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.
“Some say that the original Lone Tree has died and been replaced by a new tree.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.
Dozens of local families enjoyed music, live entertainment and sweet desserts under a canopy tent at the New Canaan Historical Society on Sunday afternoon during the nonprofit organization’s 27th Annual Ice Cream Social. Sponsored by Bankwell as well as Walter Stewart’s Market and Baskin Robbins, the event featured music from the Town Band while members of the National Charity League and New Canaan Exchange Club took care of serving duties for attendees. Historical Society Executive Director Janet Lindstrom said that although the on-and-off-again weather appeared to keep some younger families with children away, “We have some people who have been coming every year, for years and years.” One highlight of the event was a 1904 Northern Runabout that belongs to New Canaan’s Fairty family—one of the very earliest automobiles in town, which was on display under a tent just outside the main tent on the historical society’s campus. For more information on the car, see the story below.
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.
Mobilized by the very real possibility that a historic Ferris Hill Road home will be razed, local preservationists and other experts are working with its owner and touting the 2.14-acre property’s potential for types of development that would still save the antique structure. A demolition sign went up Wednesday at 8 Ferris Hill Road (listed as 441 Canoe Hill Road in the assessor’s database), one week after its owner applied for a permit to raze the 1735-built home. Now is a critical time for preservation advocates, before a 15-day window to object to the demolition runs out and a decision likely is left with a municipal committee. Though the home’s owner could not be reached for comment, he has said that demolition appears to be the only possible way to develop the property he now regrets purchasing more than two years ago. Yet one local expert, Robert Dean of New Canaan-based Robert Dean Architects, a firm that’s been practicing here for 30 years, said there are three basic ways that emerged when it comes to preserving an antique structure such as this in the face of development: Move it, sustain it in place and build around it, or sustain it in place and add onto it (more on those options below).
In the 1970’s and ’80s, New Canaan could boast but a fraction of the number of restaurants that now dot the town. And while New Canaan had decades to go before finding its niche in the culinary landscape, there was one establishment where entire families would invariably go for special events, post-game or post-concert meals. That place was Brock’s. Brock’s was the brainchild of longtime New Canaan resident T. Brock Saxe, founder of Tombrock Corporation, a real estate investment and management company operating out of offices housed above the former New Canaan Brock’s location at 111 Cherry Street. Prior to becoming Tombrock in 1970, Saxe’s company was called White Tower Management, which since its incorporation in 1926 operated hundreds of White Tower restaurants throughout the country.