Here in “0684-Old,” we look back at New Canaan’s rich local history—our lost districts, shops, community buildings and organizations, major figures and the historical events that bind modern townies to our earliest residents.

Recent Articles

White Oak Shade Home Under Cease-and-Desist Has Curious Footnote in New Canaan History

The White Oak Shade home now under a cease-and-desist order after an unpermitted demolition of its second floor dates to about 1750, historic preservationists say, and appears originally to have belonged to a Canaan Parish family that earned a curious—and rather treacherous—footnote in the history of the town. According to New Canaan Historical Society files cited by Rose Scott Long, co-president of the New Canaan Preservation Alliance, the home at 251 White Oak Shade Road had been labeled at one time as the “William Reid, Sr. House.”

Records show that it has been renovated several times since the 18th Century, making it “difficult to discern what was original and what was fabricated to appear original,” Scott Long told NewCanaanite.com. One historical record also notes that the home at some point was “moved back from the road.”

A census records list unearthed by Scott Long indicates that in 1790—the year of the first census in the United States—the home was inhabited by a “William Reed, Jr.”

Turning back to the clock about a dozen years, to the American Revolutionary War—historians note that in Canaan Parish (recall that New Canaan, as we know it, wasn’t incorporated until 1801), one practice among patriots as well as Loyalists seeking to maximize value in trade was to drive cattle across Westchester County to trade with the British, who paid in coin rather than unreliable Continental paper money. (Mary Louise King notes in her “Portrait of New Canaan” history that Maj. Benjamin Tallmadge, among other heroic feats of battle during the war, in 1779 moved against that illicit trade.)

The year that Lord Cornwallis would surrender, in October, at Yorktown, Va.—1781—opened in Canaan Parish with “Samuel Cooke Silliman presiding over the trials of three men and a woman who had been trading with the enemy,” King writes. Continue Reading →

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‘A Small Purchase of Books’: Roger Sherman Inn as New Canaan’s First Library

“The people in this place have agreed, many of them, to set up a library and are collecting money to make a small purchase of books.” —from a Jan. 16, 1790 letter from the Rev. Justus Mitchell of New Canaan to Roger Sherman, his wife’s uncle


Perhaps no commercial enterprise in New Canaan has garnered as much attention in recent months as the Roger Sherman Inn. For good reason. Since hitting the market at $6 million three summers ago, the Oenoke Ridge Road restaurant and inn has been the subject of wide speculation. After lingering on the market for years, a well-known developer materialized last fall as the property’s “contract purchaser,” with a plan to create eight (later modified to six) homes on a 1.8-acre property that, as-of-right, would have just one. Continue Reading →

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‘Lost’ New Canaan Landmark: The Lone Tree

“Some say that the original Lone Tree has died and been replaced by a new tree. Others indignantly claim that they have been looking at it for 50-60, even 80 years and that it is the same old tree. It is not a large tree, but apparently size is not necessarily an indication of the age of a sugar maple. At any rate, all agree that it has been a favorite trysting place for lovers ‘time out of mind’ and it bears many hopefully entwined initials.” —from “Lone Tree Hill” by Elizabeth P. McGhie, Feb. 26, 1948 (“Landmarks of New Canaan”)


With few exceptions, the landmarks that New Canaanites associate with their town’s rich history are manmade. Continue Reading →

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PHOTOS: New Canaanites Who Died While Serving in World War II

Since creating a memorial walk dedicated to New Canaanites who perished during World War II in 2003 in Mead Park, town resident Jim Bach, a Korean War veteran, has spearheaded efforts to improve the visibility and appearance of this town landmark. Those efforts have included re-planting of trees along the “Gold Star Walk,” creating a second footbridge to extend it and installing a new walkway and map—and a venerable nonprofit organization now is offering to help Bach preserve the memorial, which features a plaque listing names of the 38 men who died during the war (see gallery above for information on the servicemen). The memorial has stood for more than 10 years, and Bach—a 1947 New Canaan High School graduate who served as a U.S. Army sergeant from 1952 to 1954—said he wants to add some finishing touches, to ensure its longevity. “I want to see it done, it was part of my life a long time ago and it kept me out of trouble at one time,” Bach said. “The final thing that I wanted to get done with the memorial is to put in a bridge across the main stream that enters the park, on the west side of the garage. Continue Reading →

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