In one sense, all of NewCanaanite.com falls under the category of Town Living. In this section specifically, we collect articles and remembrances that touch our town’s history, quirks, quality of life and often unnoticed details that make New Canaan our home.
Carl Franco’s first thought on unearthing the stash of curled, cracked back-and-white photographs 15 years ago was that they must’ve been taken during a long-ago Memorial Day Parade. He’d been cleaning out his house—which has been in the Franco family since the 1940s—in preparation for a renovation, and came upon the photographs in the attic.
Then he saw that they were dated. “So I knew it wasn’t May,” Franco said. “It was in September 1919. So I looked it up, wondering what parade would it have been.”
The photos were taken in downtown New Canaan on Sept.
Saying New Canaan Public Schools acted immediately and responsibly after learning of financial problems involving an assistant to the high school’s athletic director, district officials are taking exception to some of the ways the matter has been described by investigators in police case reports. The Board of Education put Anne Tomaselli on administrative leave straightaway after discovering that she had failed to say anything about more than $30,000 in overpayments made in her paycheck over a period of about three months in late 2015, according to Superintendent of Schools Dr. Bryan Luizzi and the Director of Finance and Operations Dr. Jo-Ann Keating. District officials also notified the New Canaan Police Department immediately of that discovery, as well as after they found two bundles of $20 bills in Tomaselli’s office that were marked ‘football gate’ with dates from home Rams games from November 2015, they said. And although it’s true that no criminal charges ultimately were brought against Tomaselli in connection with either matter, the state’s attorney—not the schools—made that determination, Luizzi and Keating said.
In fact, the separation agreement under which Tomaselli agreed to reimburse the school district $30,000 and never to be employed by New Canaan Public Schools was finalized only after police said there was inadequate evidence to bring charges against her for a potential theft, they said. “We hold people accountable that we address issues as they arise and are always vigilant and careful stewards of the district’s resources,” Luizzi told NewCanaanite.com during an interview Tuesday.
As a young child in New Canaan after WWII, I had the privilege of living in the Justus Hoyt House on Main Street, where my mother and grandfather had been born, as well as generations of Hoyts dating back to 1770. The house stood directly opposite New Canaan Library. A bonus of living there was that my grandfather’s flower shop and greenhouses—S.B. Hoyt Florists Est.1908—was next door. My grandparents, Stephen and Anna Hoyt, lived on a property adjoining ours that fronted on East Maple Street. I had aunts and uncles and cousins up and down East Maple Street and Hoyt Street. One of the perks of being frequently in my grandfather’s orbit, is that when he made trips to the New Canaan Bird Sanctuary and Wildwood Preserve he would often invite me along. The Preserve was both a sanctuary and a mission to “Grampy Hoyt” who, as president of the Bird Protective Society of New Canaan, had solicited the funds from Mrs. Barend van Gerbig and other concerned citizens to purchase and fence the 16.8-acre property in 1923. Once through the entrance gate to this haven, my grandfather would engage in conversation with Clinton Bartow, the caretaker, leaving me to explore.
The recent news that the Chamber of Commerce is no longer sponsoring the Pop Up Park has left its future uncertain. While volunteer organizers are scrambling to obtain permits, insurance and town approval, a 2015 debate of how the park affects local business has been reignited. We spoke to several businesses in the area to hear their thoughts. Helen Richards of Odesmith & Richards Boutique on South Avenue describes the park as a “pleasant idea” but in the “completely wrong place.” Her concerns revolve around how the park affects nearby businesses, saying “it blocks traffic and impedes commerce where it is.”
She referred to a letter written by area merchants a few years ago. “The merchants have been complaining about it for a long time,” she said.
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.