State officials are deciding whether to allow the town to keep a new sign affixed to the train station building on Elm Street, officials say.
Town officials purchased the new sign for about $4,000 after the old one (pictured at right) fell into “really bad shape,” according to Public Works Director Tiger Mann. It went up last week.
In addition to the name of the town, the new sign includes the slogan “Next Station To Heaven” (more on the history of that below).
The state Department of Transportation, which owns the train station building though the town maintains it, received a comment regarding the sign, asking whether the state agency had played a role in its design or procurement, Mann said.
Now, the DOT “seems to have a little concern,” Mann said.
Reached for comment by NewCanaanite.com, DOT officials did not respond before deadline.
The state agency called the town and said they’ll figure out whether they’re going to allow the sign to remain, Mann said.
The DOT as a rule likes to have uniformity in its signage, Mann said. Typically the signs on train station buildings just indicate the location name. Mann said the town’s building superintendent had said the sign used to have the “Next Station To Heaven” slogan on it, though there’s no historical record demonstrating that.
The phrase itself has its origins in an 1891 article from New Haven’s The Weekly Record newspaper, according to a history that Joseph Sweet published in The Advertiser in 1985 and available for reading at the New Canaan Museum & Historical Society. The Record’s editor, longtime New Canaan resident Willard C. Warren, in a supplement to the paper devoted to his hometown, quoted a New York man with a summer residence in New Canaan who said, “New Canaan is the next station this side of heaven.” The appellation was picked up in 1899 when Will Kirk, editor of The Messenger—New Canaan’s weekly paper at the time—invoked widespread teasing and ridicule from editors at other papers in the region while defending the town against false accusations that it had mistreated Civil War veterans that had come here from Noroton for the Memorial Day Parade. Specifically, Kirk said he had lived in New Canaan for 20 years and “never found its citizens wanting in hospitality or Good Samaritan deeds and that he himself anticipated getting into heaven from the same attitude,” Sweet wrote in the history. After other newspaper editors mocked Kirk for the assertion, he published an editorial in The Messenger that started, “Because we made the claim that New Canaan is the next station to Heaven, several of our editorial brethren have said things about us we do not care to repeat.”
The state owns the station house and right-of-way of the train tracks, while the town manages the building and Metro-North Railroad leases the right-of-way from the state. If the town makes improvements to the property, such as paving the lot, it needs to get formal permission from the state prior to doing that work.
If the sign is not allowed, the town will replace it with another one and find a place for the one that includes the slogan.
“I can find a location on our property to utilize that sign,” Mann said.