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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.

Historical Happenings

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

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

 


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


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

 


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

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

 

The United Nations Controversy

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

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


UN map792.jpg


PROPOSED SITE OF UN IN GREENWICH

SOURCE: ORAL HISTORY PROJECT

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

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

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

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

UN Man793.jpg

CURRENT LOCATION OF UN ON EAST SIDE OF NYC

SOURCE: GOOGLE

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

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

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

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

UN aerial799.jpg

AERIAL PHOTO OF UNITED NATIONS COMPLEX IN MANHATTAN

SOURCE:  GOOGLE

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

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

SOURCE

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


Historical Happenings

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

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

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


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

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

 


Civil War Monument

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

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

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

Monu737.jpg

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


                                                      WEST FACE

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

                                                        ANTIENTAM
                                                     MORRIS ISLAND  
                                                         KINGSTON

                                                                    
                                                      SOUTH FACE

                                                     PORT HUDSON
                                                       VICKSBURG
                                                      GETTYSBURG
                                                      APPOMATTOX


                                                        EAST FACE
                                                                      
                                                          DEEP RUN
                                                       PETERSBURG
                                                     DREWRY'S BLUFF


                                                        NORTH FACE

                                                        FORT GREGG
                                                        FORT FISHER
                                                   DARBYTOWN ROAD
                                                           NEW BERN


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

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

SOURCES

Greenwich Graphic

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

            

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.

  


Two Sides of William "Boss" Tweed

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EARLY YEARS AND CRIME

One of the most interesting - and corrupt characters - to ever live in Greenwich was no doubt William "Boss" Tweed.  While he was well-known as a corrupt politician in New York City, some may consider him a model citizen here in Greenwich!   Tweed was responsible for opening Greenwich up as a vacation spot, and implemented some useful services here in town.  And from everything I've read, the residents had a "love-hate" relationship with him!

William M. Tweed was born on April 12, 1823, in New York City.  He grew up on Cherry Street on the Lower East Side of Manhattan. His father was third-generation Scotch-Irish, and worked as a chair maker.  William quit school at age 11 to train in the craft.  Unfortunately, he failed and his father arranged an apprenticeship for him with a saddle maker.  He trained as a bookkeeper (which would aid him with embezzlement later in his life!).  At one point, he became a brush maker;  but politics became his chief interest in the 1840s.

Tweed took an interest in several fraternal organizations including the Odd Fellows, the Masons and a volunteer fire company. His association with the fire company actually enhanced his reputation.  In 1848, he helped organize a new fire company known as the Americus Fire Company, better known as the"Big Six" Fire Company.  Competition was stiff amongst the fire companies in New York City, and violence was commonplace as many were staffed by street gangs.  On several occasions, buildings burned to the ground as firefighters engaged in violent fights!  Tweed - who was the Foreman at the time - was known for literally carrying (and using) a big stick!  His underlings started calling him "Boss".

Tweed720.jpg

The Democratic Party in New York heard about Tweed's exploits.  Democrats made up the majority of the membership of the Tammany Society  - a secret association of politicians out for personal gain.  Their headquarters was built in 1868 and was called Tammany Hall. Through recent years, they had been responsible for electing their choice for Mayor through fraud, intimidation and violence.  In 1850, Tammany Hall arranged for Tweed to be elected Alderman, and in 1852 had him elected to the U.S. House of Representatives.  His term was unremarkable, and he decided he wasn't cut out for national office, so he returned to New York and became Public School Commissioner and later State Senator.  Tweed also had himself elected to a new Board of Suprevisors, which had great power over budgets. Fraud became rampant, and Tweed was able to pad his, as well as his friends, pockets. 

At one point he was serving as a State Senator, President of the Board of Supervisors and Deputy Street Commissioner. He was able to appoint over 1,000 office holders who did nothing but work for him, while they double-dipped form public funds.  Tweed also recieved kickbacks from contractors for public works projects.  He bought a stationery company, which held the contract for printing government forms, documents, etc.  One of the most outrageous frauds involved the remodelling of the County Court House.  Although the original estimate was quoted at $250,000, when all was said and done, the project cost the taxpayers $8-million!


GREENWICH CONNECTION

As legend has it, three of Tweed's "cronies" hired a sailboat out of City Island to sail Long island Sound around 1861.  Once they passed Execution Light, the weather changed dramatically, and they sought refuge near Round Island. (Execution Light is a lighthouse near New Rochelle.  Legend has it that the British would tie people to the rocks during the Revolutionary War so that they would be drown by rising tides.) A tender took them ashore, where they pitched tents for the night.  The following day, they were taken back by the beauty of Greenwich.  At this point the area was still pristine.  The next day, they returned to the city.

As "Boss" Tweed sat around the Americus Fire House on the Bowery, he began to hear stories of the beauty in Greenwich.  Finally, he decided to check it out himself.  This time,  he took a wood-burning train from 27th Street to Greenwich.  He got permission from Oliver Mead to camp out on Round island.  Tweed and friends spent time there bathing, fishing and sailing.  They spent a lot of time on Rocky Neck (Steamboat Road area) at the local tavern, exchanging sea tales, discussing boats and befriending local sailors. 

Americus721.jpg

In 1862, Tweed arranged to have the "Americus Club of New York" built in Indian Harbor.  It was named after his fire company in New York. The two-story building was 100-feet wide and contained a spacious reception hall, dining room and kitchen on the first floor.  It was located near the present location of E.C. Benedict's current home.   (The Morton House and the Indian Harbor Hotel were eventually opened there.)  It was later removed to Chimney Corner where Benedict used it as a boathouse for a while, then as servant's quarters until it was demolished in 1892.

A new club house was built in 1871.  It was 3 stories high with mansard roof, tall tower and 2 wings. ( Rumor has it that the architect filed a lawsuit to collect fees he was owed for the building's design). The building was painted white and served as a prominent landmark for sailors.  Tweed had it furnished with expensive pieces.  The carpet had been woven abroad in one piece one-hundred feet long.  A tiger's head served as the Club's symbol and was placed on the carpet and all pieces of furniture.

The Tweed family became regular visitors to Greenwich.  They were very recognizable.  Some loathed them, some were in awe and some became friends.  Oldest son, William M. Tweed Jr, married a Greenwich girl, whom he had met in Manhattan.  She was the daughter of Silas Davis, a wealthy partner of Davis & Benson, a company which primarily manufactured flour.  William Jr. died unexpectedly in 1901.  Younger brother Richard, known for racing horses from Maple Avenue to Put's Hill, travelled to Europe and died there in 1879.  Two daughters (who's names are not available) married the wealthy McGuinness brothers and moved to New Orleans.  Younger daughter Josephine was known for handling horses.  She married a wealthy business man named Frederick Douglas of New York. Three other children died very young - Jennie, Charlie and George. 


MODEL CITIZEN

"Boss" Tweed - for all his other faults - was a very generous man.  Most of the money he embezzled through city contracts was passed along to his friends.  These were the same friends who eventually turned against him after he was charged with fraud!

When the econony turned in the 1870s, Tweed bought several mortgages when foreclosure by the banks threatened.  He then sold them back to the owners, taking whatever interest they could afford to pay - in many instances this turned out to be nothing.  When people couldn't sell land, he would buy it.  Starting in 1868, he used to invite orphans from the city to come out to his Linwood estate on Milbank Avenue to stay for the weekend.  Tweed gave loans to oyster men and mechanics, but never collected on the promissory notes.  He was approached by Solomon Mead from the Board of Burgesses to sell a small triangle of land to straighten Milbank Avenue to eliminate a safety hazard. He refused to sell it, but donated it to the Town! 

In 1870, when Frederick Mead refused to sell 18-acres to Tweed, the "Boss" offered to pay the "Tweed Price".  This was usually an outrageous price (well above a reasonable price) that Tweed would offer to pay to help someone out.

More and more people from the city started coming out to Greenwich on the weekends.  Tweed came up with the idea of setting up steamboat service from New York to Greenwich.  In 1861, his corporation bought the steamboat "John Romer" and started passenger service between the two towns.  Unfortunately, it wasn't profitable, and the service was discontinued the next year.

Tweed was also responsible for setting up telegraph service between Greenwich and New York City.  This way he could monitor business affairs from his Linwood estate on Milbank Avenue.  He employed several stone masons to build a gateway and wall around his estate.  The work was greatly appreciated during hard times. 


DOWNFALL

It wasn't long before word of Tweed's role in the corruption of New York City government was uncovered.  Artist Thomas Nast began publishing political cartoons depicting Tweed as a crook in Harper's Bazaar.  This caught the attention of local law officials.

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In June 1870, a Miss Lydia G. McMullen bought 24-acres and a farm house north of Cos Cob.  She was said to be "Boss" Tweed's niece. Tweed decided to have the building remodeled.  It was reported that Andrew J. Garvey, a NY City plasterer and member of The Americus Club would travel to Greenwich to give the family money to pay for repairs.   In a later corruption trial of Tweed cronies in the New York Supreme Court, it was reported that the work done at the farmhouse was paid for with city funds!  Tweed was indicted by a Grand Jury and then convicted of 50 of 55 charges.  He tried to have the judge removed from the case since he was not one of Tweed's "appointees", but this backfired.  Tweed was sentenced to 12 years.  He could have been sentenced to 60 years, but the judge determined Tweed's share was very small compared to the total amount embezzled (only about 20%).  So the judge reduced his sentence to a smaller sentence.

Tweed was sent to Blackwell's Island on the Brooklyn side of the East River. This was anything but inconvenient.  He had a luxuriously furnished double room, and he was waited on hand-and-foot by officers he helped get appointed!

Tweed appealed his conviction to an appellate court.  The first time the appeal was turned down, but later another court ruled it was unlawful to tack multiple terms together.  Although released, he was quickly re-arrested to await trial for a civil suit filed by the City to recover an estimated 6-million dollars in damages.  Tweed was then incarcerated in the Ludlow Street Jail.  Once again his accomodations were
anything but wanting.  He had a large reception room, a dining room and a large kitchen!  It wasn't long before one of his appointees took him out for a carriage ride (not normal procedure for a prisoner), and left him alone to escape! 

Now, when Tweed decided to remodel his niece's farmhouse, he had befriended the Cos Cob Station Agent.  The agent handled the freight deliveries for the McMullens. Being courteous and prompt, he was rewarded generously by Tweed.  He quickly became a family favorite.  This would turn out to be very fortuitous for Tweed in his escape.

In the early winter of 1875 when Tweed made his escape, a strange thing happened.  The 9:15 pm train from New York stopped short of Cos Cob station.
One of the conductors had a habit of stopping the train to getting off and grab a drink from a local tavern.  He had been caught once before by the agent. So, quite annoyed, the Station Agent grabbed a lamp to investigate.  As he was walking along the side of the train, the side door to the baggage car suddenly opened
just in front of him.  A woman snuck up behind him and broke his lantern.  Groping in the dark, the Agent grabbed for a man he recognized as Tweed!  It's later reported that Tweed, a man and woman leaped over a ditch along the tracks, and jumped into a horse and wagon waiting for them.  They were transported to the McMullen's for a final meal.  Afterwards, Tweed was driven to Tarrytown, where he boarded a tug.  The tug took him to lower New York Bay, where he boarded a freighter bound for Cuba.  He is then transferred to another steamer bound for Spain.  The Station Agent could have turned Tweed in for a handsome reward, but didn't!  Perhaps he felt loyalty to the family.

I don't know how or why (maybe it was the $50,000 reward) but Tweed was captured in Vigo, Spain, and transported back to the Ludlow Street Jail. This is where he finally died on April 12, 1878, at the age of 55 years.

It should be remembered that news from the City didn't travel as fast as it does today.  There were no Internet or cellphones.  Newspapers travelled by train to the suburbs, but it took a while for details of "Boss" Tweed's crimes to come out in trials at a later date.  You could say there was a "news gap".  Residents could only judge Tweed by their personal interactions with the man.  Regardless, no one can dispute that William "Boss" Tweed left his mark on the Burrough of Greenwich.


SOURCE

Other Days in Greenwich; Hubbard, F.; Taply, NY.  1913.





 









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Art in Connecticut and the Connecticut Art Trail
Thursday - September 4 - 7 PM
Greenwich Library

Danielle Ogden and Pam Ruggio from the Aldrich Museum in Ridgefield will
speak on the Aldrich Contemporary Art Museum and on how to obtain passes
to visit museums on the Connecticut Art Trail.

Free and open to patrons of all ages!

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