New Canaan residents share their thoughts and raise issues of importance to our community, on matters touching local residents—property and business owners, taxpayers, students, nonprofit leaders and caregivers. This is a space for New Canaanites to recognize good works that may otherwise go unnoticed or to raise questions and concerns for public vetting. To submit a letter to the editor, email email@example.com.
As the Parking Commission debates the future of the Center School Parking Lot as parking for the new library, I would like to ask that all town governing bodies re-consider a proposal made last summer. It was suggested that the town trade the Center School Lot for the library property, and that the new Llbrary be constructed at the site of the former Center School.
The new library will easily fit in the Center School Lot with ample room for necessary library parking, and landscaping, and perhaps also room for some municipal parking. One level of underground parking either under the library or buried beneath a landscaped lawn should be possible. The library might even be able to generate revenue from leasing long-term parking space to commuters and people who work downtown.
The current library property could become a New Canaan Center for the Arts. The iconic 1913 Library core can be preserved and repurposed as the headquarters for New Canaan arts organizations such as the New Canaan Summer Theatre and The Glass House.
It is New Canaan’s budget season again and it appears we are having the same debate over the same start time proposal as last year.
The world has changed since a year ago, but the proposed scenario has not. The Board of Education has included $450,000 in the current budget which represents only 50% of the total cost for the proposed three-tier scenario. Note this is a 136% increase in the cost of the scenario as once thought. This is the scenario much debated across town that swaps our youngest students for our oldest students. Few schools in Connecticut have made a change to later start times and those that have led the charge (Greenwich, Westport and Norwalk) have not done it at the expense of the youngest.
It is with great sadness that we mark the passing of our dear friend Charlotte Rush Brown, MD. Her spirit of enhancing access to services for the senior community will forever live on within Waveny LifeCare Network. In the early 1960’s, many New Canaan residents were concerned that an increasing number of their neighbors, friends, and family, many of them long-time residents, were moving out of town because of a lack of appropriate housing and inadequate support services for the elderly.
With this concern for their community and with a heartfelt purpose, Charlotte and her husband, Dr. David S. Brown, along with several of their friends and clergy from seven New Canaan churches, established the Interchurch Service Committee to address this issue. These efforts eventually led to the planning of what later became Waveny Care Center. With the group’s perseverance, Waveny Care Center officially opened its doors on Sunday, April 6, 1975. Charlotte provided many wonderful years of guidance and support to Waveny, devoting hours of time in service to our seniors.
In 1998 through the Jeniam Foundation, Waveny was able to honor Charlotte and her husband David with the installation of the Brown Geriatric Evaluation Clinic for their role in the co-founding of Waveny Care Center.
This week on 0684-Radi0, our free podcast (subscribe here in the iTunes Store), we talk to Kate Simone, a 2005 New Canaan High School graduate and professional actress who recently moved back to town and is making her directorial debut with NCHS Theatre’s winter musical—“Oklahoma!”—which will be performed via livestream on March 18, 19 and 20. Here are recent episodes of 0684-Radi0:
The story of how our architecturally exceptional 1913 library was created captures an important moment in New Canaan’s history. It was planned and built during the confluence of two progressive reform movements that changed American and local culture: the public library movement promoting literacy and extending educational opportunity beyond formal schooling, and the city beautiful movement improving civic centers with classical architecture. New Canaan was ripe for both, with the library’s books and reading room ill-housed in a cramped second floor mid-block building above the Advertiser’s printing presses and neighbored by stables and saloons.
New Canaan was also then undergoing major demographic change, its declining industrial economy being transformed by the arrival of a large colony of summer residents attracted to the town’s scenery and train connection to New York. Among the summer residents here by 1911 were at least six accomplished architects who shared a classical approach to design derived from the Ecole des Beaux-Arts in Paris, a belief that architecture could dignify civic life, and deep experience in library design.
By 1911, an architectural design competition was a well-established means for communities to envision important public buildings. Originating in the Italian Renaissance, competitions produced the U. S. and Connecticut Capitols, the New York Public Library, and New Canaan’s Town Hall, to name just a few. Two things set the 1911 New Canaan library competition apart from the norm. First it was limited to the community’s “Beaux-Arts Six” —an extraordinary number of architects residing in any single Connecticut community at the time. And it countered the norm that the winning architect would be rewarded with a paid commission. For the New Canaan library, the invitation to compete was voluntary, waiving payment—an unusual, generous, civic-minded gesture by highly talented professionals.
The Library’s building committee, whose members reached deep into the community, was a major player in this process. It included a broad spectrum of year-round and summer residents–bankers, merchants, contractors, and civic activists, chaired by a Stamford industrialist with New Canaan roots. The committee selected Alfred Taylor’s winning colonial revival design with the advice of William Boring, the architect of the Main Immigration Station at Ellis Island who would swell the group’s number to seven in 1914. Within the Beaux-Arts Six, the scale and charm of the colonial revival style was considered to be the kind of classicism especially well-suited to civic architecture in a rural place like New Canaan. Taylor’s design was far from formulaic, drawing instead upon sophisticated design motifs originating in English country houses, in particular Chiswick outside London and Houghton Hall in Norfolk. Within rugged walls of carefully set local stone for colonial effect, Taylor composed variations of a neo-Palladian Venetian window in three places: formal and academic in today’s Salant Room; functional and utilitarian in the original stacks; and abstracted creatively at the entrance and flanking windows and blind openings on the front façade. These well-preserved features, fresh, inventive and rare in American architecture in their day, remain so today. [Wes Haynes is a member of the Friends of 1913 Library and a member of the Advisory Board of the New Canaan Preservation Alliance.]