Entire contents copyrighted 2005 by Jack Sanders. Reproduction without permission is forbidden.
DANBURY & NORWALK TURNPIKE
Two turnpikes - roads for whose use a toll was charged - existed in Ridgefield during the first half of the 19th Century. One of them was sometimes called the Danbury and Norwalk Turnpike, an old name for the present Route 7 or Ethan Allen Highway.
The term first appears in the land records in an 1835 deed and was in use as late as 1915, according to an old property survey map in the town clerk's office. But in the 19th Century, the major portion of the road was more commonly and properly known as the Sugar Hollow Turnpike, at least from today's Routes 7 and 35 intersection south to Wilton.
Although "Danbury and Norwalk Turnpike" first appears in an 1835 deed, a Ridgefield Town Meeting in 1805 mentions a "turnpike" from Danbury to Wilton, perhaps this road. Land records as early as 1803 speak of "the Turnpike Road," but it is not clear whether the reference is to this road or the Danbury and Ridgefield Turnpike (below).
It is possible that the Danbury and Norwalk Turnpike was established around the same time as the Danbury and Ridgefield Turnpike, and was later taken over by the Sugar Hollow Turnpike Company.
It seems odd that in the land records, there is no mention of title to the turnpike land. Someone had to have amassed the property or right of way, yet not a single deed mentioning roadway acquisition has been found.
The state chartered the operators of turnpikes, and apparently these operators established a proposed route and filed it with a committee of the General Assembly, which approved, disapproved, or modified the plan. Thus, the turnpike operators apparently didn't have to deal with deeds, though their charter makes it clear that they had to compensate landowners for any property taken for the turnpike. Nowadays, the state files a deed for any land it acquires for roadways-such as for the "new Route 7."
This road and how it worked will be covered in more detail under "Sugar Hollow Turnpike."
In Wilton, Route 7 is today called Danbury Road, probably a shortened version of Danbury and Norwalk Turnpike Road.
"Turnpike" is a term derived from the wooden turnstile-like device which blocked the road at toll stations.
DANBURY AND RIDGEFIELD TURNPIKE
The Danbury and Ridgefield Turnpike, the other of the two turnpikes, extended from the present intersection of Haviland and Limestone Roads north along the path of the present Danbury Road (Route 35) to Route 7, and then north over Route 7 through Sugar Hollow, coming out at the end of the runway at the south side of Danbury Airport.
Although this road ran through the Sugar Hollow, it was not called the Sugar Hollow Turnpike. The Sugar Hollow Turnpike extended from the south end of the hollow down to Wilton and Norwalk, from from the north end of the Danbury and Ridgefield Turnpike through Mill Plain to New York State.
Research by Ed Liljegren of Ridgebury has placed the site of a toll station for this turnpike just north of the Danbury line, on the west side of Route 7, a bit south of Maplewood Road. The stone foundation, looking only like a stone wall, stood very close to the road, but was destroyed in the widening of Route 7 in 2005.
The Danbury and Ridgefield Turnpike Company was established by an act of the Connecticut General Assembly in May 1801, and by 1803 references to a "turnpike road" in this vicinity were appearing in the land records.
Ridgefielders were considering a new route to Danbury as early as 1787, for a Town Meeting that December "voted that ye selectmen view a place for a road to Danbury and make a report to a future meeting." The old road to Danbury (see Danbury Road) was rough, long, and hilly. What's more, after the Revolution, the state government pressed towns to improve intertown highways, and consequently the communications and commerce among communities.
However, it appears that Danburians-Joseph M. and Ebenezer B. White-eventually got the ball rolling and built this road, for they were incorporated by the General Assembly as "The Danbury and Ridgefield Turnpike Company."
George Rockwell in his History of Ridgefield says Sturges Selleck completed the road through Sugar Hollow in 1812. Selleck, an incorporator of the Sugar Hollow Turnpike in 1829, had a farm on what is now the IBM property along Maplewood and Bennett's Farms Road at Fox Hill.
The name continued to be used into the 1850's. By 1870, two deeds referred to "the old Danbury and Ridgefield Turnpike Road," suggesting it was by then a toll-free road.
Danbury Hill is an early 20th Century term for the area along Danbury Road from the end of Main Street north to the flats at Capps Hill Plaza, just before Farmingville Road. It was so called because the beginning of the road to Danbury went down this hill, which had also been called Island Hill (q.v.) as late as the 1930's.
DANBURY OLD CART PATH
Probably the earliest named road in Ridgefield, the Danbury Old Cart path, is mentioned in the first purchase of land from the Indians in 1708. The deed says the town's southeast corner (Branchville) was marked "at a rock with stone lai'd thereon that lyeth upon ye west side of Norwalk River about 20 rod northward of ye crossing or where Danbury old cart path crosseth the river..."
In Branchville, this road probably followed approximately the same path as the present Route 7. There is reason to believe that it veered off along Simpaug Turnpike into Redding, and thence up to Bethel (originally a parish of Danbury) to reach Danbury village. It could also have met the eastern end of Picketts Ridge Road in Redding, crossed over to Starrs Plain and then up over Moses Mountain, which was the main 1700's route to Danbury (see Danbury Road).
The route, probably an old Indian trail, joined Norwalk (settled in 1651) with Danbury (1685) and probably existed years before Ridgefield was settled, since the road was called "old" in 1708.
DANBURY ROAD (Path)
Danbury Road is another of Ridgefield's earliest road names, first appearing in the land records in a 1718 deed in which the proprietors gave Nathan Saint John an acre "lying west of Danbury Rhode and north of ye path yt goest to Timothy Keeler's meadow in ye Great Swamp under Copp's Mountain."
The original route of this road was quite different from the present-day Danbury Road, Route 35, which extends from Main Street almost directly north to Route 7 and on to Danbury.
The old road began at the north end of Main Street, where it does today, followed the present path down Danbury or Island Hill and out past Copps Hill Plaza. At today's Fox Hill Village, it followed the main road through the condominium development and returned to the present highway.
At the intersection of Limestone and Haviland Roads, called Mine Hill, Danbury Road veered eastward aver Haviland Road, across Route 7 (non-existent in the 18th Century), and over Pickett's Ridge Road into Redding. The route turned north over Starr's Plain Road into Danbury. After crossing through the Starr's Plain community, it passed east of Lake Waubeeka (meaning "a crossing place"), up and over Moses Mountain, the hill east of Route 7.
(Sugar Hollow, the path of Route 7, was extremely swampy, a condition that early road builders generally avoided rather than eliminated through draining and filling, and thus the old route took the "high road" to Danbury.
The old Danbury Road came out on what is now called Wooster Heights in Danbury. In fact, a dirt road still exists at this northern end and is called "Old Boston Post Road" by the city of Danbury. This route was for a while in the 18th Century the "northern" main road from New York to Hartford and Boston; the southern route was the "Post Road," US Route 1, along Long Island Sound (see Post Road).
For a while there was an alternate Danbury Road, sometimes called Danbury Path, which ran northeastward from the center of Fox Hill condominiums, connected with Limekiln Road, which led up to Haviland. This route went through some fairly swampy territory and was probably impassible at various times of the year, particularly spring. In winter it would have been fine for sleds, sledges and sleighs if the ground and water were frozen.
This shorter bypass was called Norrins Ridge Road or Orange Ridge Road and existed at least by 1750 when a deed refers to land "on ye east part of the town, near a place called Lime-Stone, by the road that leads from Ridgefield to Danbury, ye lower way."
Present day Danbury Road, north of Haviland Road, was not built until around 1801 or 1802 and then it was a turnpike (see Danbury and Ridgefield Turnpike). Being a shorter route, people were probably willing to pay to use it. However, the section over Buck Hill was undoubtedly difficult to cross in muddy seasons. On a map published in 1912, this section of Route 35 was labeled "the Hill Road" while Haviland Road was still being called Danbury Road.
Even in fairly modern times, the path of Danbury Road has been changed. As mentioned above, it formerly passed through what is now Fox Hill condominiums until the 1920's or early 1930's when the state installed the straightaway. A little farther north, the road used to pass across the front lawn of the Ridgefield Baptist Church property. The little north-south lane on the east side of Danbury Road running off Haviland Road was another old section. And down in the valley before Buck Hill, opposite Old Pierce Road, there's another old section off the west side of the highway.
Most of these improvements, which did away with or soothed out curves, were done by the state in the 20's and 30's. The state at first called the road Route 3, which included Main Street, West Lane, and South Salem Road, but was using Route 35 by the 1930's.
Reflecting the route of the old turnpike, the name Danbury Road today also applies to Route 7 from Route 35 north to the Danbury city line. Route 7 south of Route 35 is called Ethan Allen Highway.
"Danbury" literally means "fortified place of the Danes" and was taken from the name of a town in England. The community had also been called Swampfield and was once nicknamed "Beantown" because the land was said to have been bought from the Indians for a bag of beens (there are other stories of that name's origin). The Indians called the place Pahquioque, meaning "open place."
In early 1987 and then again around 2000, groups of Danbury Road business people tried to have the name of the southern section of the road changed to North Main Street, saying that the area had nothing to do with Danbury and shouldn't bear its name. They also felt the common interests of the town's two main business districts could be more closely tied if they bore names that connected them i.e., Main Street and North Main Street.
The proposal sparked a good deal of opposition from those who said it would cause confusion and who felt that a name that's been in use for nearly three centuries should stay in use. Some also felt that Danbury Road merchants were trying to cash in on the "flavor" of historic Main Street.
In 1987, Historian Richard E. Venus wrote The Press, saying changing Danbury Road's name would not do anything to make that area look better. "A rose by any other name would smell as sweet," he said. Thereafter, merchants and landlords concentrated on improving the appearing of this section of Danbury Road, which had long been called Gasoline Alley (q.v.).
Now just a short road, Davis Lane once extended farther west from Nod Road, then turned 90 degrees north and ran halfway between Nod Road and Wilton Road East up to Whipstick Road. A path still exists there, now used chiefly by children and horses.
Clinton Davis lived on the corner of Nod Road and Davis Lane from at least 1912 until the 1930's. He was a dairy farmer and, according to a nephew, former tax assessor Harold O. Davis (1905-1986), was "a good talker." His daughter, Josephine Davis Weed, still lived in the family homestead until the early 1980's.
Dawn Lane, a dead-end road off Haviland Road, was named for Dawn Lounsbury, daughter of Everett Lounsbury, the developer. The town accepted it in 1969.
It is interesting to note that the pond at the foot of Dawn Lane was offered to the town as a recreational site, particularly as a skating place. The offer was refused in the early 1970's because town officials felt that the ownership of the pond was not worth the possible liability.
In a deed drawn in 1744, Ebenezer Lobdell sold Stephen Gray 13 acres "at a place called Deer Hill." The name never appears again, and the location is unclear, though it was probably in the Limestone or northern Farmingville districts where both Lobdell and Gray had land.
DEER HILL DRIVE
Deer Hill Drive, a dead-end road off Cedar Lane, was laid out in 1955 and accepted by the town in 1959.
The developer was Earl DeWitt Etheridge, a Pan-American Airlines captain, who named the subdivision Mill River Hollow after the name of the stream feeding a pond that used to exist at the west end of the 15-lot development.
The road's name was probably selected for the many deer in the area. It is hardly an unusual name; in 1985, 22 of the 23 towns in Fairfield County had roads named after this animal, the largest of our common wild mammals.
There is no known pre-1880 record of Deer Hill in this vicinity, so Mr. Etheridge did not call up an ancient name for his road.
At least one map (1967) labels the western leg of this road as "Deer Run Road," a name not recognized by the town.
Deer are plentiful throughout town and are often seen even on Main Street. In fact, the deer population has become a problem by the 2000s that the town formed a Deer Committee, which deliberated for nine months and decided that controlled hunting should be employed to curb the deer population. The committee cited the high incidence of Lyme disease, damage to native vegetation, and large number of car-deer accidents. (Over the five-year period between April 2000 and May 2005, 883 deer on or along Ridgefield's roads were tagged by the Ridgefield police and reported dead to the State of Connecticut. Though very high, the total was estimated to be only a fraction of the actual number because many accidents are not reported and many deer wander off before dying of their injuries.)
Despite the encroachments of man on their territory, the deer have overpopulated the town because man has killed off or chased away the animals' natural enemies, such as wolves. Man has also provided ideal conditions for these edge browsers, offering lots of woodland for protection and lawn edges for eating.
DEER PIT, the
This very old and rather strange name appears in three deeds filed in 1721 and 1722, and then promptly disappears.
In one 1721 grant, the proprietors gave Jonah Keeler "five acres lying southeast of ye Deer Pitt..." Samuel Saint john in the same year received 20 acres there, and in 1722 was granted another 20 acres "lying at ye Deer Pitt" and 4.5 acres "lying on ye east end of his Deer pit lott."
The location is not known for certain. Because the name never appears after this period, the Deer Pit may have been within The Oblong, the one and three-quarter mile wide slice of the west side of Ridgefield that was ceded,to New York in 1731.
Both Keelers and Saint johns held land in or near the section of The Oblong known as the Southwest Ridges, now southeastern Lewisboro. In 1731, Samuel Saint john sold his house "on ye road to the Southwest Ridges," probably what is now lower West Lane.
A branch of the Keeler family settled very early in the area around the intersection of Routes 35 and 123 in Lewisboro and Ridgefield. So the Deer Pit may have been somewhere along Route 123 in Lewisboro.
What was a deer pit? Probably a method of trapping and killing deer - in the same fashion that wolf pits were used. On the other hand, perhaps the Deer Pit was used to corral the animals as in the "bucks pen" described under Bucks Pen Meadow (q.v.).
This Deer Pit may have been dug by the Indians, who used the deer meat for food and the hide for clothing, or even by the colonists, although I have come across no record of such a technique being employed by Connecticut settlers.
Records of place names compiled for the Connecticut Historical Society mention no other "deer pit" locality in the state. However, the list does not include Ridgefield's Deer Pit either. Nor is there any mention of it in several histories of the town.
In his novel, The Mucker, about a young Chicago street thug who winds up on a Pacific Island, Edgar Rice Burroughs writes, "His fall was a short one, and he brought up with a painful thud at the bottom of a deer pit - a covered trap which the natives dig to catch their fleet-footed prey."
DEER TRACK HILL ROAD
According to a town highway map published in 1958, much of Deer Track Hill Road is an old, abandoned highway that led from Route 7 to Fire Hill Road. It joined the east side of Route 7 about 500 feet south of New Road intersection, and ran northeasterly. Part of the east end of Riverside Drive in Stonehenge Estates (to where it joins Fire Hill Road) apparently was built atop this path.
The road may have been a deer track, but it's more likely that people, seeing the vestiges of an overgrown old road through the woods, simply thought of it as a deer path.
It is apparently not an ancient road, for it does not appear on maps of the town published in 1856 and 1867.
DePeyster Street, yet another old title for today's Rockwell Road, was named for the Misses Augusta, Elizabeth and Cornelia DePeyster who in 1895 bought the former Perry homestead on Main Street at the south side of Rockwell Road.
The name appears on a 1900 map showing the then-proposed village sewer system.
Depot Road is the little lane that leads from Route 7 across the Norwalk River to the Branchville railroad station or "depot."
The north-south road on the east side of the station house was the original path of what we now call Route 7 and is often called Old Main Highway (and for some illogical reason, West Branchville Road, though it's the easternmost road in town!).
Depot Road is actually a remnant of the old Branchville Road which, before Route 7 was built, angled southward from Florida Road intersection and then across the river at the Depot Road bridge.
Devens Lane is another of those "roads" that appear only on subdivision maps and were never developed, often having been turned into accessways to a couple of houses or driveways to single houses. This one appears on a 1958 subdivision off West Lane, east of Golf Lane.
Both it and "Taylor Lane" in this subdivision by Melish Thompson do not exist today. The source of the names is unknown, though they are probably family names.
DEVIL'S RUN ROAD.
Although the name appears on few if any maps, "Devil's Run Road" has for years been applied to the dirt road that runs from Bennett's Farm Road at Fox Hill north to the Bennett's Ponds. This is today the main roadway into the Bennett's Pond State Park.
The road was part of Col. Louis D. Conley's massive estate, begun around 1914. Elise Conley Cox (1909-1994), his daughter, once took this writer on a walk down this dirt road. She recalled that as a child, she knew the path as Devil's Run Road, but she did not know the reason for the name.
Mrs. Cox said that the road had once been part of an old mail route to Danbury, possibly connecting with the south end of Pine Mountain Road. Deeds in the 1800's and early 1900's mention a "mountain road from Miry Brook to Starrs Plain," which apparently passed north of the Bennett's Ponds and probably also connected with Devil's Run Road.
The late Harold Iles of Redding, who lived at the Conley estate in the 1920's, recalled that the road ran north across the stream connecting the ponds, and up into Danbury.
One Ridgefielder who has known the road for years (it was frequented by teenagers for the usual back-road recreations) maintains that the name describes the poor condition and wilderness-like setting of the road. The story goes that once you drove down the road, you wouldn't be able to get back - and the devil would scoop you up and carry you away into the woods in Ichabod Crane-like fashion.
In his book American Place Names, George R. Stewart says that "except when based upon Indian belief, there is no evidence that any of the numerous names (using "devil") arise from genuine belief in a devil." Often, he indicates, the name is used to reflect the roughness of the terrain. For example, "Devil's Canyon is a repeated name, and is quasi-descriptive, suggesting a place so difficult to pass that it must have been maliciously made by the devil. Devils Den, also a repeated name, is aided by alliteration, and indicates any unusually ferocious-looking rock formation."
While "devil" names are more numerous out West, there are at least 40 towns in Connecticut with place names mentioning the devil - showing that the technique of using the word to describe rough or wild terrain was not unusual in this part of the country. Connecticut Place Names records no other town with a "Devil's Run," however.
Dillman Court runs off Chestnut Hill Road, serving a 50-acre, 1984 subdivision by the Portland Corporation.
The Planning and Zoning Commission selected the name in November 1984 to recognize the late Michael Dillman, a civil engineer who was involved in the design of many subdivisions in Ridgefield and area towns over the years. Mr. Dillman, who had died earlier that year, "was an outstanding professional (who) served well this community and many of its residents for many years," wrote Town Planner Oswald Inglese.
Mr. Dillman, a Redding resident, was also well known as a collector and user of model railroad trains of all vintages.
"Dlhy Ridge" was concocted by town officials in the early 1970's when they were looking for a name for the new municipal golf course, opened in 1974. It is the only name in town that has no vowels.
The name recalls Joseph and Suzanna Dlhy (pronounced dill-ee, with the accent on the first syllable) whose farm now forms a large portion of the course (land was also purchased from the Leighton family).
Joseph Dlhy came to the United States from Czechoslovakia in 1910 and five years later, when he married Suzanna Boron, moved to Ridgefield. He was active in agricultural organizations in the area until his death in 1965. Suzanna Dlhy, who sold the land to the town in the late 1960's, died in 1976.
While hardly anyone apposed the building of the Dlhy Ridge Municipal Golf Course, the cost of operating and improving it once it opened was source of some controversy during the 1970's, especially among parents who were fighting cuts in school budgets. However, by the mid-1980's, the course had become not only very popular, but also profitable for the town, and hardly a critical voice was heard any more.
However, because so many people had trouble not only spelling, but pronouncing Dlhy, the town gradually phased out "Dlhy Ridge Municipal Golf Course" and phased in "Ridgefield Golf Course."
Dogwood Drive is another of the tree-named roads inspired by the vast Outpost Nurseries holdings.
A dead-end lane off upper Danbury Road, Dogwood Drive was named by Richard Conley of Connecticut Land Company for the dogwoods, both wild and planted by his father, Col. Louis D. Conley (see Outpost Pond). The Colonel started the nurseries, which at one time covered more than 1,000 acres of Ridgefield.
Perr Katz developed most of the lots and the town accepted Dogwood Drive in 1957.
Other roads in the Farmingville-Limestone area that owe their names to Col. Conley's trees include Poplar Road, Linden Road, Copper Beech Lane, Birch Lane, Laurel Lane, and probably Cherry Lane. Moreover, of course, there is Nursery Road, recalling the whole thing.
Although there are several kinds of native dogwoods, this road is named for the most familiar variety. The flowering dogwood or cornelian tree bears large, four-petaled flowers in spring. Each petal is nicked at the outside edge and the indentation is tinted pink. The tree is found wild throughout Connecticut and usually reaches a height of about 20 feet; in the South, it can grow to 40 feet. While many of the area's dogwoods have been suffering from a disease that gradually kills them, the blight is apparently not as severe as the one that has virtually wiped out the American chestnut.
Farmers used to watch for the leaves of the dogwood to unfold - just after the flowers -because that was said to be the time to plant Indian corn. The bark of its roots was used once as a substitute for quinine.
Donnelly Drive, which extends from St. Johns Road to Silver Hill Road, was built in the 1950's and was named for Joseph H. Donnelly, attorney, former probate judge, and former town counsel who, with Perry Scott, developed the subdivision. Part of the subdivision traversed property that had been a portion of the Donnelly homestead on Wilton Road West.
Judge Donnelly, who owned the Donnelly (Balducci) Shopping Center and other sizable commercial and residential properties, had long been one of the major landholders in town.
Although the town was more than two centuries old when he arrived in 1931, Joseph H. Donnelly was Ridgefield's first full-time practicing attorney. (By his death in March 1992, three dozen had offices in town.) An astute real estate investor as well as a successful lawyer, Judge Donnelly was the town's 10th highest taxpayer at the time of his death. He built the shopping center that Hay Day anchors, owned Main Street retail buildings, subdivided Donnelly Drive (his old farm), Marcardon Avenue, and the Scodon area (he's the don; bank president Carlton Scofield was the Sco). From 1935 to 1948, Judge Donnelly was the town attorney and was instrumental in getting zoning adopted. He was probate judge (whence his title) from 1941 to 1949, served on the Police Commission, was state representative from 1939 to 1941, and often moderated Town Meetings. He aided people-helping efforts like the Salvation Army, visiting nurses, and fire department. He "helped an awful lot of people - behind the scenes," his partner, Paul S. McNamara, told The Press. "He was reserved and preferred to remain anonymous."
The road was accepted by Town Meeting in 1956.
Doubleday Lane is a 725-foot road off West Mountain Road, serving part of the 1980 West Mountain Pines subdivision of Carl Lecher.
The road was named for James Doubleday, who bought the property in the mid-1950's. Mr. Doubleday built the large house at the top of the hill (replacing an earlier mansion, Hillaire, that he had razed and that had belonged to Joseph Conron - see Conron's Pond). He and his wife Elizabeth and bought and razed several mansions, replacing them with more modern houses.
Doubleday Lane became a town road around 1985.
Douglas Lane at Lakeland Hills off Bennett's Farm Road was developed in the 1950's by the late Harold Goldsmith on part of the old Todd brothers farm.
According to Annette Zelson, the road was named for Douglas Rosskamph, surveyor for Mr. Goldsmith on the project, who lived nearby. Douglas, she said, was born on or close to the day development of Lakeland Hills was begun. The Rosskamphs later moved upstate.
Douglas Lane was accepted as a town road in 1956.
Dowling Drive is another road named for a former probate judge and town counsel. Charles Elliott, who developed the road between Ridgecrest Drive and Stonecrest Road, selected the name of his attorney, John E. Dowling.
John Edward "Eddie" Dowling, one of only a couple of Ridgefield natives to return to town to practice law, may also have been Ridgefield's favorite - and most entertaining - attorney. "He's the sweetest guy around," said Superior Court Judge Patricia Geen at a 1985 dinner in his honor. He is a "classic Irishman, a rare jewel," added Judge Howard J. Moraghan.
Born in 1922 on High Ridge, Mr. Dowling grew up here, drove a school bus while attending Danbury State Teachers College, and went off to war in 1942. There he won the Soldiers Medal, the Purple Heart and the Bronze Star for heroism displayed in April 1945 when his anti-tank gun was blown off a road in France. Though he suffered shrapnel wounds to his back and lung, he dragged two of his comrades to safety. (A modest man, Mr. Dowling rarely talked of his war exploits and did not even receive his medals until 40 years after the war.)
After his discharge, he obtained a law degree from Fordham, and spent three years as an FBI agent in Illinois and Texas. He returned to town in 1950 and accomplished the then-incredible: As a Democrat he was elected judge of probate - the previous Democrat to win the office was D. Smith Sholes in 1879. He was only 29 years old, the youngest probate judge then in Connecticut. (He used to have a license plate, ED-29, commemorating that event.)
Judge Dowling continued to practice law here for most of the next half century, but also served the community as a member of the Board of Finance and the Veterans Park School Building Committee, as town attorney in the late 1960s, and as chief prosecutor in the Danbury Circuit Court. Famed for his sharp, wry wit, he regaled many with tales from his long career. Some stories were of his FBI days, such as the time, in a Midwestern field, he stalked a criminal who turned out to be a scarecrow. Some described his unusual law cases, such as the Bethel woman who left her sizable estate to a name she discovered using a Ouija board. And many were about life in Ridgefield, such as the time the Rev. Hugh Shields, who had been complaining for weeks about a pothole at a local gas station, grabbed a pole and went "fishing" in it to emphasize his point. But most of all, he's remembered as a caring man. "He's helped Ridgefield a lot," The Ridgefield Press once said. "He's one of the nicest guys in town, and if somebody needs a lawyer and can't afford to pay, he's the one most apt to help."
Developed in the 1950's., the road was not accepted by the town until 1975. Some subdivision maps shaw the western end of the road as "Elliott Drive."
Downesbury Court., a dead-end road off the north side of Florida Hill Road, serves a late-1970's subdivision by Roger D. Carpenter and William S. Valus. It became a town road in 1980.
The land was part of Downesbury Manor, the 300-acre estate of Col. Edward M. Knox, a hat manufacturer and Civil War hero, whose mammoth house had 45 rooms. Colonel Knox was wounded at Gettysburg, for which he received a Congressional Medal of Honor.
The neighborhood is rich in history. The grounds and an old house that stood on the state once belonged to Hezekiah Hawley, a Revolutionary War hero, whose son, Ebenezer, fought in the War of 1812 and was a prominent figure in early 19th Century Ridgefield.
George Washington Gilbert, the once-famous "hermit of Ridgefield," lived on the grounds-in fact, the Colonel built him a small house to replace the 18th Century family homestead that was literally falling down around Mr. Gilbert (see Hermit Lane).
The house at the 300 acre estate was built sometime around the turn of the century by Henry DeB. Schenck, who lived there only a few years before selling to Colonel Knox, who made many improvements. The estate had an indoor riding ring, miles of bridle paths, elaborate gardens, and a five-story high water tower.
"His stable was one of the best in town and his kindness and geniality are often recalled," wrote Harvey H. Keeler of Ridgefield in a 1938 issue of The Bridgeport Post. "He was a close friend of Mark Twain who occasionally drove (or rod, the train) from his home in Redding for a visit. In the spacious living room, these two men passed many hours, chatting before the open fireplace which is flanked with rare and beautiful tiles bought by Col. Knox from the Spanish Alhambra on one of his European trips."
The Colonel died in 1916. Pierre Cartier, the jeweler, bought the place from the Knox estate and lived there summers for a short while. Also for a short time, the Holy Ghost Fathers used the place; they also occupied the congregate housing building on Prospect Ridge as a novitiate until around 1970.
About 1928, Dr. Clyde Kennedy Miller bought the place and used it as a summer hotel. Then, around 1938, an all-year sports club began operation there, but did not last long. In 1942, a Western-style dude ranch, calling itself the Circle F Ranch, operated there.
Nothing tried at the manor was very successful, and the castle-like house was finally torn down in 1958. Most of the land has found its way into such subdivisions as High Valley, Ridgewood, and Harvey Roads.
Downesbury Court was originally proposed to be called Woodland Hill Court, but the name was abandoned because of the confusion it would have caused with similar sounding names.
Mr. Carpenter, who died in 1987, was a popular and well-known architect in Ridgefield, and contributed many hundreds of volunteer hours to the town, advising it on architectural questions-even the design of parking lots.
Druid is one of those place names that is incorrect, but no one really cares - or perhaps should care. It is, after all, more an attractive name than a significant one.
Druid Lane was so called because people connect Druids with Stonehenge in England. And the development into which Druid Lane leads from Route 7 is called Stonehenge Estates because the Stonehenge Inn is just across the highway.
But Druids had nothing to do with the creation of England's Stonehenge, the ceremonial stone structure on Salisbury Plain. According to Tom Burnam in The Dictionary of Misinformation (1975), "it used to be thought - and still is by many - that Stonehenge was erected by the Druids... Even now there is a modern sect called the Ancient Order of Druids, which annually celebrates at Stonehenge the solstice sunrise.
"Stonehenge, however, is a Bronze Age creation, going back to the second millennium BC, whereas the Druids in Britain were of the Iron Age, arriving there in the middle of the Third Century BC - that is, more than a thousand years later."
Druid Lane was originally called Jerry's Court, after the development's builder, Jerry Tuccio. But residents in the mid-1960's petitioned the selectmen to change it to Druid Lane.
Before Jerry's Court, it was called Still Road, being the eastern extension of today's Still and Stonehenge Roads. It formerly led up to Fire Hill Road, but today ends a short distance from Route 7. It had been called Still Road as late as 1960.
The road was developed in the early 1960's and was accepted as a town road in 1964.
Dump Road is another name for Old Quarry Road, according to a reference in the minutes of the Board of Selectmen in October 1957.
The road was one of two entrances to the old town dump, later a landfill, and now the site of a "transfer station" from which Ridgefield's trash is hauled away to a waste-to-energy plant.
The dump operated from early in the 20th Century until, under order from the state Department of Environmental Protection, which said the landfill was polluting Great Swamp (q.v.) and the Norwalk River, the town closed it in August 1980. Decades of trash lie under the present transfer station, school bus yard, and highway department storage area, extending back to where the WREF radio antenna tower is located.
In 1740, when the estate of James Bennett (of Bennett's Farm) was being broken up among his heirs, son Ephraim received around nine acres "lying in Dutchman Swamp" and bounded on all sides by common land.
The name is rather odd, especially for one originating from early 18th Century Ridgefield. However, a possible derivation can be pieced together.
John Stirdevant (or Sturdevant), one of the original proprietors, came from a Dutch family, either first or second generation. He may well have been nicknamed "the Dutchman" by his fellow settlers. Stirdevant owned land in the vicinity of Dutchman Swamp, for in 1741, he sold Ephraim Bennett 11 acres in two parcels "in Bennets Farm at Buckspen Swamp." Buckspen Swamp (q.v.) was north of Fox Hill Lake, east of Shady Lane. Dutchman Swamp was probably close by since Ephraim owned land at both places.
A 1914 drawing of the landscaping plan for what is now "the old high school" bears a penciled-in label of Dutton Lane for what is today eastern Governor Street (as it runs between the school and the police station).
E.P. Dutton of High Ridge, founder of the still-extant book publishing imprint bearing his name, was the chief contributor among a group of Ridgefielders who bought land on East Ridge for a new grammar school and in 1912 gave the property to the town. The new school was completed in 1915. In 1927, the high school grades were included in the building, which was expanded several times over the years and finally closed in 1972. The old school, now called the Richard E. Venus Municipal Building, is in 2005 used by the school board offices, town land-use agencies, the Visiting Nurse Association, and others.
Dutton Lane may have been suggested as a name for the street to show appreciation of Mr. Dutton's contribution. If it was ever actually used, the name never stuck.