Recently in Past Historic Events Category

Blythewood Sanitarium

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If you've ever looked at some early maps of Greenwich, you may have been surprised to see a caption for a Blythewood Sanitarium on Indian Rock Road off Orchard Street in Cos Cob.  This is where the Greenwich Baptist Church is now located across the street from Central Middle School.  The medical center was established by Mrs. Anna C. Wiley and her husband, Dr. William H. Wiley, in 1905.  It operated until 1965, when the Baptist Church bought the property. 

Mrs. Wiley was a nurse, who worked in mental hospitals in Canada and the United States.  She met her husband in a hospital while working as a nurse. Dr. William Wiley had been born in Chester PA,  and was educated at The Friends School of Pennsylvania and the University of Pennsylvania.   Mrs. Wiley had a reputation for being kind and philanthropic, and gave her patients  exceptional treatment. She believed patients should not be confined to buildings with a cold atmosphere.  They should be given freedom to move around.  Part of the rehabilitation should include creative outlets such as arts and crafts.  Mrs. Wiley was definitely progressive in her approach to mental health treatment.

The Sanitarium complex at one time featured 8 main buildings, 8 cottages, a chapel, an occupational therapy building and a small golf course on 50-acres of land.  Only the chapel remains today.  A small stream bisects the property.  It was known to be a rehabilitation center for the wealthy, although "charity" patients were included in the program but not identified.

A big iron gate marked the entrance to Blythewood.  Next to the gate was the main house with white columns.  This was the original main house of the estate, and served as the Blythewood Administrative building.  It conatined the doctor's offices and also served as a "Graduate House" for patients about to be released. 

When patients first arrived, they were held in a "Lockup House" for observation.  This could take anywhere from a few hours to a few days.  Depending on the diagnosis, patients would be assigned to the Violent House or Middle House. 

The Violent House was the farthest from the road.  Patients were usually strapped down to guernies when arriving, then delivered to padded cells for safety.  Sometimes their hands were restrained.  Occassional screams could be heard from the building.  Pottery classes were held to help with rehabilitation.

People who improved would move to the Middle House.  This was a 2-story building with a finished attic, common rooms, and central dining room.  Patients continued their rehabilitation here until they were ready to move to the Graduate House.

Patients saw their psychiatrist for an hour each day five days a week.  In general, improving patients were allowed maximum freedom of movement.  Activities were geared to give patients intellectual and creative expression.  Clubs were formed, a library was accessible, concerts and musicals were performed - some by famous artists.

One of the attending physicians, Dr. Tiebout, was a pioneer in treating alcoholism.  On July 30, 1979, the Greenwich Time ran an article that Greenwich was second only to the San Fernando Valley as the Alcoholic Capital of America!  Dr. Tiebout believed the only way to treat the disease was to have the patient give up alcohol all together.  He was one of the early doctors to help formulate the AA program.  Blythewood began to get more and more people admitted for alcohol treatment.

Blythewood had its share of problems over time.  There were rumors of experimentation gone bad, and several people committed suicide on the premises. A fire destroyed part of the sanitarium in December of 1939. Several patients were found drowned in a pond on the property.

When Dr. Wiley died on November 8, 1936, Mrs. Wiley took over as head and continued to run the hospital until she died on July 2, 1951.  The Putnam Operating Company took over in July 1951, and the company continued to operate using the same philosophy and ideals established by the Wileys.  Managers also focused on personnel and employees, making sure they were trained to provide top notch service to patients. 

The sanitarium continued to operate until 1965, when the Greenwich Baptist Church bought the property for its home.  The current patients were transferred to other facilities throughout Fairfield County.

SOURCES:

Brown, S. : A Biography of Mrs. Marty Mann: First Lady of Alcoholics Anonymous; Hazelden Information & Education Services, 2001.

Greenwich Time: Time-Warner Corporation.

Dingletown Church

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If you've ever driven on Stanwich Road, you've probably noticed a quaint little church on the corner of Barnstable Road. This is now known as the Dingletown Community Church.  It's non-denominational, but at one time it was a Methodist Protestant Church in north Cos Cob.  What you might not know is that this church was moved from its former location.

new church006.jpg

CHURCH IN CURRENT LOCATION

COURTESY OF DINGLETOWN COMMUNITY CHURCH

Dingletown was one of the many villages or communities of Greenwich.  Some people claim it got its name from the constant jingling of cow bells as cattle crossed the farmlands.  Someone else suggested it might have been named after a "dingle", which is defined as a deep, narrow cleft between hills or a shady dell.  I believe Dingletown Road drops from a hill down to a bridge which crosses a stream between some hills.  This seems like the more logical explanation.

Although Dingletown was not as prominent a community as Stanwich or Round Hill, it still had an informal "church".  People would meet in a neighbor's house to worship.  It was probably time-consuming to travel to central Greenwich to attend church.  It became part of the Bedford circuit, and they shared a travelling minister for 15 years before they got a permanent preacher.  A small white church was built in 1845 about a mile south of its present location off Dingletown Road. It officially opened on November 26, 1845 as the Horseneck Society of the Methodist Protestant Church.

Orig Dingle004.jpgORIGINAL CHURCH ON DINGLETOWN ROAD.  CHURCH CAN BE SEEN IN UPPER RIGHT.

COURTESY OF THE DINGLETOWN COMMUNITY CHURCH

Some residents believe it is the oldest frame church in Greenwich.  It was constructed from unpeeled (roughhewn) logs.  The main floor was supported by beams.  Bent saplings were used for curved ceiling supports. A pot bellied stove was used to heat the interior.  Light was provided by oil lamps and pewter candle sconces. There was a pulpit and pews for the choir.  Music was provided by an old pump organ. A cupola was installed on the roof.  Attendance by church members was compulsory, and a fine was levied if they missed a service.

The church was finally able to hire a permanent preacher, and a parade of ministers passed through the church until 1921 when Dr. Albert Lunning took over the helm.  He ran the church until until October 1935, when he passed away.  The church suddenly closed on November 21, 1935, and Dr. William Darrach bought the property to preserve the New England landmark.

When World War II broke out and gas rationing was implemented, local residents in Dingletown curtailed their trips to Cos Cob and central Greenwich.  Dr. Darrach reopened the church for worship in 1942.  At this time it was called Dingletown Church.  At first, lay members led the services, until a permanent minister was appointed around 1950. He had attended the Yale Divinty School and was ordained at the church.

Dingle003.jpg

DINGLETOWN CHURCH BEING MOVED

COURTESY OF DINGLETOWN COMMUNITY CHURCH

The church experienced a growth spurt in the fifties.  Since the church was built on a small plot of land, the building could not be expanded.  The Elders authorized the purchase of a larger lot on the corner of Barnstable Lane and Stanwich Road.  The building was purchased from the Darrach family, and plans were made to relocate the church.  Workers jacked up the building and rollers were placed underneath.  The cupola was removed, and trees along the route were cut.  On August 13, 1959, the church was moved to its present location.  One member of the church donated a steeple, while someone else provided a bell obtained from a locomotive once used by a Maine railroad.  A stonewall was added, as well as several large maple trees.

Moving005.jpg

CHURCH BEING RELOCATED

COURTESY OF THE DINGLETOWN COMMUNITY CHURCH

Today, the church is still a non-denominational congregation at 376 Stanwich Road.  It's open to people from all walks of life, as well as every religious persuasion.  I know many people who have chosen this church for weddings, baptisms and funerals. There's also a Memorial Garden - which has a "cosmic design" - on the property.   It's a very quaint and typical New England church. 


Father of the Postage Meter

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I often look at "Greenwich Before 2000" (GHS) to get ideas for topics to discuss on this blog.  Recently, I was surprised to read that Arthur Pitney - inventor of the postage meter - lived in Cos Cob in 1921.  The book also mentioned that his partner, B.H. Bowes, was also a resident of Greenwich.   I knew that the Pitney-Bowes Company had an office in Stamford, but had no idea the business partners were local residents.

Arthur Pitney was born in Quincy, Illinois, in 1871.  In 1890, his family moved to Chicago.  It was here in 1893 that young Arthur toured the World's Columbian Exposition, and became very interested in mechanical inventions.  This would prove to be very useful in the future.

While working in a wallpaper store, Arthur thought there had to be a better way to attach postage to the hundreds of letters the store sent out to customers.  He felt the manual process was wasteful in terms of time and money.  Being interested in mechanical invenrions, he created a machine to simplify business mailing.  Arthur built the first postage meter with a manual crank, chain, printing die, counter and lockout device. In 1902, he founded the Pitney Postal Machine Company.  By 1912, it was renamed the American Postage Meter Company.

Pitney056.jpg

Unfortunately, Pitney wasn't much of a marketer.  He had spent $90,000 of his own money on this device, but got little interest from the Post Office Department.  His patent was expiring and he had little to show for his investment.  Not only did his finances suffer, but his marriage was ruined.  He decided to abandon the project, and resorted to selling insurance.  Fortunately, someone introduced him to Walter Bowes in 1919. 

Walter Bowes was born in England in 1882.  His family immigrated to the United States. By 1908, he was selling check endorsing machines to automate processing, and eventually bought the Universal Stamping Company.  He started renting stamp cancelling machines to the Post Office Department, and promoted permit printing.  Bowes moved his operation to Stamford in 1917. 

Bowes believed postage stamps would become obsolete.  He thought automation was the way to go.  During a discussion with a Postal official, the suggestion was made that he contact Arthur Pitney.  Pitney was good at manufacturing, and Bowes was great at marketing.  By 1920, the two formed the Pitney-Bowes Postage Meter Company.  In September, the Post Office approved the purchase of their Model M Postage Meter Company.  This device improved the mailing process tremendously by affixing postage to great volumes of mail at high speed.  A main manufacturing office was opened in Stamford, and by 1922, there were branch offices in 12 major American cities as well as Canada and England.  Corporations saw the promise of these machines, and started placing orders.  Pitney-Bowes became a rousing success. 

Boweas058.jpg

Despite the success, Pitney and Bowes had personal issues, and Arthur Pitney resigned in 1924 after a dispute with Walter Bowes.  Three years later, he had a stroke and in 1933, he passed away at the age of 62.  Bowes was not very disciplined.  He hated working in the office, and preferred to sail his boat.  Bowes retired in 1940, and his stepson, Walter Wheeler, took over.  Bowes died in 1957 at the age of 75.

The company flourished from 1930 to 1960 under the leadership of Bowes and Walter Wheeler.  In 1950, the company went public with its stock.  Pitney-Bowes acquired the Monarch Marking System Company - creator of the retail barcode - in 1960.  The decade from 1970 to 1980 saw great expansion, and in 1976 the Pitney-Bowes Credit Corporation was created to offer financing options to PB customers.  The company entered the office copy machine an FAX market.  PB also acquired the dictation machine giant Dictaphone.  In 1990, the company began manufacturing barcode printers.  By 2000, Pitney-Bowes had invested a total of $2.5 billion in making 83 acquisitions!

Perhaps as a cost-cutting measure, Pitney-Bowes sold its World Headquarters in Stamford and moved to 3001 Summer Street in 2014.  Otherwise, it appears to be flourishing as the economy appears to rebound.  If it continues to be on "the cutting edge" of changing technology, it should thrive for years to come.

It's hard to imagine what the world would be like today without the Pitney-Bowes postage meter and business systems.  Pitney and Bowes represent the best in business innovation.


SOURCE

The Funding Universe: Pitney-Bowes Inc. History, n.d.: Online website: Accessed 12/12/2014.

http://www.fundinguniverse.com/company-histories/pitney-bowes-inc-history/



Early Thanksgiving in Greenwich

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I decided to research what Thanksgiving was like when the Town was first founded.  As you know, Greenwich was founded in 1640, twenty years after Plymouth Colony (1620).  We've all heard strories about the first Thanksgiving in Plymouth.  They had a huge feast and invited the Native Americans to join them.  So I thought the same would have happened here.  I couldn't find any information on a similar feast here in Greenwich.  This might not be as strange as you may first think. 

Mead notes in "Ye Historie of Ye Town of Greenwich" that our settlers had left the Massachusetts Bay Colony to escape the rigors of Puritanism.  Perhaps they rejected the customs or traditions observed in Plymouth. Maybe they wanted to start their own tradtions.  Mead also noted that Greenwich was considered a wild and lawless town.  People did pretty much what they wanted.

Looking back at the 1640 time period, one thing that really sticks out is the deteriorating relations with the Native Americans.  Captain Patrick and Robert Feake had purchased land in what is now Old Greenwich for 24 fur coats. (Some reports say the natives were never paid in full!)  Maybe the Native Americans meant to share the land and not give it entirely away.  There were reports of the English using liquor to get them drunk so they could cheat them from their property.  Once the Indians figured out the trickery, they retaliated.  In 1642, Cornelius Labden was killed by the local Indians, and the next year Captain Patrick killed sachem (chief) Mayn Mianos. The worst incident happened in 1644 when Captain John Underhill led 130 Dutch and English in a massacre at an Indian settlement at Strickland Plains.  It was reported that 800 to 1,000 Native Americans were killed near Cos Cob.   Eventually, most of eastern Connecticut and southeastern Massachusetts would be involved in King Phillips War.  There was definite tension between the Colonists and the Native Americans.

Local newspapers started in 1877, so there are no newspaper accounts of early Thanksgiving celebrations.  However, Mrs. A. C. Lowitz, wife of the president of the Historical Society, gave an interview to the Greenwich Time on what an early Thanksgiving feast could have contained.  It was published on November 24, 1965. In the seventeenth century, women would start preparing several days before the celebration.  Residents relied heavily on home-grown foods.  A favorite was Dutch Oven "Pye".  This could be made from woodcock, grouse, partridge or chickens.  Wild turkey might be served with oyster stuffing.  Baked lobster was no doubt on the menu due to our proximity to Long Island Sound.  Roasted meat or fowl might be served with homemade bread. (The Bush Holley House had a great fireplace and beehive oven for baking.)  Pumpkin fritters (similar to hush puppies) would be served, as well as turnips and carrots glazed with maple syrup or honey.  Indian pudding was served for dessert. 

thanksgiving.jpg

Expanding on this thought, I believe local residents would feast on their home-grown agricultural products including apples, pears, peaches, potatoes, vegetables, poultry, sheep, pigs and dairy products.  Dumplings were popular (Dumpling Pond?) as well as shellfish such as oysters, clams and mussels. 

I would like to add that, since Greenwich was located on the main Post Road to Boston, travellers might enjoy a Thanksgiving meal at one of the many taverns in town.  And once Greenwich became a summer resort of sorts during the 1800s, they might choose to spend the holidays in town.  Ferry service probably brought people and supplies in for Thanksgiving.  Stores on Greenwich Avenue would stock up on dry goods in anticipation of the holiday.  Since churches were the main social centers for outlying villages such as Stanwich,  Round Hill and Banksville, people might share their Thanksgiving dinners there.  Specific ethnic groups (Italians, Polish, Dutch) might bring their own traditions to the community.

Today, many residents observe Thanksgiving in a different way.  Family members travel great distances to share a meal.  Some attend church services.  The Greenwich High School football game has become a Thanksgiving tradition.  Stamford has been holding a parade (usually the Sunday before) for over 20 years now.  Various groups volunteer at soup kitchens or donate food for the less fortunate.  Others have invited people, who would otherwise be alone, to share their Thanksgiving meal.  Until recently, local churches  held a Union (Ecumenical) Service. 

My family had our own tradtioins.  We would go to the local high school football game, then come home and watch the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade.  Dad would carve the turkey.   One of us would take a turn saying grace.  During dessert, we would each name something we were thankful for.  Dad and I would play chess after the meal.  Someone would call long distance to relatives that couldn't be with us.  And the wishbone was removed so it could dry and be pulled in a few days.

Whatever your personal family Thanksgiving traditions, may you and your family have many blessings in life.  And may you end up with the longest part of the wishbone!

Have a Joyous and Happy Thanksgiving!


SOURCE

The Greenwich Time


 

 

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.

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.

            

Historical Happenings

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 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
Together
program. No reservations required. 
Free.


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.**

Xerox World Headquarters

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As I mentioned in an earlier blog, Greenwich was once being considered as a possible home for the United Nations in the late 1940s.  This would have had an adverse effect on the environment, and would have put stress on the utility and transportation systems of the community.  The Town was able to mount a successful campaign against this plan, and the United Nations was eventually located in Manhattan. Some people may not be aware that the Xerox Corporation wanted to build their World Headquarters in the 1970s not far from the proposed site for the UN!

Xerox is well-known as a major company in the Fortune 500 group.  Greenwich and nearby Stamford were attractive locations for other major companies such as GTE, Champion International, Kennecott Copper and Singer.  Furthermore, Westchester Airport offered easy access from anywhere in the country, less the traffic congestion of New York airports.  Two other companies - AMAX (American Metals Climax, Inc)  and AVCO (Aviation Corporation) - were located adjacent to the proposed site on King Street.  Although Stamford welcomed new businesses, Greenwich was trying to curtail commercial development.

XeroxMap734.jpgCOURTESY OF THE ORAL HISTORY PROJECT


On February 4, 1971, the Pacific Development Corporation bought numerous tracts of land along King Street, bounded by Cliffdale Road.  This surrogate company was a "dummy" corporation for Xerox.  Its sole purpose was to obtain land for the Xerox site.  Not surprisingly, the land was purchased for more money per acre than any other property in the area.  The plan was for the corporation to transfer the acquired land to its parent - Xerox.  Joan Caldwell, RTM member and member of the Northwest Greenwich Association, was the first to identify a possible problem with this development.  The NGA group had been working since 1961 to curtail expansion of Westchester Airport.  Now there appeared to be another threat to the residential character of the neighborhood.  Joan talked to other neighborhood associations and convinced them that this corporate development was not in the best interests of the Town.  It would add traffic that the local roads were ill-equipped to handle.  Stress would be placed on the infrastructure as well.  Furthermore, the area would have to be rezoned from residential to commercial.

Xerox hired the Charles Luckman Associates, a landscape planner, to prepare a master study of the area.  They paid $250,000 for the study.  Xerox also recruited AMAX to join in the venture.  Surprisingly, Xerox claimed that they should be able to change the zoning since the air and noise pollution from Westchester Airport made the area untenable for a residential housing.   They didn't consider how much pollution would be increased by added traffic and additional flights.  Regardless, Xerox planned on submitting the study with a proposal to change the zoning.  The Northwest Greenwich Association retained Brad Magill from the Badger and Fisher firm.  However, it soon came to light that Magill had been Chairman of the Planning & Zoning Commission, which had been involved in convincing American Can to move to northwest Greenwich.

The proposal to rezone the property and master study (known as the Luckman Report) was submitted to the Planning & Zoning Commission in March 1972.  Copies were also distributed to all residents in town.  Xerox stuck to its argument that the airport made residential development impossible.  They revised their zoning plea and resubmitted in 1973.  Xerox requested that the lots be divided into 50-acres or larger since the area was not conducive to residential development.

 Joan Caldwell then talked to Arden Rathkoff from Long Island.  He was considered to be the foremost zoning expert in the United States, and had written a book on zoning.  After he reviewed the Xerox case, he advised Joan not to compromise. The only way to win the case was to stand pat.  When Magill finally met with the GNA, he advised them to compromise.  The warning bells went off!  The NGA decided not to use his services.  Instead, a Westport lawyer by the name of Bob Davidson-partner of Davidson and Chambliss law firm-agreed to represent the Association.

 At this point, the NGA lawyer, Bob Davidson, played his ace card.  He reminded the P&Z Commission that they were bound by federal Environmental Protection laws.  This meant an environmental impact statement and NEPA (National Environmental and Protection Act) hearings would have to be held to determine the feasability of construction in the area.   It was about this time that the Convent of the Sacred Heart decided to side with the NGA since they also had a stake in the neighborhood.  Xerox withdrew its application.

It was surprising that some groups actually favored the proposed development.  The Greenwich Time and New York Times ran cover stories in support of Xerox.  In 1972, Nutmegger magazine issued the results of a poll that indicated 3 out of 4 citizens favored the plan. (This was before major opposition was voiced.)  The RTM even liked the idea - no doubt from a tax point of view.

In May of 1973, the P&Z Commission hired Fred P. Clark Associates to study the problem.  The result was the Clark Report.  Issued in August 1973, it recommended "radiating band land use".  According to this proposal, three bands would radiate out form Westchester Airport:  an office building zone, an institution and recreation zone, and a residential zone.  Again, here was another unpopular plan.

The Planning & Zoning Commission finally voted on the proposed rezoning in November 1973.  There was a unanimous vote (5 to 0) against the plan!   Criticism was quick.  Xerox said if the town didn't allow them to build, they could get worse.  Some took this as a veiled threat and Xerox made a quick apology.  The RTM also disagreed with the P&Z Commission's ruling.  The New York Times called Greenwich "Suburbia hiding behind barriers".

Xerox  decided to appeal the ruling to an Appellate Court.  In August 1982 retired Supreme Court Judge William L. Tierney Jr.  reversed the P&Z Commission ruling because it was..."arbitrary, illegal and unreasonable"!  The Town, in turn, appealed to the state Supreme Court, and the lower court's ruling was overturned.  At this point, Xerox must have given up because they let their contract with the real estate developer lapse and didn't appeal further.

In retrospect, one can certainly see that the plan was ill-conceived.  Xerox never talked to the neighbors or the Northwest Greenwich Association about the plan.  They didn't take the stress on the infrastructure into consideration. Another factor was that the lack of restaurants, stores and mass transit in this part of town.  Xerox ignored possible development  on the western side of the road, which was part of New York. The Luckman Report had been too narrow.  There was also the problem of the abandoned building once Xerox left.  They didn't even consider moving to the Pickwick Plaza business complex at the head of Greenwich Avenue.  Most importantly, they underestimated the resolve of the neighbors who wanted to retain the rural nature of the neighborhood.

Xerox built its headquarters on Long Ridge Road in Stamford, and stayed there until October 2007 when it moved to Norwalk. 



 SOURCES

The Xerox Site Controversy, Caldwell, J:  Oral History Project, Greenwich Library, 1992.

  


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