When I first took over the Local History and Genealogy Librarian position, I found a book in the office titled “A Driving Tour of Greenwich”. It’s a self-guided tour book, and lists many historical houses in town. The author is Louise Finch, and it was commissioned by the Junior Woman’s Club. I always wondered about the history of this book, and when I spotted an Oral History Project transcript titled “How a Driving Tour of Historic Greenwich Came About”, I knew I had to read it.
Louise Finch was a tour guide at the Bush-Holly House. She loved history. Over time, she learned about local families and historic places. Louise served on the Board of the Junior Woman’s Club, and as part of the Bicentennial celebration, the Club provided bus tours for third graders. Soon adult groups and local organizations requested a written synopsis. Knowing Louise’s interest in history, the Club asked her to edit the tour script, and she began editing (and correcting) the text.
DRIVING TOUR TEXT
As she proceeded, she noticed that there were many gaps which had to be filled in to expand the script and fill up time. This would reduce some of the “down time” during the drive. So Louise used her personal notes to add information. She cut and pasted her notes to the script. Photographs and images were added to the margins. The original tour only covered eastern Greenwich; but she added notes on the western part of town.
The Junior Woman’s Club was very supportive. Several members typed up her notes, then sent them to the publisher. They encouraged her to add her notes on western Greenwich. the original price was quoted as $3,000 to $3,500. When all was said it done, it cost $6,000 for 1500 copies. Some members felt this was not enough copies.
Louise also relied on the Greenwich Library and Historical Society for images and historical facts. Local historian Frank Nicholson – who led tours of Greenwich Avenue – was very helpful, and provided valuable information. The publisher – Fairview Printers on Mason Street – provided input on the type of paper to use. Historian Bill Finch and Joe Zeranski provided input. Frank Nicholson – who led the tours on Greenwich Avenue – was extremely helpful. Many local people helped with this endeavor.
Louise asked local book dealers (Diane’s Books, Old Greenwich Book Shop, Mead’s and Just Books) how much they would charge for the tour book. She got quotes of $4 to $7 to $15! They settled on a price of $10 per book.
It took Louise two-and-a-half years to write the Driving Tour book. She tried to make it short and to the point. Louise hoped newcomers would find it useful. The money raised was to be used by the Junior Woman’s Club to benefit the children of the town. The Junior Woman’s Club broke even within two months. It was one of the biggest fundraisers in years. Chain stores didn’t sell copies since it didn’t generate enough profit. The smaller stores sold them.
While the Junior Woman’s Club is officially the “publisher”, Louise Finch holds the copyright. Unfortunately, the book is out of print, which means currently there’s are no sales and no revenue. It’s been suggested that a larger “table top” version be published, but no one has come forward to take the lead.
LOUISE FINCH’S DEDICATION
What’s interetsing is that individuals like Louise end up recording much of Greenwich history. She was born in Kansas City MO, and graduated from the University of Kansas with a degree in Anthropology and Archaeology and a minor in Geology. Louise spent time in England analyzing ancient monuments. She and her husband eventually returned to the United States. Like many, she was “transplanted” to Connecticut. Her dedication to public service resulted in her joining the Junior Woman’s Club and producing the “Driving Tour of Historic Greenwich”.
Finch, L: How “A Driving Tour Of Greenwich” Came About; Oral History Project, Greenwich Library, Greenwich CT, 1982.