Recently in Local History Category


Recently, I wrote about the Mianus River and Natural Park in Greenwich.  This is just one of the many beautiful conservation areas in Greenwich.   Another favorite area is the Montgomerey Pinetum Park on Bible Street in Cos Cob. 

In 1880, Fred Gotthold, President of the Gotthold Company - a straw goods manufacturer - purchased 55-acres on Bible Street.  He and his wife, Florence, built the "Wild Acres" estate. This included an 18-room Mansard-roofed mansion, a guest cottage, laundry building, ice house, water tower, wood shed, cow barn, garage, gardener's cottage, chicken houses ands a small barn.  They also enjoyed plantings, which included a one-half-acre perennial garden, flower gardens, orchard, walled garden and 2-acre lawn.  There was also a 2-acre vegetable garden.  Brooks and ponds divided the property, and there was a substantial hemlock grove.  By the 1920s, the Gottholds decided to downsize and put the estate up for sale.

Colonel Robert H. Montgomerey, and his wife Nell, purchased "Wild Acres" in 1928.  Montgomerey had been a CPA, soldier in 2 wars, a university professor and a writer.  He was looking for a hobby that would be educational, create beauty and provide public enjoyment.  So he decided to create a "pinetum" - a collection of pines.  Since Nell was an artist, Robert had a field studio built with a landscape view.  He also had a primrose garden built, which spanned a brook.  Other plantings included forget-me-nots, grape hyacinth and barberry.  Over time, the estate grew to 125-acres.

Montgomerey made many improvements.  He added a greenhouse to grow fruit trees, which required a hgh roof.  A formal entrance with stone columns was constructed on Stanwich Road.  In 1930, stone retaining walls were built along the main entry drive.  Montgomerey had 850 species of conifers inventoried over a 2-and-a-half year period.  They were photographed with handwritten notes.  By the end of his life, he had donated over 200 species of trees to the New York Botanical Gardens.

Colonel Montgomerey died in 1952.  His wife donated the 125-acres to the Town.  The gift specified that visitors be restricted to walking trails, the park be used for the cultivation of arts and horticulture, and that the Town could sell off portions if necessary in the future.  Initially, the Town Meeting rejected the gift due to the expense of upkeep.  Supporters convinced conservationist Helen Binney Kitchell to speak to the RTM about the value of the land, and the meeting voted unanimously to accept it.  The Town made immediate plans to demolish all the buildings with the exception of one wing of the mansion.


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MAP OF THE EXPANDED PARK SYSTEM

COURTESY OF THE MONTGOMEREY PINETUM PARK COALITION

Over the years, the Town has made many improvements to Montgomerey Pinetum. The property has been modernized to make it more suitable as a park.  Land was cleared to give a better view from the mansion to the pond.  In 1955 a parking lot was built for those coming to skate on the ponds. A new lavatory was added in 1956, and in 1958 the remaining west wing of the mansion was repaired.  The University of Connecticut developed some planting plans, and a rock garden was installed on the south lawn.

It was in 1957 that the Town created the Garden Education Center. It's purpose was to inspire public interest in better gardening.  Two-thousand square feet of classrooms and workspace was created and the greenhouse was expanded. A Town nursery was started to grow fledgling shrubs.  The State recognized the greenhouse as an historic structure in the 1990s, and in 1993 it was added to the State Register of Historic Structures.  As part of a Master Plan in 1999, an inventory of existing park features was completed, and in 2000 a plan was put together to improve the park by adding handicap access, and expanded parking.

In 2003, the Town acquired the Pomerance Property off Orchard Street, which is adjacent to Pinetum and added 75 additional acres of woodlands.  Then, in 2007 the Tuchman Property added 31 more acres.  It's now possible to hike the entire area.

Today Montgomerey Pinetum is a favorite destination for nature lovers.  Just off the flagstone terrace of the main building are beautifully manicured lawns.  The reflecting pool remains, and tulips, daffodils and azaleas accentuate the grounds.  Tree species include Weeping Hemlock and Japanese Threadleaf Maples.  Visitors can walk a short tree identification walkway.  Several high rock outcroppings provide a beautiful vantage point of the forestlands.  One of these is the Joseph Hartman Outlook. This feature is in the northern part of the park, and was named after a man loved the New England wilderness. A large picnic area is available for those who wish to enjoy a meal in the outdoors.  The Greenwich Audubon Society  maintains the Mildred Bedard Caldwell Wildlife Sanctuary, which is bordered by Pinetum Lane, Bible Street,  and Cat Rock Road, to the northeast of Pinetum.  There is a trail from the Sanctuary, which leads directly to Montgomerey Pinetum.  

Due to siltation, public skating at Montgomerey Pinetum has ceased.  It's still a fabulous place to visit year round.  The fall is especially colorful in the Pinetum.  Although it's closed from November 15 to March 15, it's opened most days from 8 am to sunset.   Hiking boots are recommended, and insect repellent in the warm months is a good idea. 


SOURCES

"Montgomerey Pinetum Park." Montgomerey Pinetum Park. Town of Greenwich. Web. 1 May 2015.   http://www.grewichct.org/upload/..../HLR-Section-6-Pinetum.pdf.


Montgomerey Pinetum. Town of Greenwich. Web. 1 May 2015. http://www.greenwichct.org/upload/medialibrary/338/HLR-Section_6-Pinetum.pdf.



Havemeyer Park Housing Project

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One of the most interesting neighborhoods in town is Havemeyer Park in Old Greenwich.  It lies just to the west of the town line with Stamford, and offers a contrast to the housing projects and new condos just across the town line.  Although the houses are basically the same style (Cape Cod houses), each one has its own unique character.  The houses were originally built to provide housing for the many Veterans returning from World War II


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Originally, the land where Havemeyer Park was built belonged to H.O. Havemeyer. Henry (or Harry) was an industrialist and sugar maker.  He was born in New York City on October 18, 1847.  He studied at Bellport Academy on Long Island, then transferred to Bett's School in Stamford.  It's reported that he had a run in with the Principal, and left school permanently at the age of eight.  This was the extent of his formal education.  Since his family was well established, he became the President and owner of the American Sugar and Refining Company.  Havemeyer's nickname was "Sugar King".  H.O. owned a sugar plantation in Cuba, and shipped his sugar cane by boat to New York.  He cornered the market in sugar all over the country.

In 1888, Havemeyer bought 85 acres about 2 blocks up from the Boston Post Road.  He decided to build his "Hilltop" estate. The view of Long Island Sound was magnificent in those days.  It took 3-years for men to clear the land and construct the buildings.  This included a mansion, barn, 3 greenhouses, a gardener's cottage and an artesian well. There was no bathroom - residents had to use an outhouse. Havemeyer raised cows, chickens and pigs.  He grew apples, grapes, figs, strawberries, raspberries, blackberries, tomatoes and vegetables.  His pride and joy, however, was his orchids, roses and gardenias.  These varieties won him many prizes at New York flower shows.

Like many other Greenwich residents, the Havemeyer family lived a very rustic life  There was no electricity or running water.  Kerosene lamps were used for lighting. The roads were still dirt, and Mr. Havemeyer had to take a horse and buggy to the train station, post office and grocery store.  Actually, they were pretty self-sufficient when it came to food since they grew a lot of fruits and vegetables.  Havemeyer had cottages built on the estate so he could invite guests for the weekend.

It's a well-known fact that the Havemeyer family was very generous to the Town of Greenwich.  They bought and gave  the Town the triangular park in front of the Post Office where the obelisk now resides.  They also donated $250,000 for the Havemeyer School. Old Greenwich School and the First Presbyterian Church were also recepients of their generosity. Mrs. Havemeyer was a volunteer who supported Women's Suffrage,  and she belonged to the National Women's Party.

They were the first to buy Impressionist paintings by Degas and Monet and have them imported to the United States. (They were close friends of artist Mary Cassatt, by the way.) A large part of their art collection was given to the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York.  H.O. Havemeyer passed away on December 4, 1907.

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PHILANTHROPIST H.O.HAVEMEYER


It was after World War II (1946) that Gene Tunney became interested in the Havemeyer property.  Tunney was a professional boxer, and was the world heavyweight champion from 1926 to 1928.  He married Polly Lauder from an influential Greenwich family.  She was related to Andrew Carnegie.  Tunney had had an interesting life, serving as a Marine, working as a lumberman in Canada, and even lecturing at Yale University!  He was committed to providing housing for returning veterans.  So in 1946 he purchased 149 acres for $173,600 from the Havemeyer estate.  There were several stipulations, however:

 1.  Each lot must have a 60-foot front,
 2.  the cost couldn't be more than $10,000, and
 3.  the first units had to be finished by 1947

Tunney employed the Stamford Building Company to handle the construction, while Fairfield Realty handled the sales.  Arthur Starck, a friend of Tunney, helped organize a Havemeyer Park Builders corporation, and a sales trailer was set up at the corner of Havemeyer Lane and the Boston Post Road. Starck was named Secretary / Treasurer.

Initial plans called for the inclusion of a California-style (strip mall)  shopping center at the corner of Florence and MacArthur Drive.  This would include a Bradlee's department store, food stores, drugstores, etc. This never came about because the Town and residents were worried about traffic and the "unsavory" element it might attract.  This property was rocky, and not suitable for any kind of housing construction.  The Havemeyer Park Builders wanted to donate the property to the town, but officials were suspicious.  They considered the land unbuildable;  but the Town finally relented, and accepted the gift.  Surprisingly, part of the land was eventually used to build Dundee School! 

The average house in Havemeyer Park was built on a quarter-of-an-acre.  It was a Cape Cod style with 2 bedrooms, 1 bathroom, a livingroom, an attic crawlspace or unfinished attic, built on a slab and later full cellars.  Standardization helped keep the costs down.  They weren't well graded - owners had to plant their own grass.  Roads weren't paved at first.  The construction company didn't want to incur the cost of putting in roads, so the Town took them over.  The Town also offered to plant cherry or dogwood trees for $15 each.  This was a good deal.  Some residents dug up bushes and trees from the old Havemeyer mansion.  Eventually, the mansion was razed to make room for more housing.

In 1948, residents decided to organize a Havemeyer Park Owners Association.  This grew out of concerns for roads and traffic. Owners were concerned about additional traffic spilling out onto Havemeyer Lane from Stamford.  Representatives met with Stamford officials, who agreed to abandon plans for additional  roads to add traffic to Havemeyer Lane.  Since the association had no money or legal representation, it had to rely on the good will of people to preserve its neighborhood character.  Most people complied with requests from the neighbors and the owners' association.

Once the houses were built, they sold out very quickly.  Buyers were mostly veterans, who could get FHA mortgages through the GI Bill.  Only $1,000 was required as a downpayment on a $10,000 house.  Today, those houses would sell for between $375,000 and $450,000.  The Veterans were usually married with young children.  Since they didn't have a lot of money, most of the families would socialize with each other.  They organized Christmas decoration contests, Valentine's Dances, picnics, bowling leagues, tennis groups, barbeques, garden clubs, Girl Scouts and Boy Scouts.

Over time, the families would save money and move to bigger houses in town.  Havemeyer Park became known as a "starter community".  Older people looking to downsize, and other ethnic groups moved into the Park.  The population started to become more diversified.  Of course, some residents remained since they like the community.

Meanwhile, development just over the Stamford line threatens to change traffic patterns in the area. .  A newly-constructed condo complex (including an access road) includes a rotary that may change the flow of traffic on Havemeyer Lane.  Plans for a big box Home Depot structure near the old Cyanamid building were abandoned due to public protests. A shopping mall adjacent to Laddin's Rock Road could spill over the Town line.  There is plenty of land near Havemeyer Park that could still be developed.  

 The Park, which stretches roughly from Havemeyer Lane to Florence Road and Palmer Hill Road to the Boston Post Road, remains a thriving and vibrant community.  Residents take pride in their homes and property.  The Homeowners Association still watches over developments in the area.  Everyone is committed to maintaining the rural nature of the Town.  Havemeyer Park will always remain a unique part of Greenwich.



SOURCE

Havemeyer Park : Oral History Interview
Oral History Project. Friends of the Greenwich Library
Greenwich, CT : Greenwich Library, 2002

 
 

Mianus River and Natural Park

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Greenwich is very fortunate to have a number of beautiful parks available to its residents.  One of these parcels is the Mianus River and Natural Park located in northern Cos Cob just off Cognewaugh Road, 3/4 of a mile south of the Merritt Parkway.  It's part of the larger Mianus Greenway, and crosses over the town line into Stamford.  Greenwich controls 109.7 acres, while Stamford owns 110.3 acres.  Access is available to residents on both sides.  The many activities going on in the nature tract include walking, jogging, hiking, horsebackriding, fishing, and nature study. 

The park parallels the Mianus River. Hydrologists (water scientists) believe it used to empty into the Hudson River to our west.  However, during the last ice age and subsequent glacial retreat, the river was forced to turn south just below Indian Hill in Bedford NY.  Today, the river runs south/south east through the Mianus River Gorge Preserve, flows through Mianus Pond, over the dam into Cos Cob Harbor, eventually draining into Long Island Sound.

Historians assume Native-Americans were the first to occupy this area.  The river and land would be a great source of fresh water, game, fish and waterfowl.  When the European settlers arrived in Greenwich, they probably cleared the land of trees for lumber to build houses, and to provide farm and pasture land. After the Civil War, much of the land was abandoned.  Some of the land may have been exhausted from over-farming, and a good protion was rocky and unfit for agriculture. There was more fertile land just to the west. Interestingly, the land has slowly returned to woodlands, and you can see evidence of remnant stonewalls, wells, storage cellars and caves.

Toward the end of the 1800s, the Greenwich populace began to shift away from farming, and people started buying up land to build estates.  Greenwich became a "bedroom community" for New York City.  Wealthy and influentioal people began building in backcountry Greenwich and Stamford.  In 1928, the City of Stamford bought land from New York financier Robert Goodbody, who owned a mansion located on the Fort Stamford property near the Greenwich line.  Then in 1960, the City purchased another 77-acres called the "Old Mill Lane - Mianus Tract" under the authorization of the Federal Open Space Act. It was to be used for "passive" purposes -  meaning the natural environment could not be disturbed. 

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COURTESY OF THE FRIENDS OF THE MIANUS RIVER PARK

On the other side of the town line, Greenwich got the opportunity to buy 109.7 acres for the bargain price of $500,000 in 1972.  This was the period of time when environmental protection became an important issue in this country.  It was one of the first efforts to protect open space in town, and set a precedent which still exists today.  By joining forces with Stamford, residents from both municipalities were able to enjoy the large conservation area that became known as "The Mianus River and Natural Park".  Although plansinitially called for the hiring of a Park Ranger, some felt the cost was prohibitive and the plan was scrapped.

This land, sometimes referred to as the Goodbody Property, is a great example of glacial topography.  There are numerous bedrock outcroppings and ridges created by the retreating ice.  Geologically, the tract presents several different types of ecosystems.  Two trails lead the hiker through two diverse environments.  The Pond Trail is a wide, well-graded path that leads to some lowlands, where one can find swampy wetlands.  Red Maples trees thrive in this type of environment.  So do skunk cabbage, winged euanimus, cat-o-nine-tails and pond lillies. One might also find Black Birch, Tulips, Red Ash and Tupelo.  This
environment supports such animals as salamanders, frogs, weasels, mink and otters.  It provides nesting habitats for ruffled grouse, pheasant, mallards, and songbirds. Fox, deer, coyotes and racoons also make this area their home.

The Oak Trail leads hikers to higher ground.  Oak and beech trees are numerous, providing nesting opportunities for Yellow Warblers, Crows, Sparrows, Blue Jays and Woodpeckers. Highbush blueberries and Mountain Laurel can be found, as well as open meadows.

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SKETCH OF TYPICAL PHEASANT

As you can see, this is an important habitat for a variety of species.  It's been estimated that there are 100 species of trees, 150 species of birds and 250 species of wildflowers in the park!  You could consider it  "Nature's Classroom" or learning lab.  Beyond its value from a scientific point of view, it may even do something for the spirit.  Hiking in a wild, beautiful and diverse environment may do something for the soul.  Away from the hustle and bustle of our everyday lives, it may just bring you closer to nature, to your own roots. The quiet may give you a chance to relax, think.  It may make you wonder how we got here, and how we fit in.  

It makes me appreciate the natural parks we have here in Greenwich.

Thanks to the many dedicated people who have fought to protect these dwindling pieces of land.


SOURCES

 

Friends of the Mianus River Park:

"Welcome to Mianus River Park." Welcome. Web. 6 Apr. 2015. http://www.friendsofmianusriverpark.org/.:  Accessed 4/6/2015


Town of Greenwich, Parks & Recreation: 

"Mianus River Park:  http://www.greenwichct.org/upload/medialibrary/8f3/prFA_MianusRiverPark.pdf: Accessed 4/6/2015



If you want to know what's going on in Greenwich, then you probably want to listen to our local radio station 1490 WGCH.  It's a quality source of information, and an important part of our community.  The station evolved as residents sought another source of news information besides the local newspaper.  We're very fortunate to have this service-oriented station, that focuses on the local community.

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The station owes its existence to Walter Lemmon. He was a Naval Communications Officer, who was on a boat returning from Versailles after the signing of the treaty that ended World War I.  President Woodrow Wilson was also on board, and Lemmon discussed the idea for an international shortwave radio station with him. Lemmon never gave up his quest for an international station, and eventually started one. He was a man of strong character and determination. was technologically gifted, a good businessman and highly creative. He went on to become a prominent electrical pioneer and inventor.  

On the local level, Lemmon was involved with the Greenwich Broadcasting Corporation, which founded WGCH FM in 1948. The station office was located at the top of Greenwich Avenue between the last store and Pickwick Arms Hotel.  It was the old Greenwich Press building behind Neilsen's.  Although it operated for several years, it turned out to be unprofitable.  There weren't enough FM sets available, so hardly anyone was listening!  This coincided with the introduction of television, which drew a lot of regular radio listeners.

Lemmon then turned his attention to AM radio. The Greenwich Broadcasting Corporation applied to the FCC for an AM license; but it struggled from the late 1940s until it received the approval in 1964.  There were several reasons for this.  Since Lemmon already owned an international station, they couldn't understand why he wanted a local station. Also, stations in Danbury, Stratford and Madison were trying to obtain the 1490 frequency for broadcasting.  There was concern about interference from WHOM 1480, a station out of New York City.  Eventually, it was all worked out, and in 1964 the FCC granted WGCH 1490 its license.

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OLD BUILDING AT 90 DAYTON AVENUE

COURTESY: HARTFORD RADIO HISTORY


WGCH 1490 has had several different locations over the years.  The first location was on East Putnam Avenue in the storefront next to Milbank Avenue.  This was across the street from the Second Congrgational Church.  While the front entrance was level with the street, the building itself was two-stories, with a back entrance opening to a lower parking lot.  In 1969, the station moved to 90 Dayton Avenue. Managment appealed to the Post Office and got them to renumber the building to 1490 Dayton Avenue.  In addition, they sought and obtained the telephone number 869-1490.  This was a marketing stroke of genius!  Today you can still see the transmitiing tower which is located near the Post Road Iron Works on West Putnam Avenue. Eventually, a new tower would be erected at to boost power. Due to some financial difficulties, it was necessary for the operation to move to 71 Lewis Street, where it is now located.


                                                    CURRENT HOME OF WGCH RADIO AT 71 LEWIS STREET


The radio station has changed owners several times over the years.  Mr. John Becker owned the station for 39 years, selling it to the Business Talk Radio Network in 2003.  The national network moved its studios and corporate offices to Greenwich until 2006 when it moved to 401 Shippan Avenue in Stamford.  WGCH AM remained in Greenwich.  Then, in 2011, the Blue Star Media Group headed by Michael Metter and Jeff Weber bought the station.  Unfortunately, Metter had some legal difficulties and the operatioon was sold to the Forte family in 2013.  Rocco Forte had been the former CFO of Abate Insurance and AIA Risk Management Services in New Haven.  He had homes in Lyme CT and Sarasota FL.  The new operating group was known as Forte Family Broadcasting Inc.

When it first started out in the 1960s, the station had no problem lining up advertisers.  Although the station conducted surveys from time to time to determine listenership, businesses knew immediately that their advertising was paying off because people would start using their services.  The radio station also received letters and phone calls from regular listeners.  It was estimatedthat the station had 10,000 listeners for one program!  The primary audience was Greenwich, but there were also listeners fromWestchester and Long Island.  It's broadcast area was considered to be an area bounded by Norwalk, New Canaan, White Plains, the Hudson River Valley, New Rochelle, Port Chester, Rye and Long Island.  Unfortunately, WGCH had to cut its power back to 250 watts in the evening, so it dropped off the air for some places.  The station attempted to find a new location for its antenna to boost the signal, but had to settle for renewing its lease for the site at 177 West Putnam Avenue in 2002.


ANTENNA SIMILAR TO THE ONE AT 177 WEST PUTNAM AVENUE

The station had to deal other problems.  There are some 30 radio stations broadcasting from New York City that compete for listeners.  On occassion during emergencies, there can be too many callers, inquiries and reports. Some broadcasters were terminated for different reasons.  Fires, storms and power outages have taken the station off the air.  Owners have faced legal problems.  The change in ownership has resulted in program changes - some unpopular.  Experienced and talented staff have been lured away to bigger stations. Changes in technology have changed broadcasting, and broadcasters have had to re-train to stay current.

Despite all these problems, the station today remains a community favorite. It has provides programming of the highest quality.  Rather than "editorialize", the station tries to present a balanced view of the issues.  It serves as a clearing house for information.  When schools are closed, or public meetings are cancelled, this is quickly communicated. During times of emergency, it can be a calming influence by keeping the people updated on police, fire or public utiliy progress.  Daily features include weather and traffic updates.  Although the emphasis is on local news, there's national and world news.  Some programs encourage listeners to call.  RTM and Board of Education meetings are broadcast entirely.  Special committee meetings of public concern are transmitted. 

Over the years, the station has presented a variety of entertaining programs such as "Fibber McGee and Molly", "The Shadow" and "Our Miss Brooks".  Music programming has included Italian, Greek, Country, Big Band, semi-classical and classical.  Less popular was a Rock and Roll segment and a Teen segment. Other special programs have included The Pet Patrol, The Swap Shop, and The Trading Post.  Sports programming includes Greenwich High School football, Red Sox and NE Patriots broadcasts.  Ex-Selectman Sam Romeo hosts a call-in show, while MaryAnne DeFelice and Darby Cartun have their own shows. Various community groups read Public Service Announcements for the benefit of the residents. Tony Savino handles the news, while meteorologist Bill Evans reports on the weather.  Bob Small, Operations Manager, does a fine job keeping everything on course.

Although other stations may have similar programming, supporters claim WGCH has a unique appeal.  It demonstrates a genuine concern for the community.  The reporting and programming is responsible, and the staff is talented and very able.  It serves the community in a very unique way.  Rather than compete with the local paper, it works with it, and respects its turf.  WGCH helps make Greenwich the community it is today.  As one person noted, we can't imagine what Greenwich would be like without WGCH.

SOURCE

WGCH: A Community Radio Station;  Oral History Project. Friends of the Greenwich Library
Greenwich, CT. : Greenwich Library, c1977


Catherine Hyder Ogden - Gentle Leader

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One of the kindest, gentlest and smartest people I have ever met passed away on January 23. Cathy Ogden, Chairman of the Oral History Project for 19 years, succumbed to ALS (Lou Gehrig's Disease).

Cathy was born in Lawrence, Kansas, to Clyde and Allena Hyder.  Her father was a distinguished professor of English Literature at the University of Kansas.  She graduated from Lawrence High School in 1963 and Swarthmore College in 1967.  Cathy and her husband, Ross, moved to Greenwich in 1969. 

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CATHY  OGDEN

Photo Courtesy of The Oral History Project


Always civic-minded, Cathy volunteered with the League of Women Voters, the Brunswick School Parents Association, the American Red Cross and the First Presbyterian Church, where she served as a Deacon.  But her greatest legacy will be her leadership of the Oral History Project at Greenwich Library.

The Oral History project was organized by the Greenwich Library and Greenwich Historical Society in 1973 as part of the upcoming Bicentennial Celebration in 1976. In 1977, it became a permanent committee of the Friends of Greenwich Library.  It's staffed by volunteers, and it's a member of the Oral History Association, and the New England Association of Oral History.

Cathy joined the Project as an editor in 1981. In 1993, she took over the Chairmanship from MaryEllen LeBien and led the Project for 19 years. During this time, Cathy was the guiding force who raised the Project to visible prominence, and garnered for it several awards:

  • The 1991 Harvey A. Kantor Award by the New England Association of Oral History.
  • The 1995 CT Life Award, New Haven, Connecticut, for the preservation of personal histories which have created a priceless resource for Greenwich, and an inspiring model for other communities to follow.
  • The 1996 Publication Award from the Connecticut Library Association Public Relations Section, for an outstanding library publication.
  • The Town of Greenwich proclamation designating July 15, 2003, as Oral History Day in Greenwich.

During Cathy's tenure, she led the OHP through many changes in technology. A website and blog was developed. She served as moderator for a discussion relating to the publication of the Project's book  on Bruce Museum, and developed Oral History Days - an opportunity for residents to give half-hour interviews on local history. Cathy helped create and maintain a Subject Guide of interviews.

Perhaps the most fitting tribute was the fact that other similar groups across the nation use the OHP as the benchmark for a professional and quality organization.

Cathy was truly a champion of the Oral History Project.


SOURCES:

THE ORAL HISTORY PROJECT, FRIENDS OF THE GREENWICH LIBRARY

SEMMES, A.; GREENWICH TIME; Hearst Newspapers


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.

Historical Happenings

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Using Newspapers For Family Research
Saturday - February 14, 2015 - 2 PM
Greenwich Library Meeting Room

Janeen Bjork will talk about using newspaper resources to
help you research your family tree.  Free and open to all.


Greenwich Historical Society Website
www.hstg.org

Make a point to look at the Greenwich Historical Society
website on a regular basis.  There's a lot of useful information
on upcoming events, exhibits and history.

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.

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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. 


Historical Happenings

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Bates-Scofield House Museum
Tue-Thu: 12 to 5 PM - Sun: 12 to3
45 Old Kings Highway North - Darien

The Bates-Scofield House is home to the Darien Historical Society,
and houses valuable local history resources.  Also includes an exhibit
of 18th century clothing.  Donations requested. Call 203-655-9233


Holiday Train Express Show
Weekdays: 10 am to 4 PM   Weekends: 11 AM to 1 PM
Fairfield Museum and History Center
370 Beach Road - Fairfield CT 06824

"The entire family will enjoy this exhibit of model trains winding
around a winter wonderland of spectacular trees and beautiful
holiday scenery."  Fee required.  Call 203-259-1598.


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/



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