 2:28. They didn't move for 6- to 8- weeks until it was fixed. The Town's Superintendent of Buildings and Manitenance, who was now responsible for winding the clock, arranged to have it sent to the E. Howard Company for repair. The repairs cost $2500.  When it was returned, it still wasn't right!  The Town then consulted Clockmaster Richard Brown from Sherman CT.  Within two minutes, he had it running like a clock!  A screw had worked its way loose due to the change in temperature when the mechanism was moved from a warm interior to the outside, where it was near freezing. Retired executive and clock enthusiast William Diefenback helped find rare parts to keep the clock in good repair.  Between 1990 and 1995, the clock underwent annual cleaning, and was checked for wear and tear.

In Old Greenwich, John Martello, owner of Sam's Liquor Store and President of the Old Greenwich Merchants Association, spearheaded a campaign to have a similar clock installed in the village.  A 11-foot electric clock was installed on Sound Beach Avenue around 2000.  It has a backup battery in case of a power outage, and it's programmed to automatically adjust for Daylight Savings Time. It even plays chimes!  The original cost was $15,000.

Then in 2000, the owner of Betteridge Jewelers wanted to have the old clock at 333 Greenwich moved in front of his store at 119 Greenwich Avenue so he could better maintain it.  After two years of applying for permits, he decided it would be much easier to install another clock.  He contacted the E. Howard Company to see if they had any used clocks, but none were in working order.  However, they were able to use the same mold to create a custom clock.  The inner workings were made by Rolex, and you can see the logo on the clock face today.The clock is slightly lower than the old clock, and cost $12,000.

The retro clocks are considered landmarks in the Town.  They add character, and remind us of earlier times.  I hope they're around for many years.  Even though time moves on, these relics are a constant.  For some reason, it's calming and peaceful to see them.  Maybe it's the familiarity.  Whatever the reason, they're part of Greenwich history.


Greenwich: 90 Years in Pictures:  The Greenwich Mail, 1968; Greenwich CT

Greenwich Time:  Time Warner Communications; Southwestern Connecticut Newspapers

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