New Canaan Now & Then: George F. Lockwood House 

Today features the home of George F. Lockwood located at 40 Cherry Street. The first time the house appears in town records is in 1849, when it was bought by Charles Benedict from Hezron Ayres.  

There is no mention of when the house was built or who owned it first. Hezron manufactured shoes in New Canaan at his shop on Brushy Ridge. In the 1830s, while his fellow manufacturers could only afford to pay their workers with drafts on the local general stores, Hezron paid his 46 employees in cash. Despite this success, his business eventually failed in 1851. Following Ayres, the next owner of the house, Charles Benedict, was another shoe manufacturer.  He was a partner in Benedict, Hall, & Co. located on the corner of Main and Locust Street where the firehouse now stands. (This building was the subject of a previous “Now & Then” article back in February.)  Charles was also one of the founding members of the First National Bank of New Canaan (originally housed in the vacant building next to Town Hall), as well as the New Canaan Historical Society. When Charles passed away in 1899, 40 Cherry Street was given to his son Charles S. Benedict.

New Canaan Now & Then: Siscowit Reservoir

Inspired by a donation from the Carrol-Ogden family to the New Canaan Museum & Historical Society, featured today is the Siscowit Reservoir off of Bowery Road just south of the New York border. 

John Raymond was probably the first to dam the Rippowam River to create the pond known as Raymond’s Pond.  He owned the surrounding land in the 1700s, and he may have built the first sawmill in the area as well.  (The remains of this mill were  still visible in the early 20th century just a few feet from the current dam.)  Around this same time, there was also a “Pocks House” on the west side of the pond towards Barnegat Road to treat those infected with smallpox. In 1848, when Thomas Anthony Comstock replaced the old sawmill with another on the pond, the name was changed to Lake Anthony.  Thomas and his wife had ten children, including the  Anthony Comstock who fought a tireless crusade against vice as the Post-Master, and self- appointed guardian of public morals, in New York City.  To make the name of the pond even more confusing, the Comstocks did not live near the pond or the mill, but a 1856 map shows one dwelling by the pond.  This house was owned by Tom Mead, so at the same time that some were calling it Lake Anthony, others called it  Mead Pond. The Comstock mill changed hands in 1867 and was bought by Jefferson Barlow Ogden. Due to the shallowness of the pond, it started to be called Mud Pond. By this point a small community had developed along the southern shore of Raymond/Anthony/Mead/Mud pond.  There was a general store, a blacksmith, an ever-present sawmill, and a number of houses, including one owned by Henry Peatt, a Civil War veteran, part time saloonkeeper, and charcoal maker.

Podcast: The History of Wedding Fashion and Tradition

This week, on 0684-Radi0, our free podcast (subscribe here in the iTunes Store), we talk to Nancy Geary, executive director of the New Canaan Museum & Historical Society, about the organization’s new exhibition. “I Do: The History of Wedding Fashion and Tradition” opened last week in the Town House, the main building at the Historical Society’s campus at the top of God’s Acre, and runs through Sept. 9. 

Here are recent episodes of 0684-Radi0:

New Canaan Now & Then: Birdsall House

With the arrival of the New Canaan train line in 1868, the quiet farming community of New Canaan opened up to the world.  The idyllic New England town quickly became a hot spot in the summer for seasonal visitors.  These visitors, typically from New York City, could easily spend a few weeks in the country to escape the hustle and bustle of the city and have relief from the heat.  In order to accommodate these tourists New Canaan was able to sustain five different inns.  Largest and grandest of all of these inns was the Birdsall House. The building that would eventually become the Birdsall House was built around 1823 by Bradley Keeler.  At this point it was a private two story home, but Keeler sometimes let travelers stay with him.  It was not until 1840 that the home officially became a hotel.  Almost twenty years later in 1859, the first extension was added to the building.  Finally on May 4, 1861 Gilbert Birdsall bought the inn for $4,700. Birdsall himself was a summer resident.  He was originally from New York City where he was a superintendent of the Third Avenue Street Railway Company.  In the summer, he lived on his 200 acre farm that was located on Brushy Ridge.  This farm was used as a retirement home for the horses that could no longer pull the street cars for his company.  Birdsall was not involved with the day to day aspect of running the hotel he had purchased, but instead left that to several different managers over the years. During Birdsall’s ownership, the inn gained the reputation for having clean, comfortable rooms and good food.   Downstairs there was a bar and a sitting room.  Eventually a billiard table was added to the sitting room and the manager promised “a handsome reward to anyone who can make 13 shots in one.”  Parts of the building were lit with gas lamps.  There was also a ballroom on the second floor, which was advertised in the winter as “the coziest dancing rooms in the state.”  At one point a dance school was conducted there as well.  The livery stable behind the inn also had an excellent reputation with at least one traveller going the extra miles so that their horse would have better fodder and bedding.   Thanks to its reputation, the Birdsall Inn hosted many of the town’s most important events.

New Canaan Now & Then: Armistice Day Parade

On November 14, 1918, the New Canaan Advertiser published “The Greatest Day in the History of the Town” which described the Town’s response to news of the armistice ending World War I. Around 5,000 people packed into the town center to celebrate the victory. Church, firehouse, and school bells rang out for 24 hours in celebration as parades and parties filled the cold November day with patriotism and joyful hope for the future as world peace was finally restored. The celebrations were begun by Ira Woundy, who was awoken at 3 a.m. by the noise of celebration from Norwalk and Stamford. Once outside, Woundy ran into T.B. Hall and the two made phone calls to Norwalk, Stamford, and New York City to confirm the news. They then went up the hill and began to ring the Congregational Church’s bell

Before dawn broke, the community awoke to sounds of bells and cheers of victory. From that point on it was an “impossibility to sleep,” as the Advertiser put it. Throughout the morning and early afternoon, the streets of New Canaan became a party. Around 2 pm, an impromptu parade formed with 500 school children at the front.