Now & Then: Borough of New Canaan


Now & Then: Borough of New Canaan

This photo taken on Main Street looking South shows the Cody Pharmacy (on the right), the entrance to East Avenue (between the trees on the left) and the Raymond Building prior to the addition of the exterior paneling (also on the left.) While the photo is undated, the horse and carriage and the appearance of Main Street with its lovely sidewalks indicate that it was taken c. 1900. 

The reason Main Street had this appearance was because the borough of New Canaan had been created a decade before, and had been hard at work improving the village.

On January 5, 1889, Francis E. Weed and Junius Benedict submitted a petition to the Connecticut legislature for a charter to create the borough of New Canaan. In essence, borough governments, such as those already in existence in Stamford and Norwalk, could tax its residents within the borough to fund improvements to the village – something that residents living farther outside of Town did not want to do. Weed and Benedict wanted proper lighting, improved sidewalks, and a better police force. The legislature passed the bill and the borough of New Canaan was created on May 9, 1889. Its boundary began at Lakeview Avenue and Summer Street, ran west along the newly created Bank Street, past Park Street to the Railroad Station, north across Elm to what is now the Nature Center, and then east across Oenoke Ridge and Forest Street to the Five Mile River.  

On June 17, 1889, the borough of New Canaan elected its first officers, including a warden, six burgesses, a clerk, treasurer, sheriff, tax collector, three assessors and two auditors. The first warden was Dr. William Brownson, who lived at what is now 242 Main Street, and had been New Canaan’s first health officer. The borough took over the lighting of the 30 kerosene lamps hanging from poles, expanded the number of lights to 100, lay sidewalks, passed ordinances to prevent nuisances, and enforced ordinances with fines.  

Gradually, though, the idea of consolidating the borough with the Town government gained momentum. Borough services and improvements benefitted everyone, but their expense was born by a small few. Finally, on June 5, 1935, consolidation passed in both the Town vote and the borough vote. The borough’s functions were turned over to the Town and the borough dissolved.

“New Canaan Now & Then” is presented in partnership with the New Canaan Museum & Historical Society.

4 thoughts on “Now & Then: Borough of New Canaan

  1. Michael, these views of old New Canaan juxtaposed with a contemporary view are great. This requires a lot research. Thank you so much for making the effort to preserve our town’s history.

    • Thanks Chris. I will say that the team at the Historical Society, Nancy Geary and Mike Murphy, are very diligent about pulling together not just the old photos but also the terrific write-ups each week. They’re a dream to partner with.

  2. I remember Cody’s Drugstore with large apothecary jars. Going to Walter Stewart’s for shopping & fish market across on Main with sawdust on the floors

  3. In the early 1950s my mother, an RN, did private duty for old Mrs. Morse in her apartment above the Morse Agency on the corner of Morse Court and Main Street. Mrs. Morse reminisced about “racing” her horse & buggy up Main Street as a young girl. Your “Then” photo certainly brings that story to life.

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