The Unique Area of The Fourth Ward
There’s an area in central Greenwich that’s known as the Fourth Ward. It’s the area bounded roughly by Sherwood Place, William Street, Northfield Street, Division Street, Church Street, a little bit of Lake Avenue and part of Perryridge Road. Greenwich Hospital is located in the neighborhood. The history and diversity of its population make it a very unique area.
Origin of the Term Fourth Ward
There’s plenty of uncertainty as to the origin of the term “Fourth Ward”. Some sources claim it once referred to voting districts or wards in Greenwich. Frank Nicholson – a local historian, author and filmmaker – and his wife believed it may be attributed to the fact that some Irish immigrants came to Greenwich from the Fourth Ward in Greenwich Village.
Another theory states that the term “Fourth Ward” might be connected to Boss Tweed, who once lived in Greenwich. Tweed wasinvolved with a Fire Engine Company 12 in the Fourth Ward of New York. He very well could have brought Irish Laborers in New York to Greenwich to work on his estate, and housed them in Greenwich’s Fourth Ward. As with many other local names, there’s some ambiguity as to the true derivation.
It was a multi-ethnic area, with Irish, French, Scotch, German, African-Americans, Filipinos, Polish and Italians living there. Many consider the Fourth Ward to be the first real neighborhood and community in Greenwich. The residents were very close, and socialized on many occasions. Some ran their businesses in the neighborhood, and provided goods and services.
One such business was Barrett’s Grocery Store. Barrett’s didn’t actually sell groceries. It did carry penny candy, but its main business was selling liquor. There was a gin mill in the back, and it was a “speak easy” during the Depression. In order to operate as a food store, a certain percentage of business had to be selling food. To get around this, they would give away a certain amount of spaghetti and meatballs to customers. Some of the children were sent to Barrett’s with an empty bottle and money to refill liquor bottles.
Another enterprise was Round Hill Farms on Northfield Street. They had a store on Greenwich Avenue where they sold milk, and they also delivered it by horse and wagon. There were no cows, however, at the farm. They actually bought the milk from Walker Gordon in New Jersey and shipped it by flatcar to Greenwich for bottling. The Tuthills owned the business, and hired children to help deliver it. Deliveries started at 2 o’clock in the morning and the children worked until 11 am the following day.
Tuthill had the horses that pulled the wagon trained so that they would move to the next house along the route by themselves When the last delivery was made and he got back on the wagon, the horses would rush home to rest in the stables. During the winter, Tuthill would hook up a large sleigh and give childern a ride around the town.
Random Acts of Kindness
There were other acts of kindness shown to the children of the Fourth Ward. A Reverend Cobb – who lived in the Ward – would give the children chicken dinners left over from church suppers. It was customary for the children to sled down a hill behind the Brunswick School. When the sledding was all over, the wealthier children would leave their sleds for the poor children to take home. In the summer, the wealthy would leave baseball gloves and bats at the baseball field. The Round Hill Club sponsored fox hunts in back country. Hunters had the dogs sniff out raccoons and rabbit. After the hunt, the meat was cooked and distributed to the Fourth Ward residents. This must have set a good example because a Fourth Ward Service Club was organized to collect items to send to soldiers during the War. They collected such items as cigarettes, combs, and mirrors to send to the soldiers. The Club organized picnics for returning GIs. One was the biggest picnic the town ever had. They even donated money for a flagpole to be dedicated to those who were away.
Some of the men from the Fourth Ward were prominent athletes. They played an equivalent of semi-pro football, baseball and basketball. An athletic organization known as the Fourth Ward Athletic Association was formed. The group played against some very big teams including Yale, Don Bosco and the Thunderbolts football club from Port Chester. It cost $1.00 to get in. The headquarters for the Fourth Ward Athletic Club was underneath the Favorite Shoe Store on Greenwich Avenue.
Boys Will Be Boys
The adolescents in the Fourth Ward were far from angelic. They got into trouble just like other kids. For instance, Johnny Anderson – who’s father owned a garage for the storage of private cars – used to lend cars out to his friends. One was owned by a Stig Larson. Larson was a tennis player and ice skater, who eventually skated with the Ice Capades. He stored a 1934 Cadillac Roadster at the Anderson garage. Some of his friends filled it up with beer and took it all the way to Florida, where they met Al Capone’s son! Another time some boys borrowed a Studebaker to go to New Jersey for the Bruno Kauptman trial. Hauptman had been accused of kidnapping Charles Lindbergh’s son.
There was a rival gang that used to engage in rock fights with the Fourth Ward boys. It was from Cassidy Park. Cassidy Park was a neighborhood where the old Greenwich Hospital parking lot used to be located. Hopefully no one was seriously injured.
A Motley Crew
Annie Sullivan, who lived on Division Street, sold brewed beer to neighbors. She was nasty to kids, and owned a big goose named “Rebecca”. The goose attacked some kids who were coming by to get beer, and one guy was so afraid, he picked up a 2 x 4 and killed the goose! Annie went down to the boy’s house, where she created a commotion with the boy’s father.
There are other urban tales of Fourth Ward residents. A street sweeper, Dicky McCormack, got drunk and fell off the roof of his house. The next day he asked about a commotion at his house, and was told he had fallen off the roof! He couldn’t remember it. A Swedish family was well-known for a matriarch who used to cry at the drop of a hat. Two men who were watching a house didn’t realize there was $75,000 under a mattress they were sleeping on. They could have had a windfall, but the family retreived it before they could purloin it. The same men were watching another house when a house wrecker knocked the roof off. They should have known something was up since the lights were turned off as well as the drinking water.
Another character was Boss Fogg. Fogg sold butter and eggs in the neighborhood. He was a generous guy who took priests and the First Selectman to the fights. Fogg hung around the garages with the younger guys. Eventually he lost his business when supermarkets came in. Once he was working on a side job as a roofer, which covered him all over with tar. Fogg spotted a Lobster Restaurant and said he would treat the boys to lobster. The group was apprehensive; but Fogg knew the owner well, and the group was led right in!
The Fourth Ward is considered an historical district in town. There’s some unique houses in the area, although some have been remodeled and even knocked down. A few businesses still remain. According to the Greenwich Historical Society, the neighborhood dates back to 1836, and in 1860, they built the first Catholic Church (St Mary) in town. The residents were laborers, laundresses and chauffers who worked for the wealthy. They were primarily Irish. The residents were close-knit and helped each other.
It’s just one area of Greenwich with a lot of history to share.
Murphy, J; The Fourth Ward; Greenwich Library, Greenwich CT, 1994.