Compiled by Jack and Sally Sanders
Ridgefield’s population is 2,626.
Five years after a fire destroys much of the business district, the Ridgefield Water Supply Company begins providing service, including hydrants, on June 13.
First National Bank and Trust Company of Ridgefield formed. A half-century later, it merges with Fairfield County Trust Company, which later becomes Union Trust, which is in the 1990s bought out by First Union. Purely coincidentally, the current owner’s name makes use of the first names of the first and last owners before it.
In October, the Ridgefield Branch of the International Sunshine Society is organized to help shut-ins.
The Ridgefield Library and Historical Association is chartered and begins building a new library.
The Borough of Ridgefield is established in April to create and maintain services such as sewers and gaslights in the village. A Board of Burgesses oversees the operations until the borough government is abandoned in 1921 in favor of a “village district.”
On May 10, The Press observes: “If every automobilist would show the same carefulness and consideration shown by Dr. (R.W.) Lowe, with his Locomobile, there would be fewer complaints from horse owners.” It is the first mention of an automobile in Ridgefield.
Throngs surround the telegraph office on Main Street Friday, Sept. 6, to learn the fate of President William McKinley. Ridgefielder William S. Hawk, with the president until just before the assassination, wires confirmation of his death at 7:30 p.m.
"The dog show and pet animal exhibition held in the rear of the Casino of the Ridgefield Club last Friday afternoon was not only a financial success, but it was successful as an exhibition," the Sept. 12 Press reports. "They were all in fine temper, allowed themselves to be petted and seemed to be delighted with the attention they attracted."
First motion picture is shown in Ridgefield – the funeral of President McKinley and a travelogue projected in town hall by Edison Projectoscope Company.
208 children from the city arrived in late June for their stay at Life's Fresh Air Farm in Branchville.
First Christian Science meeting in Ridgefield is held.
New village sewer system is completed in June.
The Press reports in July that H.B. Anderson has been purchasing land on West Lane to "erect a handsome summer home." The place would later be F.E. Lewis's Upagenstit, now the Manor Estates.
To show their patriotic spirit, 130 Italians working on sewer and water projects in the village organize a Fourth of July parade down Main Street, over West Lane and High Ridge, Catoonah Street, Governor and East Ridge, complete with band.
A mad dog shows up one Sunday in July, bites lawyer Sam Keeler, attacks dogs and children, and kills a cat before A. W. Northrop grabs a gun and "ended its career." Dr. R.W. Lowe cauterizes Mr. Keeler's wound.
The Rev. Horace W. Byrnes tells local Methodists that he found empty liquor bottles out back of the church, consumed perhaps by "husbands blighting the lives of their wives and blasting the future of their children" or by "boys who were breaking mothers' hearts and bringing fathers' gray heads in sorrow to the grave."
Sereno S. Hurlbutt, tax collector for 21 years, retires in October, having handled hundreds of thousands of dollars and having "accounted for every penny."
The Ridgefield Library moves into its new building, the gift of James Morris in memory of his wife, Elizabeth W. Morris.
Thieves blow up the post office safe, steal the postmaster’s horse and carriage, dodge bullets fired by Constable Frank Taylor, and escape —though one man was wounded. Postmaster William Barhite reports later he kept no money in the safe, which was unlocked to start with.
George I. Johnson becomes the first Ridgefielder to get a new state-required license plate for his car. His 1903 one-cylinder Rambler runabout bore number 688.
Dr. B. A. Bryon buys a piece of land at the top of Titicus Mountain on which a rock spring flows, names it St. George Pure Water, and plans to erect a bottling house to sell the water.
Alan S. Apgar installs an almost unheard-of two acres of lawn at his new mansion, Stonecrest, off North Street.
In August, young Willie Rascoe is sitting outside the Titicus store as two young ladies pull up in a buggy to let their horses drink from a trough. Something goes amiss as the horses pull away and the buggy almost turns over. But Willie, "ever prompt especially when the distressed parties are young and pretty," rescues the girls. "The boy hero" then hides in the store till the commotion is over without ever stopping for thanks.
The year was the coldest of the century, with 45 days at or below freezing in New York City.
In March, the selectmen warn that more money is needed to maintain roads "else the good roads we have now will go to pieces."
Mary Rebekah Lodge, the Odd Fellows for women, is established in April, and for decades each Halloween sponsors the popular Masquerade Ball that benefits various local charities.
The Ridgefield Country Club's caretaker burns grass to trim around the golf course, goofs, and winds up burning down the club's horse sheds on Golf Lane and almost ignites Francis Bacon's place on Peaceable Street.
The George Bennett family is sitting down to dinner in Titicus one evening in August when a bullet enters the house, hits a teapot and ricochets into the mouth of the Bennett boy, Allen. He survives.
An expert on electrical lighting tells town officials in September that Ridgefield should allow a generating plant near the station. "The wires will be carried through the side streets and supported on neatly painted poles, which will harmonize with the surrounding trees," The Press says. "Service will be started in the early evening and run until daylight, thus providing light during all the hours of darkness."
Seven buildings are leveled as fire sweeps the Sturges Selleck farm in the Bennett's Farm district in late November. All the animals are saved.
On April 20, the engine of the 8:20 a.m. train from Ridgefield to Branchville jumps the track, overturns and scalds engineer William Horan to death. The Press's headline: "Horan's Tragic End."
The ladies of the Congregational Church sponsor a Japanese sale and supper at the home of S.S. Denton on Maple Avenue (northern High Ridge). Called the largest-attended supper ever given in a private home here, more than 200 people dined.
Ridgefield Electric Company is organized to provide the town with power. Coal-burning generator is erected on Ivy Hill Road.
A firebug is blamed as two large fires break out in village businesses in two days. Howard Fillow is seriously injured fighting one fire.
A freight train from Danbury to New York City jumps the track Nov. 19 near Branchville, and 17 carloads of hay, potatoes, apples, coal and hardware are strewn along the tracks.
Dr. D. Everett Lyon lectures at town hall on "The Wonders of the Microscope," showing enlarged pictures of a flea, which has "the strongest muscular development of any known living thing."
The Ridgefield School for Boys is established by Dr. Roland Jessup Mulford on southern Main Street. During the summer months, the school building becomes the Ridgefield Inn.
The selectmen vote in March to pay J. G. Hawley $10 in compensation for sheep killed by roaming dogs.
That spring 21 voters petition for a town meeting, feeling the tax rate of eight mills is too high.
As Dr. and Mrs. A.L. Northrop sleep upstairs April 7 in Good Cheer, their West Lane home, thieves enter, have a feast in the kitchen, and steal hundreds of pieces of silver, valued at thousands of dollars, as well as $2 worth of postage stamps. They escape in a buckboard.
"Last Friday afternoon, Main Street looked as though half the population of the town had turned out to hear and see the Hon. William Jennings Bryan," the April 25 Press reported. The three-time presidential candidate and famed orator spoke in town hall.
Edward J. Couch dies in May. Ninety-two years later, the Aldrich Museum exhibits an art construction celebrating him and his collection of stuffed native birds.
Constable Frank Taylor finds the horse sheds behind St. Stephen's Church ablaze in May and "a horse securely tied, which was being roasted." He rescues the animal, which survives.
S.D. Keeler's elevator on Bailey Avenue is heavily damaged by fire July 2.
An "automobile parade" takes place on the Fourth of July. "It is suggested by the managers that drivers of timid horses avoid the route…"
The school board votes $550 in August to install eight "automatic flush closets" in the Center School. The less expensive manual flush units are $430.
Cass Gilbert buys the Keeler Tavern in August.
"There have been many stories around town lately that the water we have been getting from Round Pond was not pure and that there were germs of disease, etc., in it," the Aug. 15 Press reports. Dr. R.W. Lowe has tests performed. Nothing bad is found.
Around midnight Aug. 22, Arthur B. Cole, 20, steals a horse from Sperry's livery stable and rides to Danbury, where he sells the animal for $100. He is captured the next day and "young Cole enjoys the distinction of being the first prisoner ever brought to Ridgefield in an automobile as well as the first ever taken to Bridgeport jail from here in the same manner."
Effective Sept. 1, all automobiles in the state must be registered. Fee is based on horsepower ($3 under 20 hp, $5 20 to 30, $10 more than 30; motor bicycles, 50 cents).
The state passes a law requiring notices of town meetings to be printed in a newspaper.
Seventy-five men form the St. Mary's Club in the recently opened parish clubhouse in November.
"Don't think that because my elevator was burned out that I can not supply the demands of my patrons, as I have plenty of oats and a fair supply of other feed," said an ad from S.D. Keeler that runs for weeks.
Mrs. Minnie A. Dingee of Branchville alleges that one day in March, conductor Frank A. Lacey "jumped off his train near Branchville and hugged her by force." She sues. He denies the charges. Each side has witnesses. In December, Judge Howard B. Scott in Danbury awards her $100 damages. The headline: "A Costly Hug."
At the Methodist Church Cotton Carnival in February, young men are challenged to sew carpet rags. Arthur G. Seymour wins for neatest work. Julius G. Ficket gets the booby prize. "The efforts of the gentlemen in trying to sew caused much amusement."
St. Mary's Club discusses consolidation -- closing the one-room schoolhouses and sending children to one centralized school. Proponents say children get a better education; opponents say it's expensive.
A front page story in March offers tips on fighting the Gypsy Moth caterpillars.
"Mr. A.B. Hepburn, one of the most prominent financiers of the country, former comptroller of the currency and now president of the Chase National Bank of New York, is building one of the most handsome homes to be seen in this town of beautiful homes," the May 14 Press reports. The house is dubbed Altnacraig. Eighty-four years later, an arsonist burns it to the ground.
General David Perry, the only Ridgefielder ever to rise to the rank of general, dies in May. He is called "a noted Indian fighter."
Two boys follow one lad's father into a Whipstick field. While the father sets up targets for practice, one boy picks up a rifle and accidentally fires it, killing six-year-old Walker T. Bailey Jr. Just four years earlier, Walker's 13-year-old cousin, Bertrand Bailey, is killed when a rifle discharges in his South Salem home.
The town marks its 200th birthday in July with ceremonies, orations, a parade, and a special bicentennial book.
Several "toughs" from Danbury, who attend a Ridgefield baseball game in August and "brought something stronger than water with them," brutally attack Ridgefield fans, are arrested by Constable Frank Taylor, and fined $10 each. .
Registration of dogs begins. Untagged strays are impounded and owners pay $5 to get them back.
In "the most hotly contested town election in years" that October, Benjamin Crouchley wins first selectman and Samuel Keeler, second selectman. Both are Democrats in a town that, even then, almost always elects Republicans.
"An army of men" is at work in December, building F.E. Lewis's estate on West Lane, complete with a 1,100-foot macadamized driveway with electric lights every 125 feet.
New firehouse on Catoonah Street opens late in the year, replacing town hall basement quarters.
Ridgeburians are shocked in early January when James Reynolds, an old and prominent resident, is "slain and mutilated" by a bull. Mr. Reynolds was killed almost instantly, but evidence indicates the bull tossed and dragged him all over a field. "The injuries upon the body were inflicted by the vengeful animal," the medical examiner says.
Ridgefield's new telephone office opens in "a compact, well-equipped office on Governor Street" in March.
The major debate this year, as last, is what to do about the ancient dirt roads as more automobiles appear. The selectmen investigate oiling.
The Ridgefield School on south Main Street, incorporated in 1908, options the former Edmonds farm north of Lake Mamanasco on which to locate a new campus.
"Barking dogs not to be tolerated," says the headline May 7 about a new state law cracking down on annoying dogs.
Surveyers are in town in May, laying the route of a new Danbury to New York City railroad line due to be completed by 1914.
Work is completed on Fairlawn Cemetery on North Salem Road that summer.
The Press advertises in May for "a bright, active boy" to learn the printing trade "for which there is an ever increasing demand."
State crews begin oiling main highways in town in July. "Tar is an admirable dust layer, but little of it has been used in this state as of yet," The Press says.
A rare porcupine takes up residence on Catoonah Street in August.
Ridgefield’s population reaches 3,118.
John P. Mannion is walking along the railroad track near the village station Jan. 11 around 8 p.m. when he discovers the body of Eugenio Frulla of Abbott Avenue, who had just been struck and killed by the 7:38 train.
Angry selectmen chastise State Highway Commissioner McDonald’s “proverbial failure to make good his promises” in June after many complain about the “intolerable dust nuisance” of Main Street. The commissioner had promised to spray Tarvia B on the road by May 20, didn’t, and the selectmen took the initiative and began sprinkling water on the dirt road.
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Sunset View, a small hotel on West Lane, catches fire March 9 and burns to the ground while the owner, Thomas Kiernen and his family, are in church. A “firebug” is blamed.
Lucius H. Biglow’s new Tudor-style store and office building on Main Street is completed in the spring. The telephone company and Brundage and Benedict are the first occupants.
The state House votes down woman suffrage in April, but both Ridgefield representatives are in favor.
Two months later, a big anti-suffrage rally takes place at the town hall. “The woman of the past decade specialized on children and the men on work,” Mrs. John Preston Martin tells the audience. “Now man has stolen woman — drafted her into the service of making money for man... Forcing woman out of the home into the cares and worries of the outside world is wrong and is wearing on her.”
The new Congregational parsonage opens in April containing “11 rooms with all modern improvements and a charming little sun parlor included.”
Burt Dingee is walking his dog along the track in Branchville Friday night, June 20, when he is struck by a northbound train. With his dog at his side, he lies helpless all night in the pouring rain. When the 6 a.m. train out of Danbury approaches Branchville, the engineer spots the dog standing in the middle of the track, barking at the locomotive. The dog refuses to move. The engineer stops the train, discovers the victim, and summons medical help. Burt Dingee recovers.
The Italian American Political Club, later the Italian American Mutual Aid Society, is organized on Nov. 20.
The District Nursing Association, now the Visiting Nurse Association, has its first meeting Oct. 15.
The Ridgefield basketball team defeats the Germans of Danbury, 58-27 on Jan. 7. Francis D. Martin leads all scorers with 12.
Benjamin Franklin Grammar School opens on East Ridge. Twelve years later it becomes Ridgefield High School.
The new St. Stephen’s Church, completed the year before, is formally dedicated May 30. It is the fourth church building for the parish, founded in 1740.
The public school system takes over operation of the kindergarten, which had been founded in 1894 and for many years had been operated by the Ridgefield Garden Club.
A huge explosion at the DuPont Powder Mills in Haskell, N.J., Jan. 12 is felt in Ridgefield as “quivering and shaking as though a mighty gust of wind.” Many think it is an earthquake and people at higher elevations can see the sky lit up by the blast 70 miles away.
First graduation takes place at Hamilton High School on Bailey Avenue (now the municipal parking lot).
The school budget totals $25,996.
The first Chautauqua program, aimed at educating and entertaining the common people, opened with a parade of school children waving flags and flowers and took place under a tent on East Ridge. Ten more annual shows would take place.
Red Cross chapter organized here Nov. 28 to help with war effort.
Postmaster Willis S. Gilbert announces in January that under new federal orders, “male citizens, denizens, enemies or subjects of the German government or of the Imperial government, the age of 14 and over, who are in the United States and not naturalized or American citizens,” must register as “alien enemies.”
Charlotte Wakeman is named Ridgefield’s first school superintendent.
In September, word is received that Private Everett Ray Seymour had become the first of three Ridgefielders to die in World War I.
The massive influenza epidemic prompts officials to cancel the Danbury Fair for the first time in its history, the lead story in the Oct. 8 Press reports.
A packed town meeting in October unanimously backs President Wilson and supports “unconditional surrender or a fight to the finish” in the war against Germany.
On Nov. 7, false news reaches Ridgefield that Armistice has been signed. Virtually the entire population turns out, church and school bells ring all afternoon, and a parade led by the Ridgefield Band marches down Main Street.
In December, “a moving picture machine of the latest model is being erected in the Parish House of St. Stephen’s Church … and there will be shown every Sunday evening and on stated week evenings pictures of an educational character.”
The 18th Amendement -- Prohibition -- is ratified in January and takes effect a year later. Connecticut is among the states that does not vote for ratification.
William Rascoe is arrested after he uses “filthy and profane language” at First Selectman Orville Holmes who is investigating a report that Rascoe had dug a large hole in the middle of North Salem Road.
Fifteen members of two Casaveedio families barely escape with their lives just before Christmas as their house on Bennett’s Farm Road burns down.
Ridgefield’s population falls to 2,707, a drop of 400 in 10 years.
Twenty teachers (most of the staff) submit resignations March 9 in a salary dispute with the school board. Teachers return March 16 and in May, get a raise. The highest-paid teacher is making $150 a month, the lowest, $70.
The American Legion post is organized Aug. 20 and named for Everett Ray Seymour, the first Ridgefielder to die in World War I. It plans to erect a war memorial.
Hubbard’s Radio Store on Main Street sets up a receiver in the town hall in November so Ridgefielders can listen to the returns that show Harding and Coolidge beat Cox and Roosevelt. Before this, Ridgefielders had gotten returns by telegraph.
That winter, "hot lunches" -- cold sandwiches with hot cocoa -- are provided for the first time for children of the Ridgefield Grammar School, thanks to the Ridgefield Mothers Association, District Nursing Association, Red Cross, Sunshine Society, and the Franchise League. The lunches are for 200 of the school's 400 children, mostly bused, who can't walk home for noon break.
The League of Women Voters has its first meeting on Feb. 23, 1921, less than a year after women win the right to vote.
Kathryn G. Bryon establishes the first Ridgefield Girl Scout Troop —Troop One.
The Village District replaces the borough to oversee sewer, light, hydrant, and other specialized center services. It has its own town meetings to approve budgets and special tax rates.
Lightning strikes a shed at Mortimer C. Keeler's farm at Whipstick June 23, igniting a blaze that spreads to barns and stables. The fire department's "motor apparatus" responds, but can do little.
The school board hires Charles D. Bogart as superintendent, but the state refuses to certify him. The board reconsiders, but retains him on a 5-4 vote. Pro-education forces are outraged.
On Oct. 3, in the first town election after the passage of the 19th Amendment the year before, Marion Nash wins a seat on the School Committee (Board of Education). Not only is she the first woman elected to a town office, but she also gets more votes than the three men who run for the board do. At the committee's first post-election meeting Oct. 11, Miss Nash is given a welcoming speech and "a handsome, large bunch of flowers."
A 28-room mansion built by William S. Hawk around 1890 burns to the ground in a spectacular blaze Oct. 21. The place has been vacant for some years.
Six days later, Felsenberg, the West Mountain mansion of diplomat William Harrison Bradley, burns to the ground, destroying 5,000 books -- many of them rare -- as well as historic documents, antique vases, china, and jewelry. The blaze starts a forest fire on the mountain.
The New Haven Railroad registers vigorous protest in November to the state's granting a jitney license to the Trackless Traction Company, which wants to run a bus service from Stamford to New Canaan, Ridgefield, and Danbury.
A seven-passenger Hudson goes out of control on Danbury Road in November, "turns turtle" in a ditch, and catches fire with four people inside. Passerby John Nelly, "a man of powerful strength," tears open the car, allowing all to escape. The Press headline: "Miraculous escape from cremation."
Joseph Roche and his roommate Vincense Reneri, a Branchville storekeeper, quarrel on the platform of the Branchville Station Nov. 6. Roche stabs his friend to death and disappears.
Dr. John Perry, the school physician, announces in December that all children will have their eyes tested. "He is convinced that 5% of the children cannot see the blackboard."
Francis D. Martin is selling The New Edison, "the phonograph with a soul." He demonstrates the device to a large audience in town hall in December, comparing the Edison with live singer Helen Davis.
The state police open headquarters on West Lane, covering all of Fairfield County with troopers on motorcycles. "Lawbreakers nowadays, whether crooks breaking a bank in the city or committing depredations in the rural sections, nearly all use the auto to make quick getaways," The Press said. "The motorcycle cop is a decided advantage over an officer on horseback who would have small opportunity of stopping or overtaking an auto."
In mid-December a gasoline stove explodes at Coleman's Lunch Café behind the town hall, severely burning Ben Brown, the "right bower," and destroying the restaurant. Owner Michael Coleman rebuilds.
A Manhattan bus hits and kills A. Barton Hepburn, president of the Chase National Bank, on Jan. 25. The owner of Altnacraig on High Ridge bequeaths more than $5 million to universities, colleges, and family members.
The state in March begins paving Wilton Road West, then dirt, with concrete and straightens the road in the process. The abandoned Flat Rock School houses workmen.
Ernest Scott moves some buildings, tears down others, as he begins erecting the Scott Block on Main Street in April. (The Addessi family now owns the block.)
The school committee reports in April that among the 689 children in the public schools, attendance is running at 88%. The high school has the best rate: 92%.
For roadwork, the selectmen that spring buy a kerosene-fueled tractor, perhaps the first town-owned motor vehicle. "One of the great advantages of a tractor is its economy," The Press reports. "Its running expenses are comparatively light and it will do the work of four horses."
The Press in April begins a campaign of criticism against the water company after Bates' Garage on Bailey Avenue burns down, igniting several nearby buildings, including stores and an apartment house. The Press says the water company failed to keep its standpipe full, leaving virtually no pressure to protect the buildings adjacent to the garage. The paper cites other fires, including the Hawk mansion in 1921, when firefighters lacked water pressure.
In May, the state is still in the throes of dealing with early versions of daylight saving time. Half the businesses in town -- including the Ridgefield Savings Bank -- are on "standard time" while half -- such as First National Bank and Trust -- are on "advanced time." An attempt in 1923 to ban "local option" on daylight saving time is defeated in the state senate.
Holy Ghost fathers buy former Cheesman house on Prospect Ridge for a novitiate that lasts till early 1970s.
The Town School Committee adopts new course requirements for Hamilton High School, making it more likely graduates can get into colleges. It includes four years of Latin, three years of French, plus courses in general science, physics, chemistry, algebra, geometry, and trigonometry.
In June, woodcarver Sebastiano Grassi gives an elaborately carved chair to President and Mrs. Warren G. Harding in honor of the calling of the conference on world disarmament. The chair is placed in the White House.
The post office on July 31 moves from east side of Main Street to the Scott Block (where Addessi’s is now) and remains there till 1959.
In the great brouhaha that summer, Dr. H.W. Allen wants the two trees in front of his new brick retail building at 423-27 Main Street removed because they block the view of the businesses. The tree warden refuses, citing a petition from the garden club and letters from others supporting the trees. Allen appeals to the County Commissioners. They order the trees removed, then suddenly reverse their decision after an "influential person" speaks up for the trees.
State Police Officer John C. Kelly visits the Ideal Garage on Danbury Road July 20 to have his motorcycle fixed. He notices a furniture truck with two suspicious occupants, checks the cargo, and uncovers 225 gallons of grain alcohol valued at $1,400. He and Officer Leo F. Carroll arrest the men and lock them up in the town hall basement. Later in the day, in court in the town hall, the two are fined $167 each. "Both fines and costs were paid by a stranger, a man driving a large touring car, who was apparently waiting outside."
Catoonah Street is paved in September.
In the fall, townspeople debate removing the watering trough from Main Street in front of town hall. "This fountain is in effect a 'filling station' for horses," says B. Ogden Chisholm. "No thoughtful person would sanction a filling station for motor cars on the main highway." But Mrs. Cass Gilbert says it should remain as a memorial to editor and author, John Ames Mitchell, who designed and donated it.
The School Committee closes Farmingville and Scotland Schools in January because the teachers at each have resigned. "It is exceedingly difficult to secure teachers at this season because of the requirements demanded by the State Board of Education," The Press says, adding that pupils will be transported to Titicus and Benjamin Franklin schools in "covered" buses. "The children will assemble at their respective school where they will be met by the bus. The school houses will be opened and kept warm so that the pupils may be sheltered from the elements.”
Darius Crosby Baxter, the founder of The Ridgefield Press in 1875, dies March 7. "Mr. Baxter was a unique character and his individuality stood apart from the average," The Press says, adding he was "gifted with good business acumen and a sense of humor. He had many terse sayings."
The Press reports in March that "to the shame of Ridgefield and its lack of protection, rowdies took possession of the village center Sunday afternoon and bombarded passing motors and pedestrians with dirty snow. The humiliating part is that some of these boys come from respectable homes and all are old enough to know better."
Parishioners celebrate the 30th anniversary of Father Richard E. Shortell's tenure as St. Mary's pastor April 23 by giving him a surprise party -- and a new Cadillac Coupe.
The School Committee in May decides to erect a new high school on East Ridge, next to Benjamin Franklin Grammar School. The two-story, 120-foot long building would contain eight rooms on the first floor and a 400-person auditorium on the second. Total cost: $60,000. Voters later approve, but the town runs into financing difficulties and the high school becomes an addition to the grammar school -- sans auditorium.
In June, The Press reports that a Bridgeport newspaper chastises the town because lots behind village stores "resemble a combination of Johnstown after the flood had subsided and a second-class Kansas cyclone. Just why a town will be so fussy on the front of a set of lots and so careless at the rear is hard to understand…"
In what might be the first sidewalk sale in Ridgefield, village merchants hold "Ridgefield Dollar Day" Aug. 30. "Every one of its leading stores has exceptional surprise bargains to startle many of the out-of-town shoppers and specials that will delight the 'bigger Ridgefield business boosters.' " The Press says the week after the sale that many turn out and "while not so large in scope as similar sales in larger cities, yet it was of much higher quality. Only the best merchandise was offered."
That fall, Jeweler L. P. Cartier leases his "Downesbury Estate" on Florida Hill Road to the Paulist Fathers, who set up a novitiate there with 20 candidates for the priesthood. The operation is short-lived.
On Oct. 22 at 7 a.m., a northbound Oldsmobile truck is descending Limestone Hill on Danbury Road when its axle breaks. The truck overturns, spilling its content of grapes -- and 35 gallons of grain alcohol. The driver and a passenger disappear. "The grapes spilled over the road and some of the cans of alcohol also were thrown out and broke, the odor at once giving information to people who stopped as to the nature of the secret contents," The Press says. "Evidently that was the reason why the driver and the other man did not linger in the vicinity."
A November half-page ad for Schultze's Meats and Fish "at the old Hibbart Market" includes (prices per pound) pot roast, 16 cents; rib lamb chops, 38 cents; Porter House steak, 44 cents; frankfurts, 22 cents; milk-fed roasting chickens, 38 cents; Puritan sliced bacon, 45 cents; sirloin steak, 38 cents; Prime rib roast, 26 to 34 cents; Sunlight butter, 55 cents; and pure pork sausage, 25 cents.
John Hubbard, local radio store owner, picks up a concert in Honolulu, the most distant radio broadcast ever heard in Ridgefield. Earlier he had received broadcasts from England.
"The Town Hall was never more artistically or prettily decorated," The Press reports, describing the Girls Athletic Club's annual New Year's Eve dance with the music of Sterling's six-piece orchestra from Norwalk.
A January front page announces: "The Press will continue progressive during 1924." It's not a statement of political philosophy, but a report that new equipment -- an Autocaster -- is being purchased to allow "advertising illustrations and comics," and that Francis S. Avery, "a systematic organizer" and a veteran of New York and other city dailies, has been added to the staff. Soon, large banners replace tiny front-page headlines. Graphical gewgaws appear all over. Pictures even show up weekly. The Press looks like a city daily for a few months and then Mr. Avery and modern typography disappear, and The Press returns to looking like a 1924 country weekly.
George Washington Gilbert, known far and wide as “the Hermit of Ridgefield,” is found frozen to death in his home that January.
Miss Ella J. Rose, supervisor of home economics for the state school board, tells the School Committee in March that "there was something wrong in Ridgefield" because only 10 students are signed up to take home ec the next year. Twenty-four are needed to run the course. "Miss Rose said home economics should be given to the girl nearest the time when she could use it," The Press reports. "Fourteen years is the minimum age."
Dr. Harry E. Bard, a former school superintendent in the Philippines, is elected Ridgefield's new superintendent in May.
Nearly 1,000 people attend the dedication of St. Mary's new cemetery on June 1.
With the arrest of three young men, state police in June break "a gigantic chicken-thieving ring" operating in the area. The ringleader is the father of one of the boys. He's described as providing "vicious home surroundings" for his son, who can neither read nor write and is trained only in stealing chickens.
In June, state police also arrest Alfred Payne for arson. Troopers say he has burned several barns and other buildings around town in recent months.
The American Legion dedicates the new War Memorial on Main Street at Branchville Road on July 4.
Five youths from New York City are arrested for "loud and boisterous talk and free use of profanity and foul language" after their car breaks down in the middle on the night on Wilton Road West near Flat Rock.
Years of motorists complaints about the muddy condition of the Sugar Hollow Road (Route 7) between Ridgefield and Danbury prompt the state to spend $113,000 that summer to pave the road with concrete.
The Ridgefield Electric Company announces in August it will soon receive its current from Connecticut Light and Power Company instead of generating its own at the Ivy Hill Road power station.
Town Clerk and Probate Judge George G. Knapp dies suddenly in September of "acute indigestion." He is 41.
Constable Roswell L. Dingee shows up at state police headquarters Sept. 20 with a carload of people -- two men and three women -- he'd pulled over on West Lane. He asks Sgt. John Kelly to arrest one for reckless driving. Kelly says Dingee should make the arrest himself. Dingee declines, saying he doesn't know which person to arrest. Kelly is suspicious. Dr. H. W. Allen is summoned, examines Dingee, and finds him to be intoxicated. Kelly arrests Dingee for drunk driving. He's fined $100.
A "syndicate of doctors" buys Downesbury Manor on Florida Hill Road to establish a sanitorium.
The last passenger train from Branchville arrives at Ridgefield station (now a Ridgefield Supply Company warehouse) on Aug. 8. The service, begun in 1870, is no longer profitable.
The number of motor vehicles registered in town totals 1,061; 36 auto accidents are reported during the year.
Teachers stage a play, Adventures of Grandpa, raising over $400, a local record for a fund-raiser, to help the schools.
Italian American Club opens its new quarters on Prospect Street on Jan. 29.
A proposal from leading citizens to adopt zoning “creates great commotion” at a packed Town Meeting, which vetoes the idea, 224-169.
Two bandits, one wielding a revolver, the other a cheese knife, rob $50 from Pasquale DeBenigno’s Store in Branchville in April. A shot fired at Mr. DeBenigno misses, goes through four shoes on a shelf, and is lodged in the toe of a fifth. A few months later, part of Mr. DeBenigno’s house burns down.
Hamilton High School, renamed Ridgefield High School, moves to the East Ridge School. The old Hamilton High becomes the Garden School for primary grades.
The Press reports eight people, mostly truck drivers, go to jail in the past year in Connecticut for “hogging the road.”
Throngs attend 150th anniversary of Battle of Ridgefield on Memorial Day. Celebration includes parade, speeches, ball games, a band concert, and a dance.
Giants star Rogers Hornsby signs a ball raffled at Ridgefield Base Ball Club benefit in June.
Mr. and Mrs. Francis D. Martin begin a 14-month driving tour of the U.S., Canada, and Alaska in August.
Dominic Fossi kills a six and one-half foot water adder on Prospect Street after it frightens Miss Grace Clark. It is called “the largest reptile ever seen in Ridgefield.”
That fall state police arrest a dozen Ridgefielders for “shooting craps.” After a packed trial in town hall, each is fined $5 and costs.
A Wyandot cockerel and 15 pullets are stolen from Lewis Losee of Main Street. He offers $50 reward for the poultry, $100 if the thief is caught.
George L. Rockwell’s History of Ridgefield is published in November.
The school board votes to install electric lights in the Titicus School, as long as the Titicus PTA pays for it.
Harold Finch buys the United Cigar Store on Main Street in January.
Arthur D. Horton named school superintendent and serves 14 years, longer than any Ridgefield superintendent.
Harvey P. Bissell sells his drug store to J.J. Kelly. Edgar C. Rapp would be the pharmacist, but the Bissell name would remain.
The state rebuilds and paves Danbury Road, eliminating many curves.
Japanese electric lanterns furnish the light in town hall for the first annual Firemen’s Dance.
Francis Martin family returns in August after traveling 23,000 miles around North America.
Three Ridgefield firemen escape serious injury when their Reo chemical truck, responding to an alarm, overturns, pinning them underneath. Six others on the truck are thrown clear.
A gas explosion and fire wrecks several stores in the Scott Block (now Addessi block) on Main Street. No one is seriously hurt, though little Fred Rux is blown off his bike as he rides by.
The venerable Corner Store, erected in the early 1800s at the northwest corner of Main Street and West Lane, is torn down. The building had also served as a shirt factory for some years.
The Grove Inn on Danbury Road burns to the ground in a spectacular fire March 14.
The Lions Club is founded, led by Francis D. Martin. Twenty members join.
In December, 375 people give $833 to the Christmas Seals campaign to fight tuberculosis.
Ridgefield’s population is 3,580.
The Hill Top Service Station on Wilton Road West burns to the ground March 17, killing two dogs and severely burning owner Harry Tripp, after a gasoline camp stove explodes.
Silver Spring Country Club is organized July 5.
John Dowling, 73, an upholsterer and Spanish-American War veteran, steps into Main Street in front of Bissell’s and is killed by a car, the first of two pedestrians to die on Main Street that year.
In August, teenagers Thomas Brady, George Mulvaney, and Joseph Pierandri are returning from a firemen’s carnival in Brewster when their Chrysler is run off the road by several drunks in a car. A man pulls a gun and starts firing at the boys, who flee. No one is arrested.
Baltimore Orioles hurler Big Jim Weaver comes to town Sept. 20 to pitch the Ridgefield Pros to a 5-2 win over Brewster.
Ridgefield Savings Bank moves into its new Main Street headquarters Oct. 20.
Crossing Main Street in front of her house on Nov. 9, Librarian Marion Nash of the Ridgefield Library is killed by a car.
State Police raid a Prospect Street house, seizing a “large quantity of intoxicants,” including 30 barrels of wine, 33 pints of whiskey, and a five-gallon still.
Ridgefield architect Cass Gilbert, designer of the Woolworth Building, refuses to predict the future of skyscrapers “because he was not sure that that form of architecture was here to stay.”
In the wake of the Midwestern drought, the Ridgefield Red Cross chapter sends $500 to aid “the suffering that is rife in 21 states in this powerful and rich nation.”
Luke Kilcoyne, “Ridgefield’s pride,” defeats his Hartford opponent in less than 10 minutes in a Knights of Columbus wrestling match in March in the town hall.
Joseph H. Donnelly becomes the first lawyer to open a full-time practice in Ridgefield.
The District Nursing Association votes that spring to intensify efforts to have all town children inoculated for diphtheria.
Fire Chief Joe Bacchiochi is teaching his men how to use the new Seagraves fire truck that arrives in April.
A Danbury company begins in August to build nearly four miles of a new West Mountain Road, replacing what’s now Oscaleta Road.
Schultze’s Sanitary Market on Main Street advertises shoulder steaks for 20 cents a pound, lamb shoulders for 15 cents, and veal for 15 cents.
Dog Warden Joe Zweirlein warns dog owners in January that rabies is around.
Tom Clark scores 12 points to lead Prosperity to a 25-20 basketball win over Depression in town hall in March.
Police arrest Fritz Loeterle, proprietor of Bailey Avenue Lunchwagon, and four customers for gambling, but The Press declares Loeterle is a “decently behaved youth,” the victim of delinquents. “There have been times when Fritz has been run out of his own lunch wagon by the rowdies.”
The Lions and Garden Clubs cooperate in May to provide free land on which unemployed Ridgefielders can raise food.
First nine holes of Silver Spring Country Club open May 28 and all 18 are ready July 2.
On July 31, Officer John Palmer is responding to a report of an illegal peddler at a baseball game on East Ridge when a car hits his motorcycle at East Ridge and Governor Streets. He is killed, the first Ridgefield policeman to die in the line of duty.
An entrepreneur reopens the silica, mica and feldspar mine in Branchville that summer.
A truck carrying 100 kegs of illegal beer is captured on West Lane in September and three men, including an ex-con, are arrested.
Hundreds view a parade down Main Street in October for the 200th anniversary of George Washington’s birthday year.
A state aid cut threatens school bus service. The state had paid a third of the town’s $9,000 busing cost.
The Ridgefield Boys Band, disbanded in December 1932, is replaced in April by The Oreneca Band, “a new and better band.”
$15,000 in silver is stolen from Mrs. F.E. Lewis of West Lane. State police soon arrest Sing Sing parolee “Big Frank” Dreger, “the smartest silver thief in the United States.”
600 people crowd town hall in May for the Lions Club “Community Get Together,” featuring music, dance, and speakers.
The talk of the region is the new “Merritt Highway,” proposed to run through south county towns.
Kenneth Northrop wins a new Plymouth sedan in a Ridgefield Press subscription-selling contest.
Ridgefielders join the state in June in voting for the repeal of Prohibition. The margin: 6 to 1.
That summer many businesses adopt Roosevelt’s NRA program to improve employment and set a minimum wage.
Though district schoolhouses like Branchville are in bad shape, a town meeting in November votes 177-38 against a new $70,000 school addition that would allow consolidation of grammar school pupils and closing of outlying one-room school houses. Times are too tough, voters say.
Dr. George W. Andrews tells 100 teenagers in November that the “modern moving picture is degenerating and is the problem of today’s society.”
Two sacks of first class mail, headed for Ridgefield, are stolen from Branchville Station in December.
170 unemployed Ridgefield men show up at town hall to apply for jobs under Civil Works Administration plan in early December.
Outpost Nurseries ships a 60-foot Norway Spruce to Rockefeller Center.
The Cott Wine and Liquor Store opens Feb. 1, the first new liquor store since Prohibition was repealed.
Francis Rowland and Chuck Walker rescue skater Enzo Bartolucci, 18, from the icy waters of Lake Mamanasco.
“Worst Blizzard Since 1888 Grips All New England” says the banner headline Feb. 22 after more than two feet of snow falls. Drifts as high as eight feet are reported and roads are impassible for miles.
The economics class at the high school puts Adolph Hitler on trial. Rabbi Stephen Wise of New York sends data to help the students.
A May manhunt seeks the Faruggia brothers, former Ridgefielders described as “religious and social fanatics,” who kill a New York City policeman and a bystander while on their way with two gallons of gasoline “to burn down the first Roman Catholic church they came to."
Eliza Gage Wade of North Street, who remembers talking to Revolutionary War veterans, turns 104 on May 27. She dies three weeks later.
State Rep. Alice V. Rowland announces she’ll run for state senator—and wins. She is the first and last Ridgefield woman to hold that office.
Eleven of 20 living pupils of Miss Jennie Holmes’ at the Flat Rock Schoolhouse in 1883 gather to honor her in July as she nears her 80th birthday. She began teaching there in 1873.
The Triple Brothers Circus comes to town Aug. 1.
St. Mary’s dedicates three new altars Aug. 5.
Ridgefielder William Wright, a 17-year-old seaman, is credited with rescuing several passengers as his ship, the Morro Castle, burns off New Jersey, killing 133.
Frank L. Hilton, a retired New York banker, stands on the sidewalk in front of the First National Bank on Main Street at 6:45 p.m. on Oct. 15 and puts a bullet through his head. “Simply one of the thousands who thought they could not carry on any farther,” he says in a note. “Cause of death: suicide. Reason: Financial worry.” It is the height of the Depression.
A mass meeting in February discusses Dutch Elm disease after federal authorities begin removing diseased trees in the area. None have yet been found in Ridgefield.
The local laborers union petitions the selectmen to raise the wage of town workers from 40 cents an hour to the 50 cents that federal relief workers are getting locally.
A Plymouth automobile salesroom opens in March at the Tidewater Garage on Danbury Road.
In March, First Selectman Winthrop Rockwell proposes $100,000 in projects for the federal Public Works Administration grants. He includes a $50,000 auditorium for the East Ridge School.
A front-page editorial March 28, headlined: "UNFAIR -- UNPATRIOTIC -- UNSOUND," denounces the big estates in town that are having work done by "outside firms and labor." "Ridgefield men can do Ridgefield's work," the editorial says. "Give them a chance."
After a four-day strike in April, the painters' union agrees to a wage of $7 for eight hours of work. Painters had been getting $6 for seven hours.
Walter Evans collects 23,733 tent caterpillar egg masses to win a Ridgefield Garden Club contest aimed at curbing the defoliators. In all, 239,628 egg masses are amassed.
Ridgefield marks the state's Tercentenary that summer with the "greatest parade ever to be seen in Ridgefield," as well as exhibits and tableaux. In October, two Ridgefield floats -- the Italian-American Club's and the First Congregational Church's -- appear in the state parade in Hartford.
After a three-year delay, John L. Walker is confirmed in July as postmaster.
A September town meeting approves selling alcoholic beverages in Ridgefield hotels and restaurants on Sundays.
The new A&P liquor store opens in September on Main Street. Old Overholt rye is $1.99 a pint.
Francis D. Martin opens his new jewelry store on Main Street in October. It's the forerunner of today's Craig's Jewelry Store.
The Lions Club distributes 100 food baskets at Christmas.
Police say 46 auto accidents occur in town this year, two fewer than 1934.
The post office cuts back its hours in January -- closing at 6 p.m. instead of 7 Monday through Saturday.
Stamford Community College offers Ridgefield High School graduates free tuition, thanks to a WPA program.
The Democratic Town Committee votes in February to support closing Titicus Schoolhouse and expanding the Center School on East Ridge.
Tight times force the schools to drop the lunch program in March. The District Nurses decide to provide milk, but must stop by May because the schools have no way to refrigerate the drink.
A Torrington company, rebuilding a half dozen town roads, has trouble finding laborers willing to work for 45 cents an hour after someone tells workers union scale is 62 cents.
The Abbe children -- Patience, Richard, and Johnny -- of West Lane are a national sensation, as their travel book, Around the World in 11 Years, becomes a best seller.
Responding to the fact that many can no longer afford magazines or daily newspapers, The Press in May expands from eight to 16 pages a week adding many national features plus the "World's Best Comics," including The Featherheads, Mescal Ike and Finney of the Force.
In May First National opens a new market in the Scott Block, described as "one of the most beautiful combination meat and grocery markets in Fairfield County." Tom Clark is manager.
A 27-year-old Branchville woman is charged in May with manslaughter after beating her three-month-old daughter to death.
St. Mary’s Parish charters Boy Scout Troop 76.
By a 251 to 229 vote in June, a Town Meeting rejects establishing zoning in the village.
The town marks the state’s Tercentenary with a big parade down Main Street.
Because so many business people are parking along Main Street, the selectmen establish a two-hour parking ordinance.
Gene Tunney, former heavyweight boxing champion of the world, plays a round of golf in July at Silver Spring Country Club with John Wheeler of Ridgebury.
800 watch a "donkey baseball game" in July, sponsored by the American Legion.
Eleven Ridgefield women, most of them wealthy, create the Ridgefield Boys Club on July 22, 1936.
On Tuesday, Aug. 18, Francis J. Bassett is driving down Wilton Road West when he stops for a car parked near the middle of the road. "Will you get over?" he asks the driver. He looks more closely. "Oh, please excuse me, Mrs. Roosevelt," Mr. Bassett exclaims. "That's all right, young man," replies Eleanor Roosevelt, wife of the president.
American Mercury magazine, a leading periodical, says in September it's moving its offices to Main and Governor Streets.
In a GOP caucus contest, George L. Rockwell easily defeats two women challengers for state representative. Rockwell gets 319 votes; Mrs. Hugh Shields, 67; Mrs. Charles W. Weitzel, 19.
In November, Mrs. Roosevelt's husband takes the nation by a landslide, but Ridgefield goes for Alf Landon, 1,203 to 556.
The Ridgefield Thrift Shop opens in the Donnelly Block on Main Street.
In early January, Ridgefielders learn of plans for a new parkway proposed by the Fairfield County Planning Association that would run from Pound Ridge through New Canaan, southeast of Ridgefield Center past Putnam Park in Redding, through Newtown and on to Hartford. The goal is to connect New York with western Massachusetts. It gets nowhere.
The temperature hits 92 in the sun on Main Street in mid-February; a month later the whole town loses electricity in a severe ice storm.
In March, the School Building Committee selects Cass Gilbert Inc. to design an auditorium, gymnasium and additional classrooms for the Center School on East Ridge; the cost is estimated at $250,000.
In April, Outpost Nurseries gets the contract to supply full-grown trees to be planted in Flushing Meadows for the 1939 World’s Fair in New York; on July 1, the Outpost Inn opens on the nurseries’ property on Danbury Road.
Townspeople are up in arms over state highway department plans, announced in June, to enforce parallel parking on Main Street, to change the speed limit from 20 to 30 m.p.h., and to put in a rotary at Main and Catoonah Streets.
Lightning strikes and kills nine Jersey heifers at Robert Lee’s farm in Farmingville in June.
That summer A. Bacchiochi & Sons pours concrete onto a sunken ledge of jagged rock to form the dam that creates a 45-acre lake on Seth Low Pierrepont’s estate. Today the water is called Pierrepont Pond.
Also that summer, with $92 in cash and $2,250 in borrowed money, brothers Karl and John Nash buy The Ridgefield Press, a $12,000-a-year-gross newspaper that under Karl Nash grows into a multi-million dollar group of newspapers.
The Board of Education votes to close the pre-school at the Garden School so that pupils from the Titicus and Branchville Schools can be transferred there and those remaining “little red schoolhouses” can be closed. Townspeople rally for a new school and later in the month learn there will be no federal money for the addition to the Center School on East Ridge.
A town meeting on Oct. 29 approves a $250,000 bond issue for the Center School addition, gymnasium and auditorium.
On Jan. 6, 1938 the new Ridgefield ambulance takes its first passenger to the hospital: Aldo Casagrande, injured in a fall on the ice. The new service is free to townspeople; the ambulance was acquired by the fire department, which raised $2,000 by public subscription to buy it.
The Ridgefield Press goes from broadsheet to tabloid size on Feb. 17.
On March 1, hundreds watch as a fire destroys the 20-room mansion of Mr. and Mrs. H. Steele Roberts on Peaceable Street, built less than a year earlier for the sizable sum of $55,000.
The Last Man’s Club has its first dinner on March 31. The club, made up of 31 Ridgefield World War I veterans, meets annually to dine until only one man remains – Thomas Shaughnessy in 1989.
Joseph Dlhy's "big hound dog" dies March 31 after being bitten by a rattlesnake in the woods in Ridgebury.
Plans are announced in April to build "a beautiful, modern air-conditioned motion picture theater" on land to be acquired for $7,500 from the Ridgefield Library. In 2000, the library buys back the old playhouse, now Webster Bank, and its land, for $1.5 million.
The first Firemen’s Ball takes place in May. The annual tradition would continue until the 1970s.
In mid-May The Ridgefield Press moves from the Masonic Hall to a building formerly known as Walters' garage at 1 Bailey Avenue.
The Ridgefield Teachers Association, the collective-bargaining agent for the town’s teachers, is formed.
The Ridgefield School, a private prep school for boys on North Salem Road, closes for lack of enrollment and alumni support. It started in 1907.
The Sept. 22 hurricane takes a heavy toll on the town's trees; about 100 were reported down and many more damaged.
Construction of the new classrooms, auditorium, and gymnasium at the East Ridge School begins Nov. 1.
The Socialist candidate for Connecticut governor, Jasper McLevy, gets 181 votes in Ridgefield; the majority favor the eventual winner, Republican Raymond E. Baldwin, who also defeats Wilbur Cross.
Actor/director/coach Michael Chekhov moves his Chekhov Theatre Studio from England to North Salem Road, where it remains during the war.
Ridgefielders celebrate President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s birthday with the Shipwreck Dance, to raise money for the March of Dimes. The Jan. 30 event in town hall raises more than $100, at admission of 50 cents per person.
The Press reports in February that more than 100 townspeople were then vacationing in Florida.
On May 4, Gloria Morgan Vanderbilt, the quintessential “poor little rich girl,” is spending a few days at the Outpost Inn (under the assumed name, “Miss Whitney”) when she is stricken with appendicitis and is rushed back to New York for emergency surgery.
On May 25, four train carloads of cast iron pipe arrive for the Ridgefield Water Supply Company, to be used to replace old pipe and extend some lines in the village.
The Ridgefield Branch of the Red Cross is mobilized to help refugees in occupied Europe, and eventually, to help American soldiers. By 1945, more than 20,000 articles of clothing are knit or sewn by the women.
The last of the “one-room” district schoolhouses (though some had two rooms) close in June — Titicus, Farmingville, Ridgebury, and Branchville.
On June 15, the 100-foot high water tower at Downesbury Manor burns in “one of the most spectacular blazes in the history of the town."
A Works Progress Administration project begins in June to alter and improve the athletic field on East Ridge at the high school.
The new classrooms on East Ridge added to what had been called the Center School are in use as school opens in September.
On Sept. 8, the Ridgefield Chauffeurs Club has its first Chauffeurs Ball at town hall, to benefit the District Nursing Association.
With the beginning of war in Europe, the Sept. 7 Press reports “Local People Flee Europe at Outbreak.” That year on Christmas Eve, Ridgefielders join fellow Americans in lighting up the night to celebrate the country’s freedom from the war-caused blackouts then occurring in Europe.
On Oct. 9, the town’s night policeman, J. Ebert Anderson, dies in town hall of a single gunshot wound from his service revolver, which discharged when he accidentally dropped it. He is the second Ridgefield constable to die while on duty.
Just in time for Veterans Day, the Board of Education on Nov. 9 transfers the Titicus School to the American Legion Post for its headquarters.
Nearly 500 people see the first basketball games in the new gymnasium on East Ridge; Ridgefield’s two squads both defeat their Bethel opponents on Nov. 28. On Dec. 22, the first school dance takes place there.
Ridgefield’s population is 3,900.
A severe blizzard, with 70 m.p.h. winds, hits the town in mid-February. Three weeks later a severe ice storm does more damage to town trees than the hurricane of 1938 and leaves the town without electricity for three days.
Harvey Lown, tax collector for more than 12 years, is arrested in January for embezzling $14,000 of town money.
Miss Anne S. Richardson donates an ambulance for war work in Great Britain in June. In August, three English children come to stay with their aunt and uncle, Mr. and Mrs. Douglas Elder, "for the duration of the war."
Ridgefield Playhouse opens March 26 on Prospect Street and shows first movie, “Broadway Melody of 1940,” starring Fred Astaire and Eleanor Powell, plus the Disney cartoon, “The Ugly Duckling.” Closed around 1973, it’s now Webster Bank.
Gene Casagrande and John Moore open Casa-More market on West Lane in April. Today called West Lane Deli, it is the only neighborhood grocery store left in a residential part of Ridgefield.
In April, Alex Santini bowls 200 consecutive games in one night at the Brewster Alleys. His average: 155.
Eleanor Roosevelt dines at the Outpost Inn on Aug. 1 and calls Ridgefield "a very very charming place." She drives to the Inn herself.
Peter Lockwood of High Ridge lands a 7-pound, 23-inch long bass in Lake Mamanasco on Aug. 29. It's believed to be one of the largest fish ever caught there.
Workmen at Outpost Nurseries find the skeleton of a woman in a shallow grave in Farmingville on Sept. 29. Although State Police investigator Leo Carroll enlists the help of a forensics expert at Yale and work on the case continues for months, the identity of the victim is never determined. She had died violently about 10 years earlier.
All men between the ages of 21 and 35 register for the military draft on Oct. 16; about 570 complete the process as schools close for the day and flags are ordered on display.
Joseph H. Donnelly is elected the town's new judge of probate on Nov. 5.
The Rotary Club is established in January with Clifford Holleran as its president.
A Stamford school announces in January it's bought the former Lewis estate/Culbertson property on West Lane and will establish Gray Court Junior College there. Classes begin in the fall with 70 students and a faculty of 14.
Goodwill Community Church, serving many of Ridgefield’s blacks, established March 5 in chapel of First Congregational Church. A year later, it bought the old creamery on Creamery Lane, holding services there until the 1970s.
A town meeting on Aug. 11 approves the first zoning in the town's history, establishing a residential zone on Main Street south of Governor Street. The move keeps proposed stores from being developed at the corner of Governor and Main.
Junior Fire Department is organized in August; first chief is Si Bellagamba. During the war, the teenagers help the depleted ranks of the regular fire department.
Tommy Manville, the asbestos heir and "famous playboy," marries "Miss Bonita Edwards, 22, a Broadway showgirl" on Nov. 18 in the office of Probate Judge Joseph H. Donnelly, who waives the normal five-day waiting period. Mr. Manville, 47, takes his fifth plunge into matrimonial waters. By the time he dies in 1967, Mr. Manville has been married 13 times -- to 11 women.
On Dec. 8, the day after Pearl Harbor, the town begins manning an airplane-spotting tower behind the high school around the clock seven days a week. Staffing continues until May 29, 1944 when the Army decides the threat of an enemy bombing raid is over. The 200 people who staff the post, mostly women and children, report more than 2,000 planes.
On Dec. 11, the day Italy declares war on the U.S., and the U.S. on Italy, the Italian American Mutual Aid Society passes a resolution of loyalty and support for America.
The State Police begin training a volunteer corps of auxiliary state policewomen in January at the Ridgefield barracks. It's announced that people will no longer be able to take their driver's license exams at the barracks.
Outpost Nurseries sets up sawmill on Route 7 to cut huge timbers for Navy patrol boats, mine sweepers, PT boats, and other small craft. President Roosevelt’s Hyde Park supplies some of the trees.
On March 19, John Sherman Vissches is Ridgefield's first draftee.
Sereno T. Jacob asks for $25,000 for civilian defense projects; a town meeting later authorizes $2,500.
The PTA asks the school board in March to cut lunch period from 60 to 30 minutes so kids can get out at 3 o’clock instead of 3:30. Because of long bus rides, some pupils aren’t getting home till 4:30.
Dr. R.W. Lowe, school doctor since 1927, retires in April and is replaced by Dr. F.B. Woodford.
On May 7, Barry Finch, age 4 days, is the youngest applicant for a war ration book.
The new airplane spotting tower opens on East Ridge July 23and 100 volunteer spotters get their orders.
The Ridgefield Lions Club honor roll, bearing the names of all men in the armed services, is dedicated in town hall in September; by 1943, added panels are needed to list all the names.
Fire destroys a North Salem Road home on Oct. 29 and, much to the firemen's surprise, reveals a huge hoard of canned goods, some hidden within the walls.
Ridgefielders Fred McManus and Ruth Unwin escape the deadly Coconut Grove fire in Boston in December. Nearly 500 people don't.
On Jan. 7, Charles D. Crouchley prepares to close his auto supply store and retail gas station in the Scott block on Main Street to devote himself to his new position, president of the Ridgefield Savings Bank.
Just a week later the lead headline in The Ridgefield Press says: "Ridgefield in a Walking Basis as Gasoline Shortage Halts Cars, Many Convert to Coal, Three Churches Close, Traffic Almost Disappears."
Over three days in February, 3,532 ration books are issued at Odd Fellows Hall. “People took the new wartime regulations in general good mood,” The Press reports. “Now and then there was a complainer and somebody with his chin touching the ground.”
Capt. Reinhold Carl Riede of Ridgefield receives the French Croix de Guerre with Gold Star for service on the Tunisian battle front in March; in May, he is reported seriously injured.
Captain Meinhard Scherf dies on March 29 when a German submarine torpedoes his Liberty ship on its maiden voyage to Europe. He is the first Ridgefielder to die in the war.
In April, the school board raises teachers’ salaries. A beginner will get $1,100 a year and the maximum is $2,500 -- for a master’s degree and 13 years of experience.
James Birarelli becomes the first Ridgefield native to die in the war when his squad is ambushed in North Africa on April 23. He receives a posthumous Silver Star for heroism.
Ridgefield Electric Company is sold to CL&P.
In May, the region experiences the most consecutive days of precipitation in the century -- 17 days.
The Ridgefield Child Care Center is established in the Garden School on Bailey Avenue that summer to handle children of parents working in war factories.
The Branchville Honor Roll bearing the names of 31 servicemen is erected on the Branchville Green in October.
The Branchville Mica Mine resumes operations, providing needed war materials.
The family of Lt. Jeo J. Casagrande, a navigator shot down Jan. 11 in a bombing mission over Germany, gets a postcard from him in March, saying he’s uninjured and a prisoner of war.
The front page of the May 4 Press carries a photo of “The Town of Ridgefield, Connecticut,” a Boeing B-17 Flying Fortress bomber named for the town because of a successful bond drive.
Juvenile Court Judge Stanley Mead tells Republicans in May that lazy parents cause juvenile delinquency and urges using school gyms as roller skating rinks to keep teens busy.
Speaking at the high school auditorium, U.S. Senator John A. Danaher says Communists are infiltrating the government, but adds that Communism shouldn’t be confused with Russianism since only 3% of the Soviet people are Communists.
In December, Nehemiah “Fuzzy” Keeler of Ridgebury goes out back of his house to hunt rabbits and bags an 18-pound “wildcat.” He plans to make a rug out of it.
Word is received in early February that Pfc. Armando Frulla, 23, was killed in action in Belgium on Jan. 13.
The death of Pfc. Robert Nichols Blume on Feb. 10 is reported March 1. He had previously been missing in action with the 5th Division of General Patton's Third Army in Germany.
Word arrives March 15 of the death of Pvt. Howard R. Sears, killed in action in France on Feb. 3.
Pfc. Geno Polverari, a member of the 85th Mountain Infantry, is reported March 29 to have died of combat wounds in Italy.
On April 16, four days after President Roosevelt dies, hundreds fill the high school auditorium for a memorial service that includes prayers by all the town’s ministers. Actor Walter Hampden reads “O Captain, My Captain.”
On a lighter note, 2nd Lt. Rudolph Hurzeler, a fighter pilot who'd just been home on leave, takes the opportunity to buzz Main Street in his military plane on April 19. The Press reports: "He dipped his big plane low over the village but hardly slackened his speed and was gone in a jiffy," but not before the pilot's parents and sisters working in the Ridgefield Bakery had a chance to run out and see him fly by."
The town observes VE Day quietly on May 8 with a special service in St. Stephen's Church.
The town buys the estate of the late Governor Phineas Lounsbury, now the Community Center and Veterans Park.
With Gray Court Junior College defunct, Samuel Weiss and Jack Albert of New York City acquire the former Lewis Estate on West Lane from Ely Culbertson by foreclosure on May 31.
As the war draws to a close, Superintendent of Schools Van Miller is released from duties with the Army Air Force, returning to town to resume his post on July 5, after an absence of a year and a half.
On Aug. 9, Pvt. John Evald Nelson is reported to have died of wounds in Northern Luzon, the Philippines, on July 12.
The Aug. 23 “Victory Edition” of The Press reports that more than $6 million in war bonds are purchased by Ridgefielders. Bond drives sometimes double their quotas here.
Lt. S. Denton Coleman wins the Distinguished Flying Cross in September. The navigator on a B-29, he is cited for "extraordinary achievement while participating in aerial flight on June 6, 1945."
The Rations Board office closes on Sept. 24.
Laurence I. Graham of Wilton buys the Outpost Inn from the Conley estate on Oct. 15.
The town has a memorial service for its war dead and adds two new names to the list: John Gully, killed in action on July 23, who had lived on one of the Mallory farms in Ridgebury, and Charles Acocella, who died April 19, and had been a horseman for Ada Forbes Phair on North Salem Road.
The Fairfield County Planning Association presents the town with a silver cup, a permanent trophy, on Nov. 29, honoring Ridgefield's "vision in purchasing the Lounsbury Estate for a park and recreation grounds."
Ridgefielders learn in December of the possibility of the town's becoming the site for the United Nations Organization headquarters. Mrs. Ruth Cutten offers her property on Old West Mountain Road.
A total eclipse of the moon on Dec. 20 is followed immediately by a 24-hour snowstorm that drops 14 inches of snow and the mercury to zero. The white Christmas melts away in 2.2 inches of rain on Dec. 26.
One day early in January, a caravan of 11 cars full of international officials, escorted by the state police, arrives in town to inspect sites for a possible headquarters for the United Nations. They look at Mrs. Cutten's Sunset Hall on West Mountain and the former Ridgefield Boys School on North Salem Road. In the end, a bigger town wins out.
After 20 years of debate and acrimony, zoning is adopted.
Former Lt. Leno Valentino starts Ridgefield Cleaners in the second story of the Denton Block in January.
Plans to reopen Silver Spring Country Club, closed four years earlier because of the war rationing, are announced.
In mid-February, Dr. Gordon G. Pettit, recently a lieutenant in the U.S. Navy, opens his dental practice on Main Street.
Electro Mechanical Research opens a lab here.
Mrs. Raymond Sears and her son Raymond die in a car crash in Westport on Feb. 7; she is the widow of Pvt. Raymond Sears of Ridgefield who was killed in the Battle of the Bulge on Feb. 3, 1945.
230 veterans march down Main Street Aug. 14 in a huge Victory Day celebration that includes a ball game, dinner, and a dance.
Edward Smith of New Haven buys the Mignerey Drug Store from George A. Mignerey who had been in business for 35 years.
Thirty-four Ridgefield High School seniors take the traditional class trip to Washington, D.C., the first since 1941.
The American Legion Post presents an Old West Show and Rodeo in July on Miss Elizabeth Hull's property off West Lane. It draws 1,000 spectators, but just meets expenses.
Frank and Fred Montanari open their fuel and range oil business on East Ridge in September; the brothers are just back from military service, Frank in the Pacific and Fred in Europe.
Ridgefield schools supervisor of music Robert Rowe announces plans to offer instrumental music instruction in the schools to those students who have suitable instruments.
Conrad Rockelein, a barber in Ridgefield since 1889, moves his shop from the Martin Block to his home in December but says he has no plans to retire.
Several major fires, including La Bretagne Inn on West Lane and Perry’s Market in the village, lead the Town Meeting to vote to staff the firehouse around the clock.
The Board of Education approves large increases in teachers' salaries, taking the maximum from $2,900 to $4,300.
Ridgefield's Sally Ann Reid, 12, using her stage name Sally Swan, appears in her second movie, Unfinished Dance, with Margaret O'Brien. Filming is completed in April.
The selectmen appoint a committee of 25 to study the need for a town Planning Commission.
In May, the selectmen appoint the town's first Park Commission: Michael Bruno, Mrs. T.C. Jessup, John P. Duncan, Miss Anne S. Richardson, Francis J. Bassett and Ernest O. Wilson.
More than 200 Ridgefield veterans apply in June for the bonus offered by the state. (To pay for it, and other post-war expenses, the new 3% state sales tax goes into effect July 1.)
Maestro Arturo Toscanini leads members of the NBC Symphony Orchestra in a September concert at the high school to benefit the library and Boys Club. The only other small town in which he had ever conducted was Giuseppe Verdi’s birthplace in Italy.
Harry E. Hull is elected first selectman in October, the first Democrat to hold the office since 1910. He replaces the ailing Winthrop E. Rockwell, a Republican who'd held the office since 1926. Seven weeks later, Mr. Rockwell is dead.
Ridgefield's tax base would be increasing: Townspeople learn in October that Schlumberger Well Surveying Corporation of Houston, Texas, will move its research department here.
In November, plans are announced for a First National Supermarket to be built in the Heyman Block on Main Street.
In January, Joseph A. Roach, 50, dies as the result of wounds incurred during the First World War; he had been a patient at the Veterans Hospital.
The Branchville Civic Association raises the money to buy five acres for a playground and immediately begins fund raising to do the work to create the field.
Miss Louise E. Davidson and Miss Lillian Gilkes of Olmstead Lane take up the cause of electing Henry A. Wallace (of nearby South Salem and a St. Stephen's parishioner) president.
Under the weight of recent snows, huge old Sperry’s Garage on Catoonah Street – a landmark since its livery stable era – collapsed in a roar of breaking timbers on Jan. 17, 12 hours after a family living in the attic moved out.
The A&P opens a store on Main Street next to Bissell's. It later becomes Brunetti's Market, and is now Gail's Station House restaurant.
The installation of high-candlepower streetlights begins in the village.
In April, Pietro Giannotti, 72, sells his shoe store and shoe repair business to retire to his home in Pesaro, Italy. There, awaiting him, are his wife and family, whom he hasn't seen in 36 years. He left Italy in 1912, when his daughter was three months old, and has never been back, in part because of the upheavals of two World Wars. A shoemaker since he was seven, he was first an employee of Willis S. Gilbert and then bought Gilbert's business.
The selectmen name a committee of 10 to consider a town building code.
Ridgefield Hardware moves into its new building on the west side of Main Street on May 14.
Karl S. Nash buys out his brother John W. Nash's stock in Acorn Press, publisher of The Press.
Eastern Military Academy of Stamford looks at the F.E. Lewis Estate as a possible new home, but facing public opposition, opts to move to Long Island.
Seventy-five petitioners ask the selectmen to install traffic lights on Main Street at Governor Street and Gilbert Street.
The town learns in August that the late Mrs. Mary Frazier of North Street has bequeathed a fortune to the small coal-mining town of Perryopolis, Pa., where she spent her early years, but had left 60 years before. Her last two years were in Ridgefield, living alone with her servants. The early estimate of a $10-million bequest eventually shrinks to $1.5 million by October.
An October caucus, the largest in local Republican history, results in the selection of Ralph Cramp for judge of probate, ousting eight-year incumbent Joseph H. Donnelly.
The PTA announces plans to investigate the prevalence of "low grade" comic books in the hands of the town's students.
A joint meeting of the American Legion and Veterans of Foreign War posts results in the proposal that a new war memorial be established facing the front entrance to the Lounsbury House, newly acquired by the town.
The Parks Commission votes to clear brush to create a sledding area in Veterans Memorial Park (east of the present school).
A snowy December allows plumber Charlie Weitzel to demonstrate his heated driveway installation; the pipes under the pavement are hooked into his heating system and make a foot of snow disappear with nary a shovel needed.
Outpost Nurseries asks the Zoning Commission to create a light industry zone on Danbury Road for 1,800 feet north of Farmingville Road. It’s rejected in February.
Gristede Brothers buys Perry’s Market on Main Street.
58 people submit a petition to repeal zoning; a huge town meeting in March rejects it, 633 to 359.
The Jewish People's Fraternity, the new owner of the former Lewis Estate on West Lane, is listed as an affiliate of a “subversive” organization by the U.S. attorney general. The fraternity says it is harmless. Some years later, a boy from the neighborhood finds a giant poster of Lenin in a barn on the property.
A fire in March heavily damages the Stonecrest mansion.
The Town Farm on North Salem Road, a home for indigents since 1882, is closed down.
Prominent contractor Achille Bacchiochi dies in May.
Post-parade Memorial Day services are held at the Community Center for the first time. They had been at the War Memorial at the head of Branchville Road.
Schlumberger opens its new lab on Old Quarry Road.
Msgr. Fulton J. Sheen, Catholic author and lecturer, speaks at St. Mary’s in June. In the 1950s, he becomes the most-watched religious personality on television and in 1999, he is nominated to sainthood.
686 pupils show up on the first day of school in September, up 33 from 1948.
By a vote of 544 to 334, a September Town Meeting rejects moving town offices to the Lounsbury mansion, later the Community Center, to handle overcrowding. Instead, existing town hall will be remodeled.
Arturo Toscanini gives his second Ridgefield concert in October, raising $11,000 for the library and boys club.
For the first time in 37 years, Democrats control the Board of Selectmen as Harry E. Hull is re-elected first selectman and Patrick O’Keeffe, a member. Julius Tulipani is the sole Republican.
Ridgefield’s population totals 4,201.
A January Town Meeting votes $80,000 to renovate the town hall, adding a second interior floor.
Westbrook Pegler writes in his widely syndicated column in March that “Ridgefield … an old aristocratic town of moldering white mansions on a wide street, has quietly become infested with wealthy Sixth Columnists.” The Press pooh-poohs Pegler, quoting a critic who says he is “too riddled with phobias.”
The Zandri brothers – Primo, Harry, and Louis – buy the Italian grocery store founded by Benvenuto Carboni at the corner of Prospect Street and Bailey Avenue.
In June, the League of Women Voters publishes “Where is Ridgefield Heading,” a slick, 26-page booklet that predicts Ridgefield’s population might be 8,200 by 1985 and that traffic would be a problem. It was off by 12,000 on the population but right on with traffic. The league suggests a bypass for the village, a civic center, and new shopping areas for the center.
One hundred children from New York City arrive in June to open the season at Hidden Valley Camp in Branchville. It is one of six camps sponsored by the New York Herald Tribune Fresh Air Fund.
Girl Scout Camp Catoonah opens on West Mountain.
In July, a “twister” wrenches part of the roof off Ridgefield High School, and cuts a path of felled trees down Governor Street, through Veterans Park and across Main Street.
The war in Korea is getting hotter in August and nine Ridgefield men are called to duty from the National Guard or reserves. Two others enlist.
The Zoning Board of Appeals rejects August Zinnser's plan to turn Dunbankin, a 23-room South Salem Road mansion, into a hotel.
The Town Planning Committee, 27 people from 22 organizations, meets in October to mull over traffic, parking and other growth problems.
The Port of Missing Men property, some 1,700 acres in Ridgefield and North Salem, goes on the market for $195,000. That's $115 an acre, and includes all of today's Eight Lakes development.
In October, the president of Columbia University is an overnight guest of Howard Young on Branchville Road and the next day the two go hunting. Two years later, Dwight D. Eisenhower becomes a president of a different sort.
That fall, the Ridgefield Library begins selling a new invention as a fund-raiser. Silly Putty, discovered seven years earlier by a GE scientist working in New Haven on war materials, goes commercial that summer. The library sells it at a dollar a hunk.
Capt. and Mrs. Jeo Casagrande win a hefty $3,100 on Break the Bank, the popular radio show, in January.
The school census finds 1,168 children in town.
In February, Gaines, the dog food company, moves its research kennel from what is now the Red Lion Restaurant on Route 7, to Illinois.
International Business Machines -- now IBM -- wants to turn the former Cutten estate on West Mountain into a company country club. The Zoning Commission votes 2-1 in favor, but because two members abstain, they are not a majority of the commission, and the plan fails.
Chef John Scala buys The Elms Inn in March. A few weeks later, his young son Robert unearths a Revolutionary cannonball in a rotted tree trunk in front of the inn. A month later, another cannonball is found under floorboards in a rear room of the inn.
The Port of Missing Men Inc. is created by Solomon Gilbert and Ira Kavanau of New York City to develop the historic "Port" tract of 1,750 acres west of Mamanasco into house lots.
Ridgefield gets dial telephone service May 23.
The Clarence Korkers buy the Ridgefield Photo Shop from the Frank Gordons.
Postmaster George L. Rockwell Jr. dies of a heart attack after a foot race down Main Street. Ten years later, his successor, John L. Sullivan, dies in September after he was stung by a bee at the firemen’s picnic. He was only 50.
The Ridgefield Branch of the NAACP, 50 members strong, is established. W.O. Scott is elected the first president.
Daniel Milford, an oil company executive from Ridgefield, disappears in December while on a project in Louisiana. Police say the last person known to see him alive is a waitress who gave him a ride. His body is found in February.
A zoning appeal to establish an "old people's home" at the Ridgefield Country Lodge on Tackora Trail is vetoed in January.
Reed F. Shields becomes town attorney in January.
A proposal to turn the Lounsbury House -- now the Community Center -- into an elementary school is rejected by the state in February.
Robert R. Keeler starts an "I like Ike" Club in March.
The PTA learns in April that the Garden School on Bailey Avenue is a "fire trap."
Harry S Truman tells real estate agent James Belote, who had heard a rumor the president might retire to Connecticut and had written him about the Cutten estate, that he plans to return to Missouri upon retirement.
The selectmen, who'd already banned the sale of fireworks, tightened the regulations further.
Several residents reported seeing flying saucers in July.
A plan for a new elementary school is vetoed at a town meeting, 360 to 216, saying it is too expensive. The building committee vows to get the cost down to $661,000.
William Keeler, three years old, falls down an abandoned well in September, but clings to a pipe for 20 minutes until he is rescued. Seventeen years later, he is killed in Vietnam.
Democrats sponsor a "Gladly for Adlai" Party in October to support presidential candidate Stevenson.
In October, Prescott Bush, father of President George Bush and grandfather of President George W. Bush, campaigns for senator along Main Street. Frank Warner sells him a Lions Club broom.
David Lindsay finds a six-legged frog.
Ridgefielders vote down planning, which would give greater control over subdivisions.
Voters approve $691,000 to build Veterans Park School.
A January ice storm leaves some parts of town without power for five days.
The League of Women Voters is resurrected in February.
The Ramapoo Rifle and Revolver Club is established in February with William Allen as its first president.
Boy Scout Troop 49 is chartered in February.
Work begins in July to create Great Pond beach, now Martin Park, and by August as many as 700 people are using the beach on weekends.
The Morelli family buys Bedient's Hardware and Aldo "Squash" Travaglini buys United Cigar Store, both in July.
In October, Democrat Harry E. Hull beats Republican Harvey Tanton for first selectman by only 182 votes. Hull, elected in 1947 and 1949, had lost in 1951 to Tanton.
Also in October, Governor John Lodge names John C. Kelly as head of the state police while Kelly's next door neighbor on Wilton Road West, Leo F. Carroll, is named head of the Liquor Control Commission.
The police and fire departments get two-way radios.
Voters in January approve paying taxes four times a year instead of two, as most towns do.
Three fire departments – engine, hook and ladder, and hose – vote to consolidate into Ridgefield Volunteer Fire Department.
Atilio Cassavechia is spading near the front wall of his son’s home on Danbury Road in March when his fork struck a cannonball, fired during the battle of Ridgefield in 1777.
St. Mary’s buys land on High Ridge for a school in March, and first through third grade classes open in temporary quarters in September. The new school building, completed in June 1956, is designed for 400 pupils. With an addition, it holds 600 students by the late 1960s.
In May, four boys are caught vandalizing Great Pond beach. In Town Justice Court, beach founder Francis D. Martin declares that the four "ought to get the worst tanning a boy ever got."
Great Pond beach formally opens in June. More than 1,200 people are counted on the beach one hot Sunday.
In July, officials decide to call the new school under construction "Veterans Park School."
The school board in August says it can't legally provide busing for St. Mary's School pupils.
The town-owned Lounsbury house on Main Street gets an official name in September: The Ridgefield Community Center.
In October, the entire five-member Zoning Commission resigns, saying that town fathers won’t support its efforts to crack down on zoning violators.
In a closely watched election in which two native sons, both attorneys, battle for probate judge, incumbent Democrat John E. Dowling, who’d been elected to fill a vacancy, loses to Reed F. Shields, 1,295 to 1,168.
Edward and Donald Allan buy Patterson's Men's Store on Main Street and open Allan's Men's Store.
Veterans Park School, the town’s first modern elementary school, opens in February, six months late. East Ridge School students move out of classes in cloakrooms and have some breathing space.
John W. Nash, who with brother Karl bought The Press in 1938, has struck out on his own and buys The New Milford Times in February.
Construction begins in March on St. Mary's School.
The New England Institute for Medical Research opens in March on Grove Street.
In July, Dr. James E. Sheehan opens the town's first practice of pediatrics and Dr. Peter Yanity opens an office of dentistry.
In August, during one of the worst heat waves of the century, The Press reports that a temperature of 117 degrees was recorded on the 10th green of the Silver Spring Country Club.
Leo Pambianchi gets a contract in August to demolish the Garden School, once Hamilton High School, on Bailey Avenue.
In October, 13.8 inches of rain in three days cause the worst flood of the century. In one 24-hour period, 7.82 inches fall. Many bridges, roads, and railbeds in the Norwalk and Titicus River valleys are washed out, and some buildings are destroyed. State and Army Corps of Engineers soon undertake the still-incomplete Norwalk River Flood Control Project.
Wayne Arnold, chairman of the Zoning Commission, is killed in a Nov. 13 crash at the south end of Main Street where it becomes Wilton Road West. Several others have died here over the years, prompting a state investigation of the curve.
The Lions Club strings Christmas lights across Main Street.
Vincentian fathers buy Cutten estate on West Mountain to use as a novitiate.
Pilgrim Lodge of Odd Fellows buys the former Freund estate on Main Street and establishes its meeting place in the carriage house. Three years later, the lodge sells the main house to the Methodist Church—it’s now Wesley Hall.
The school board in April increases teacher salaries so that a beginner makes $3,500 a year and top veterans, $7,200.
That fall is the last year the District Nursing Association sells Christmas Seals. The sale brings in $3,000.
The Zoning Commission in January rejects a rule to allow three-family houses.
Voters in February approve an addition for Veterans Park School but reject buying Barlow Mountain Road land for a new school site.
The Ridgefield Home Owners Association incorporates in February, with E. Donald Goldsmith as president. In September it elects Bill Shipley, a well-known TV announcer, as president.
Dr. Jordan R. Dann submits petitions in March with 600 signatures, asking zoners to allow veterinary hospitals in business zones. They soon do.
A League of Women Voters survey finds the most common reason for not shopping in Ridgefield is “not enough choice,” followed by “prices” and “parking.” Danbury is the most popular shopping destination.
Romeo Petroni joins Judge John E. Dowling's law practice in April.
That spring, Principal Isabel O'Shea bans water pistols at Veterans Park School.
Young Gary Frulla helps rescue six-year-old Peter Caponera, who falls into the Titicus River.
Dominic Gaeta buys Pilgrim Lodge, the Odd Fellows hall on Main Street, to become part of his shopping center -- and maybe a post office location. The lodge moves to a carriage house on King Lane. The post office goes elsewhere.
Clifford Holleran retires that spring as high school principal. Philip Pitruzzello of Roger Ludlowe in Fairfield is picked as his replacement.
A June town meeting votes to lease Governor Lounsbury’s fishpond property on Governor Street to the Boys Club so it can build a new clubhouse.
CBS newsman Richard C. Hottelet of Wilton addresses the 31 high school graduates.
Edward Benenson of Stamford announces in July that he wants to build a shopping center on Main Street, opposite Prospect, that will include a new post office and the town's first supermarket. Zoners okay it in the fall.
Voters in August turn down a $1.2-million expansion and renovation of the East Ridge School, 834 to 571.
At an August GOP primary, Ridgefield newcomer John B. Jessup challenges Paul Morganti's nomination for selectman and loses.
A total of 1,300 children show up in school, 200 more than in 1956.
In the hope of building the tax base to pay for school projects, the Zoning Commission creates a business and industry zone both sides of Route 7 between Haviland Road and the Danbury line.
In the October town election, Republican Leo F. Carroll defeats Democrat Richard E. Venus by 203 votes to replace retiring Democrat Harry E. Hull as first selectman.
Mr. Carroll appoints his son-in-law, Romeo Petroni, to succeed Mr. Petroni's associate, John E. Dowling, as town attorney.
Voters defeat planning, 1,014 to 1,005, at an all-day referendum. But proponents do not give up.
In November, the Ridgefield Library creates a special “students library” for young people.
The State Highway Department announces in December plans to build a four-lane expressway between Norwalk and Danbury. A route is not yet established.
Ridgefield High School says in December it will offer algebra in the eighth grade and two foreign languages in the seventh in 1958-59.
Twenty-one townspeople meet in January to begin planning the town's semiquincentennial -- 250th aniversary -- celebration. Press editor and publisher Karl S. Nash is chairman. The committee organizes parades, concerts, exhibits, special events, and the publication of Silvio Bedini's history of the town, Ridgefield in Review, a 400-page book that starts out as a pamphlet.
The Zoning Board of Appeals rejects Ridgefield Water Supply Company's plans to put a 500,000-gallon water tower in the middle of a row of mansions on High Ridge. Neighbors are outraged by the plan. The 80-foot tank is later built on Peaceable Ridge.
Some 4,000 rats live at the town dump and he'll do something about it, newly elected First Selectman Leo F. Carroll tells the League of Women Voters.
Electro Mechanical Research moves its lab from Main Street to Sarasota, Fla.
The town votes in March to renovate the East Ridge School into a real high school and junior high, including a gym. Cost: $1.1 million.
The Methodists decide to buy the Freund estate at Main Street and King Lane for a possible new church.
St. Mary's School basketball team wins the state championship in April.
The state straightens Route 102 in Branchville.
In honor of the town's 250th anniversary, Larry Aldrich gives the town land in Farmingville in May. It becomes known as Aldrich Park
In June, after four earlier tries over the years, townspeople vote 1,125 to 1,054 to adopt planning, giving the town more control over subdivisions.
More than 2,500 people attend a July 6 mass in a field at the McKeon farm in Ridgebury. The Bishop of Worcester delivers the sermon. In 1781, French troops encamped at this site are believed to have celebrated the first mass in Ridgefield.
Ground is broken for the new Boys Club building in July.
Judge Joseph Donnelly announces he'll build a shopping center off Governor Street (now Hay Day et al.) in back of the old Boys Club building, which he tears down.
William Winthrop says his Ridgefield Taxpayers Association will join the Citizens Committee Against Town Planning in an effort to rescind the just-adopted planning ordinance. They don't succeed, but they force yet another vote.
Dr. Jordan Dann opens the town's first veterinary hospital in August.
The Red Raiders, the town's first midget football squad, organizes in September.
Abraham Ribicoff, winning re-election as governor, carries Ridgefield by 319 votes – the first time in 82 years that a Democratic candidate for a major state office takes the town.
Superintendent Grimes tells the school board in December that the town will need three more elementary schools in four years. Plans to put temporary classes in St. Stephen's South Hall fall through when the state fire marshal vetoes the idea.
The Zoning Commission adopts sign regulations effective Dec. 5.
Arthur F. Eilenstein of West Lane, Ridgefield’s last veteran of the Spanish-American War, dies March 20 at the age of 95. The bricklayer built countless chimneys and buildings in town.
The new post office opens at the north end of the Grand Union shopping center in January.
The new Ridgefield Boys Club opens.
Ridgefield Savings Bank announces in May it will build the town’s first drive-in bank on Governor Street on the old Boys Club site.
Five huge arches of the new Ridgefield High School gym on East Ridge collapse May 25 during construction, delaying the project for months. Contractors eat the $30,000 loss, but sue arch supplier for $100,000.
Ullman Devices, a company begun in the 1930s, opens a plant on Route 7 producing specialty hand tools. Ullman receives many awards over the years for hiring handicapped workers.
Overcrowded Ridgefield High School goes on double sessions for two years beginning in September.
The Ridgefield Community Kindergarten opens in the fall.
The Community Center itself continues to have financial problems and, by year's end, is $5,000 in the red.
Ridgefield’s population is 8,165.
The new Ridgefield Cookbook sells 900 of its 1,000 copies by January.
The Zoning Commission zones Ridgebury for two-acre lots in February.
Fire guts La Bretagne Inn on West Lane, the second time the inn burns in 13 years. The 1947 blaze helped spark the town to have 24-hour fire protection; this one fires a campaign to buy an aerial ladder truck.
Some residents of Standpipe Road feel their address lacks class and successfully pressure town officials to change it to Peaceable Ridge Road.
Philip Pitruzzello resigns in March as high school principal to teach at the University of Chicago. Dr. Harold E. Healy of Portland, Conn., is named new principal in May. He remains 28 years.
The local NAACP plans in April to picket Ridgefield chain stores with outlets in the South that practice segregation.
The town votes in April to build Ridgebury School at Todds Farm.
Stonehenge Inn owner Victor Gilbert runs for state representative that spring, but eventually drops out.
In July, after 10 boys who'd been "engaged in a gang fight at Lake Mamanasco" and two other boys caught stealing auto parts all get off on technicalities, Trial Justice Carleton A. Scofield resigns in a rage over "this circus-like treatment of justice" in Town Court. He later returns.
The Jesuits buy Manresa, once the home of a gangster, and plan to operate the 40-room mansion at Lake Mamanasco as a retreat house.
In June, the Thrift Shop moves from the Masonic Hall building to its current quarters in the old Catholic church on Catoonah Street.
While the Republican Town Committee picks four-term incumbent Nancy-Carroll Draper to run for state representative with John Kelly, an August caucus drops her in favor of native son Romeo Petroni. Democrats put up David Marlin and John Sjovall.
In August, Morganti Inc. is low bidder to build Ridgebury School.
Petroni defeats Draper in a September primary.
A drainage pipe project that has messed up Main Street's business district nearly a year is finally finished in September.
Petroni and Kelly are elected in November, two to one.
Journalist John Scott tells the Lions there is a 50-50 chance of war over the new Berlin Wall, and every Ridgefield home should have a fallout shelter with a two weeks’ supply of food. Civil Defense Director Gus Tiburzi agrees, and tells how to build a shelter.
Because the new Ridgebury School isn’t ready in September, Veterans Park School goes on double sessions for several months.
The Ridgefield Baptist Church is founded. Services are in Masonic Hall.
Because the town starts making annual contributions from its budget, the Ridgefield Library becomes a free public library instead of charging membership fees.
In September, the Lions Club sponsors its first annual Antique Car Show at Veterans Park field. It lasts until the late 1980s when all vehicles are banned from the field and a move to the middle school parking lot proves unsuccessful.
Ridgefield is ninth in the state in spending on schools -- $593 per pupil.
The A&P supermarket and liquor store opens Jan. 23 on Danbury Road. The market is now CVS; the liquor store's still there.
Voters in January approve money to start planning Farmingville School, but reject $4,500 to include a fall-out shelter in the building.
Ridgebury School is dedicated Feb. 11. The school, which then held 600 pupils, cost $977,000.
Philip Pitruzzello, former principal of Ridgefield High School, is picked in February to be the next school superintendent, replacing Dr. Joseph Grimes, who's leaving.
A defective space heater kills an 86-year-old woman and her 45-year-old daughter in their Bailey Avenue apartment in March.
Richard J. Bellagamba is appointed to the seven-man police force. He eventually rises to become second in command of the department.
Overcrowding at Ridgefield High School prompts the school board in March to consider asking the town for a junior high school.
Telephones go all numbers in March. No longer are we ID8-6544. ID stood for Idlewood.
Congregation of Notre Dame acquires the Lynch estate on West Mountain for an American novitiate, U.S provincial motherhouse and a retirement home.
After a July fire badly burns artist Bernard Perlin's home on Shadow Lake Road, the Ridgebury Community Association petitions the town to build a Ridgebury firehouse. Six years later, it opens.
For the third year in a row, "the remarkable Alex Santini and his 1936 Walter Hagen putter" defeat Judges Reed F. Shields and John E. Dowling in their annual "judges tournament" at Silver Spring Country Club.
The Conservation Commission is established.
Voters approve $1.1 million in September to build Farmingville School.
"Ridgefield's Civil Defense organization, meeting in emergency session yesterday noon, urged townspeople to be prepared but not panicky over the present crisis in Cuba," says the lead story in the Oct. 25 issue.
The Kiwanis Club organizes in November. Robert A. Kane, the funeral director, is elected first president.
The First Congregational Church celebrates its 250th birthday in November with special programs and a 56-page history written by Muriel Hanson.
John Kelly and Romeo Petroni are re-elected state representatives in November.
In what is probably the best-attended referendum of the century, 62% of the voters turn out Dec. 8 to approve the town's providing school bus transportation to St. Mary's Catholic School children. The vote is 1,402 in favor, 1,190 against.
North American Phillips contracts to buy 67 acres on Farmingville Road to build a research center.
The school board in December okays a $300 raise for teachers. The average hiring rises from $5,500 to $5,700.
St. Andrew’s Lutheran Church is founded.
The new Conservation Commission creates the Open Space Conservation Fund into which donations for buying land can go.
Joseph Young donates 75 pullets to the 4-H Club in March.
The school board approves a $1.8-million budget, up 21%. Meanwhile, faced with a deficit, the board threatens to cancel hot lunches for 900 elementary school pupils, prompting parent outrage. A reluctant Board of Finance appropriates $11,000 so lunches continue.
Two hundred supporters of "New Route 7 Now" travel to Hartford in April to demand a new highway from Norwalk to North Canaan.
In the annual battle of the school budget, the Board of Finance wins in May. It cuts $100,000 from the school budget, and voters back the cut three to one.
Jerry Tuccio, owner of the old Eleven Levels estate, wants the land rezoned from two- and three-acre lots to one acre for a subdivision he's planning. The Conservation Commission and others object. The disagreement spends years in court.
Richard E. Venus is officially appointed the town's postmaster in June; he'd been acting postmaster since 1961.
Realtors Sal Monti and James Hackert propose a 367-acre light industry zone in Ridgebury that July. The Ridgefield Community Association opposes it.
To meet its budget cut, the school board begins charging for community use of the schools and makes kids walk farther to bus stops.
The Ridgefield Fire Department asks the town to buy land at Danbury and Copps Hill Roads for a new firehouse.
The Good Government Party is formed in August, saying it is "dissatisfied with the leadership and control of the two existing parties," especially with respect to the schools. The GGP runs candidates in 1963 and 1965. None win, but some come close.
In August, Francis D. Martin urges the town to buy Camp Adventure, 100 acres on Route 7 with 700 feet of shoreline on Great Pond. The town ignores him. Years later, most of the tract is Laurelwood, but the town gets the shoreline land as part of the zoning approval.
The schools open in September with 2,660 children, 340 more than a year earlier. Parents don't like the new, longer walking distances to bus stops, but the school board says: Tell the budget-cutting Board of Finance.
Governor John Dempsey helps dedicate the library's $120,000 addition.
Julia Woodford, chairman of the new Conservation Commission, says the agency's aim is "not to prevent development, but to determine at what point growth would take away desirable natural assets and to suggest how they may be permanently preserved."
In November, the Board of Finance votes $14,000 to buy the Bailey-Rockwell property at Branchville Road and East Ridge for a new junior high school. A December town meeting rejects the appropriation because the Rockwell family does not want to sell. Voters are unwilling to condemn the land.
Five hundred people gather in front of town hall in late November to hear First Selectman Leo F. Carroll read the selectmen's letter to the family of John F. Kennedy. "We shudder at the deed which has violently deprived this nation of its constitutional head by the assassin's bullet, an act of unparalleled atrocity -- shocking to all mankind," the letter says in part.
The Board of Education rejects a request in December to rename the Farmingville School, still under construction, the "John F. Kennedy School." Schools here are named for parts of town, not individuals, the board says.
Author Cornelius Ryan asks that the new library addition be named after President Kennedy, offers $5,000 if this is done, and says others will match his offer. Library directors decline, but set up a memorial collection of political science books in Mr. Kennedy's name.
The Zoning Commission creates a 300-acre light industry zone in Ridgebury in December.
Benrus decides in December to buy the old "labor camp" on Route 7 for a watch-making plant and headquarters.
The Volunteers of America buy Camp Adventure at Great Pond in December to use as a summer camp for underprivileged city children.
In January, Richard McGlynn becomes the first paid fireman to be elected chief of the Ridgefield Volunteer Fire Department.
Lincoln Development Corp. of Cambridge, Mass., takes an option in January to buy the 230-acre former Doubleday Estate, known as Westmoreland, for a “high-grade residential subdivision.”
School officials announce that the high school will go on double sessions in the fall, and remain on them until a new junior high school is built, at the earliest in the fall of 1966.
The Grand List is announced in February: 285 houses were added to the tax rolls in one year and the list’s value grew by $4 million to $55 million.
Larry Aldrich announces in February plans to buy Old Hundred on Main Street and open a museum of contemporary art there. On Oct. 17, a black-tie gala there marks the museum opening.
The Girolmetti family receives approval in February to build a 16-lane bowling alley on Danbury Road; the Ridge Bowl opens Nov. 9.
The last train, a freight delivery, comes up the branch line from Branchville the first week in February; by the end of the year the tracks are being removed.
The new Farmingville School opens in February.
A March referendum declines for the second time to buy by condemnation land on East Ridge for the new junior high school, the so-called Bailey-Rockwell land. But the school board votes to pursue the 14-acre Bailey property on the corner of East Ridge and Branchville Roads and voters approve that move on April 25.
Main Street property owners in April are solidly behind establishing a South Main Street Historic District. A Historic District Study Commission reports in October recommendations for that district and two others, north Main Street and around the Peter Parley Schoolhouse on West Lane.
E.P. Luquer offers in April to sell the town 75 acres off Barlow Mountain Road for a school or for conservation purposes. The town votes to buy the property on Nov. 24.
The last service in the Jesse Lee Memorial Methodist Church at the corner of Main and Catoonah Streets takes place at the end of May. The church is sold to be developed as a commercial property.
Ridgefield teachers apply that spring to start an American Federation of Teachers AFL/CIO Chapter and more than 50 join.
Jerry Tuccio takes title to the Olcott Estate on Main Street in August and announces plans to build garden apartments on the nearly 23 acres; later in the decade Casagmo apartments are finally built by David Paul.
First Church of Christ, Scientist opens its new church on Main Street.
With the tie-breaking vote cast in September by First Selectman Leo Carroll, the Board of Finance approves $3,000 to plan a Ridgebury firehouse.
The Board of Education refuses in October to admit Prince Chambliss, 15, to the high school. The black teenager was to be the first beneficiary of the Carol Rosenberg Memorial Education Fund and would be living with Ridgefielders George and Rodgers DePue. After an outcry, and in front of television cameras, the Board of Education on Nov. 5 votes to admit Mr. Chambliss as a tuition-paying student. He goes on to become a prominent Memphis attorney.
Democrat Lyndon B. Johnson outpolls Barry Goldwater by 740 votes in Ridgefield in November.
The Board of Finance approves $2,775 in November to install two walk lights on Main Street.
As new subdivisions continue, the town meeting approves the acceptance of 30 new town roads in December.
The year is the driest of the century, with only 26 inches of precipitation in the region.
In April, Bongo's, a Western Auto outlet and one of the village's most charismatic stores, announces it's closing.
Also in April, Morganti Inc. is low bidder at $2,559,000 to build the East Ridge Junior High School.
Benny Goodman and his orchestra play before 2,500 people in Veterans Park.
By a six to one margin, voters at a September referendum combine the Planning and Zoning Commissions into one agency.
The Ridgefield Symphonette, now the Ridgefield Symphony Orchestra, is founded. Its budget: $3,000.
A TWA 707 and an Eastern Airlines Constellation collide on Dec. 4. The Constellation crashes on Hunt Mountain, just over the Ridgefield line in North Salem. Ridgefield Fire Department, first on the scene, leads rescue efforts. Four die of the 50 people aboard. The TWA jetliner makes it to Kennedy, despite losing 25 feet of wing.
State Senator Romeo G. Petroni announces in March he’ll run for Congress, the first Ridgefielder ever to do so. He is unsuccessful.
The Ridgefield Woman’s Club has its first meeting.
East Ridge Junior High School opens in the fall.
The Ridgefield Baptist Church has its first service in its new Danbury Road home.
In March the Zoning Board of Appeals rejects AT&T’s request to build a 162-foot-high microwave tower on Peaceable Ridge. AT&T sticks it just across the line in South Salem.
The 203,000-square-foot Benrus Center, Ridgefield's biggest industrial building, opens on Route 7.
Temple Shearith Israel is established. The Doubleday mansion is purchased a year later and dedicated as a temple in 1970.
David E. Weingast is named school superintendent and serves 10 years, the second longest term of any superintendent.
Scotland Elementary School opens in January.
The new Jesse Lee Memorial United Methodist Church is consecrated in May.
Ridgebury Firehouse opens May 30.
The Sisters of Notre Dame on West Mountain open Notre Dame Academy, a Catholic girls high school. It closes four years later because of lack of enrollments.
The Planning and Zoning Commission creates a light industry zone along Bennett's Farm Road at and about the Fox Hill Inn property.
Herbert V. Camp is elected state representative in November.
In February, voters buy 575 acres amassed by the late Otto H. Lippolt, the largest open space acquisition in the town’s history.
The Charter Revision Commission proposes a nine-member town council to replace the Town Meeting, but a referendum defeats the plan by only 33 votes — with more than 3,000 people voting.
Pastor Martin J. O’Connor announces that, due to lack of vocations, the teaching nuns will leave St. Mary’s School in June.
Irked by teenagers hanging out on Main Street, voters in April approve an ordinance banning loitering. Three years later, the U.S. Supreme Court rules a similar law unconstitutional.
St. Andrew’s Lutheran Church opens its church on Ivy Hill Road.
Branchville Elementary School opens that fall.
Ridgefield’s population is 18,188, more than doubling in a decade.
The Ridgefield Branch of the American Association of University Women is chartered.
A huge outbreak of leaf-eating caterpillars prompts townspeople to vote to hire helicopters to spray town with insecticide the next year. Spray company backs down under threat of suit by environmentalists.
Declining enrollments, increasing costs, and lack of available nuns prompt Pastor Martin O’Connor to close St. Mary’s School in June after 16 years in operation.
Voters in July defeat $2 million to build the West Mountain Elementary School on Oscaleta Road.
IBM buys the Fox Hill Inn and some 700 acres on Bennett's Farm Road. Part of the land is zoned for light industry.
Morganti Inc.’s additions to the junior and senior high schools are erected over the summer to handle overcrowding (the senior high addition is now the “town hall annex”).
Recycling comes to town as the Ridgefield Environmental Action Program (REAP) is born Feb. 11. REAP built today’s recycling center.
Barlow Mountain Elementary School opens in March.
The town votes in March to buy the 26-acre Holy Ghost Novitiate on Prospect Ridge, now the site of congregate and affordable housing, athletic fields, and quarters for the Marine Corps League, Guild of Artists, and Ridgefield Workshop. The price: $395,000.
The police halt all patrols March 31 after the Board of Finance refuses to provide more money for gas and maintenance. The action makes national news; the New York Daily News runs a cartoon of a policeman on a tricycle. The finance board soon caves in.
A study committee recommends in April that the town have a second high school built by 1977.
To fill the gap caused by the closing of St. Mary’s School, parents create Holy Innocents, an independent Catholic grade school. It lasts five years.
A company hired by the selectmen to aerially spray the town to halt the plague of gypsy moth caterpillars backs down in June after conservationists threaten a lawsuit. The caterpillars eventually die of a naturally caused disease.
Golfers vote themselves a Christmas present Dec. 18 as just under 2,000 people turn out for a referendum to approve buying land for and building the Dlhy Ridge Golf Course.
A huge, four-story water tower at the Holy Ghost novitiate on East Ridge is bulldozed over in January as a fire hazard.
After 264 years without an official town seal, Robert Malin of Harding Drive wins a contest to create one. His design is still in use today.
Recycling operations begin on Old Quarry Road.
Suburban Action Institute, which opposes exclusionary zoning and is headed by noted planner Paul Davidoff, wants to buy the Kaiser turkey farm on Barry Avenue for low-cost housing, The Press learns in March. SAI is eventually turned down by zoners, files suit against “lily-white Ridgefield” and loses on a technicality.
In April, Ridgefield makes national news after the school board refuses to allow high school seniors to read Boss, columnist Mike Royko’s book on Chicago Mayor Daley, in a political science elective. “I don’t think it’s a good book,” said one board member. Royko hears about it, calls the board “rubes.” The board later reinstates the book.
In June, Ridgefield High School on East Ridge closes and in September, the new Ridgefield High School on North Salem Road opens.
W.T. Grant, the town’s largest store, opens in the brand new Copps Hill Plaza Shopping Center. Within two years, Grant is bankrupt, and Caldor arrives to fill the anchor store. In 1999, Caldor goes belly up.
The Board of Education votes that winter to remove Eldridge Cleaver’s book, Soul on Ice, and another book critical of police from a high school elective, sparking a controversy that lasts for months and draws national attention. Teachers and many parents are incensed. It’s called Ridgefield’s book burning and more than 700 people attend some board meetings on the issue.
Elfrieda Travostino, the head of the teachers association, reports in January that someone entered her house, took her dog, and hung it by the choke collar from the trunk of a tree. A telephone caller said: “We have muzzled your dog. If you don’t shut your loud mouth, your kids and you will be next.” The dog survives.
Book banning and failed contract talks prompt the Ridgefield Teachers Association to “demand” that the school board attend a public meeting on “the educational atmosphere in the town.”
Late in January, after a six-hour meeting, teachers decide not to stage a walkout over threats to academic independence. RTA president Elfrieda Travostino quits.
Without explanation, the school board votes in February not to renew the contract of Superintendent David E. Weingast. It later reverses its decision; Dr. Weingast retires in 1977.
Though threatened with arrest, Louis Garofalo, Ridgefield Taxpayers League president, refuses to leave a “private” budget meeting of the Boards of Education and Finance in March, saying the “public has a right to be present.” Police arrive, but the boards give up and allow Mr. Garofalo and 10 others to attend.
“Firefighters burn over lack of men” says the March headline about the firemen’s union maintaining 18 men, not 15, was needed to provide adequate ambulance and fire protection.
The OWLS, the "Older, Wiser, Livelier Set," is founded in March.
In May, in the wake of the town's many school crises, the Connecticut Education Association publishes a 38-page booklet, Responsible Academic Freedom: Challenge to Ridgefield, which criticizes the outbreak of "academic vandalism" in the schools and suggests ways to resolve differences.
The first St. Mary’s Fall Festival takes place in September.
Louis J. Fossi, a Democrat in a largely Republican town, is elected first selectman.
In mid-December, the worst ice storm of the century hits town. Temperatures dip to below zero and some neighborhoods are without power for nearly a week.
Voters abolish the Village District.
Joseph Heyman announces in February he’ll will run for the state senatorial seat held by retiring Romeo G. Petroni. He is unsuccessful.
The Ridgefield Guild of Artists organizes in February.
The Village Bank and Trust Company, the town's only locally owned commercial bank, opens in the former Ridgefield Playhouse building on Prospect Street.
The Ridgefield Recycling Center opens in April.
Dlhy Ridge Golf Course opens in spring.
The town buys the old state police barracks Sept. 6 and begins to convert it to the Ridgefield Police headquarters.
IBM proposes a school for corporate executives on part of its 700 acres off Bennett's Farm Road.
Boehringer Ingelheim buys 134 acres of old farmland off Shadow Lake Road for its new laboratory and corporate headquarters.
Yankee Ridge Shopping Center, on Main Street and along Prospect Street, opens its stores in December.
In December, most Copps Hill Plaza stores announce they will flout state’s blue laws and open Sundays.
Singer Harry Chapin gives two concerts in December to fight world hunger.
The selectmen create the Commission on Aging in February.
Sugar Hollow Racquet Club announces the “Fairfield County International” tournament, featuring number-one-ranked Jimmy Connors and Ilie Nastase, will take place in late February. Nastase shows, Connors doesn’t.
911 emergency phone service begins in April.
While attending the Community Center’s Outdoor Flea Market June 3, Tom Pearson of Overlook Drive discovers a canteen owned by General David Wooster who, 198 years earlier, had been mortally wounded fighting the Battle of Ridgefield. “My knees were water for two hours after,” he says. “It has to be a one-in-a-million shot that it would just pop up like that.”
Arma Tool & Die Company opens on Route 7 in June.
After vandals continue to damage the building, IBM tears down the Fox Hill Inn on its Bennett's Farm Road property. A restaurant since the late 1940s, the former mansion had been built as the home of Colonel Louis D. Conley of Outpost Nurseries.
School enrollment hits an all-time high of 6,029 children on Sept. 7.
Townspeople don't seem to mind IBM's plan for a corporate school on its Bennett's Farm Road property but many vociferously oppose a helicopter landing pad and IBM drops its plans for Ridgefield and goes elsewhere. It holds onto the land until 1998.
In October, a Ridgefielder is arrested for murder after he stabs his ex-girlfriend's boyfriend. A week later, the unoccupied murder house on Stony Hill Terrace mysteriously burns to the ground.
Branchville Station closes, is leased to the town, and eventually becomes a restaurant.
The Ridgefield Press marks its 100th anniversary by publishing in November and December a 184-page tabloid-sized history of the town in the past century.
In the spring Lenard De Lescinskis opens Chez Lenard on Main Street, which soon becomes Connecticut's most famous sidewalk hot dog stand.
The Ridgefield Family Y opens with offices at St. Mary's School.
A 15-year-old girl is severely injured in October when a sudden storm fells a tree on her father’s car driving on Main Street. Power in some parts of town is out for two days.
The owner of the Ridgefield Cinema at Copps Hill Plaza promises in December that he won’t book any more X-rated movies after a storm of protest over showing of Emmanuelle.
The second coldest winter of the century sends heating costs skyrocketing and by mid-January, the schools’ energy budget was $90,000 in the red.
The Youth Commission is created to deal with needs and problems of the community’s youngsters.
Boehringer Ingelheim, with the help of Gov. Ella Grasso, breaks ground for its Ridgebury research center in April.
Community Gardens program begins with 53 plots on Prospect Ridge. Later, affordable housing takes the spot, and the new location gets 27 plots, still going strong today.
High costs force the Rotary Club to abandon its annual Fourth of July fireworks displays, started in 1960.
Karen Kopins, 18, is selected Miss Connecticut in June and goes on to compete in the Miss America Pageant in September.
Elliott Landon is hired as superintendent of schools.
The Board of Education votes in March to fire high school guidance department chairman Walter Bishop for knowingly submitting false class rankings to colleges. Many rally to his defense, but to no avail.
The school board in May begins fining the Dunn Bus Company after dozens of complaints that school buses were late.
Dr. Harold E. Healy retires as high school principal and goes into real estate.
A referendum approves giving the Ridgefield Family Y five acres off Ivy Hill Road, but the gift is quickly challenged on the grounds that government is unconstitutionally supporting a private, religious organization.
The first masses are celebrated in St. Elizabeth Seton Church in December.
On Dec. 3, a child playing with a candle sets fire to the First Congregational Church House, destroying the building. The church escapes.
On Christmas Eve, a cross is burned in the front yard of a racially mixed couple. Later, two teenagers are arrested and convicted of the crime. One turns state's evidence and the other spends 30 days in jail and gets a year's suspended sentence. Meanwhile, both admit they are members of a devil-worshipping cult.
The average price of a new house sold this year is $135,000.
In June, under a full moon, a policeman responds to a late night call that chanting in a foreign tongue is coming from woods off Oscaleta Road. As he investigates, he’s attacked by hooded men, who then flee. The remains of a bonfire are found in the woods, and there’s evidence that a vacant house nearby was used by devil worshippers.
Ballard Green housing for the elderly is completed in October.
Dwindling enrollments prompt the Board of Education, amid much acrimony, to close Barlow Mountain School fewer than nine years after it opens.
During the 1979-80 school year, Ridgefield is spending $585 per pupil on public schools, the second highest of any town in the state, says the Connecticut Public Expediture Council. At the same time, the town was spending less than most area communities on police protection, public works, or the library.
Ridgefield’s population climbs to 20,120.
The Ridgefield Family Y proposes building its recreational complex on land donated by Francis D. Martin north of Lake Mamanasco. The land's high water table and inability to handle a septic system sinks the plan. The Y then agrees to pay "fair market value" of $60,000 for 7.5 town-owned acres off Ivy Hill Road.
A group of parents sues the school board in January to prevent the closing of Barlow Mountain School, charging the board “lacked meaningful closing criteria.” They drop the suit in March, but in June ask for a state probe of the closing.
President Jimmy Carter awards Dr. Raymond Mindlin of Ridgefield the National Medal of Science for his work in applied mathematics.
Parks and Recreation Commission wants a $7,000 study of whether to build a town indoor swimming pool.
The Planning and Zoning Commission in January vetoes architect Victor Christ-Janer’s plan for corporate offices on 68 acres along Route 7 north of New Road. Neighbors are happy; First Selectman Louis Fossi is “furious.” Christ-Janer sues, but gets nowhere.
Teachers win a 9% pay increase. The starting wage is $11,262.
Political newcomer Dennison F. Fiala of Ridgefield says in February he’ll run for Congress.
Prescott Bush tells Republicans here that his presidential candidate brother George “is as clean-living a man as you’ll ever see.”
Lewis and Barry Finch in February propose Wedgerock Corporate Park on 44 acres east of Ridgebury Road, south of Shadow Lake Road.
Police Sgt. George Kargle dies Feb. 26 when his car goes off Route 35 at Buck Hill on his way home from work.
Going against the state tide in Connecticut’s first presidential preference primary in March, Ridgefielders back Ronald Reagan over George Bush and Jimmy Carter over Senator Edward Kennedy.
Linda Arciola is hired in April as the first female patrol officer on the Ridgefield police force.
Brutus, the three-year veteran Ridgefield police dog, is stolen from the dog pound April 3. “The dog is basically friendly, but is trained to become aggressive upon command,” say police.
After 15 years on the job, Tax Collector Alice P. Besse announces May 1 she’ll retire. A week later, she is suddenly stricken ill and dies.
The First Congregational Church lays the cornerstone May 18 for its new church house to replace the one that burned in 1978.
Conservative Archibishop Marcel Lefebvre of France, soon to be excommunicated by the Pope, comes to town May 25 to dedicate the St. Thomas Aquinas Seminary in the former Manresa retreat house on Tackora Trail, and conduct ordination of new priests. Bridgeport Bishop Walter Curtis declares the ordination is “illegal.”
In June, the Planning and Zoning Commission rejects condominium developer David L. Paul's plan to rezone the land across Route 35 from Fox Hill for 224 condos. Today the town owns the tract, long called Ippoliti for a former owner.
Real estate times are tough. More than 80 new houses sit unsold. Their average selling price: $180,000.
Ridgefield gets Touch-Tone telephone service in June.
The town landfill shuts down in August, replaced by the transfer station. The fee for dumping is $1.50.
Perp’s Cafe on Grove Street begins providing go-go dancers that summer, and business booms. First Selectman Fossi says it’s “promoting neighborhood discomfort.”
Also causing discomfort that year is gypsy moths, which are chomping leaves. Many want aerial spraying. Many don’t. The don’ts win.
The Planning and Zoning Commission approves a corporate office complex north of George Washington Highway, but times are tough and it’s never developed.
Ronald Reagan took Ridgefield and the nation, and while Republican James Buckley won Ridgefield in the U.S. Senate race, Chris Dodd took the state. And Democrat William Ratchford retained his congressional seat.
Citing vandalism and insurance risks, IBM in November tears down huge and handsome brick barns that were part of the Outpost estate on Bennett’s Farm Road.
Ridgefielders are distressed to learn Gov. Ella Grasso is resigning in December because her cancer has spread.
The death of John Lennon in December prompts the Ridgefield High School Jam Club to have a memorial concert of his music.
Cable TV service becomes available in densely populated parts of town late in the year.
"Micro-computers," appearing in elementary school classrooms, "seem completely out of place."
Selectman Josette William complains in January that town employees may take home town-owned cars, sparking a months-long debate. "The town has lost control over gas consumption, insurance claim exposure and wear and tear on town cars," she says.
A years-long drought prompts a regional water agency to propose in January that the Norwalk River be considered as a drinking water source.
Voters in March approve selling 7.5 acres on Prospect Ridge to the Ridgefield Family Y for its headquarters and pool.
The state charges in March that "neglect, mismanagement, waste, and self-dealing" brought the New England Institute for Medical Research to the brink of financial ruin.
The Charter Revision Commission proposes in March that the three-member Board of Selectmen be expanded to five.
Boehringer Ingelheim, which is renting the old high school, announces in April that it wants to lease the Barlow Mountain School for office space. Neighbors begin a fight that includes two lawsuits.
When told that the 1980 census counted 123 blacks in Ridgefield, a town official remarks: "There's that many? I'd never've known it. Where do they all live?"
A brawl at a high school girl's party on Ramapoo Road results in the stabbing death of a Waterbury man. A Ridgefielder arrested in the case is later freed after authorities rule that the stabbing was in self-defense.
The talk of the retail community is the proposed Danbury Fair mall. A Chamber of Commerce luncheon concludes that personal service and small-town flavor will keep local stores alive.
As rumors spread that Louis J. Fossi will retire as first selectman, three Republicans say they want the seat: Selectman Josette Williams, Planning and Zoning Chairman Sue Manning, and Walter Gengarelly, who ran in 1979. None is the eventual choice.
The Planning and Zoning Commission in June okays the Ridgefield Family Y's plans for a recreational complex and pool off Ivy Hill Road.
The "Mill Rate Watchers" petition referendums in May and June that cut the town and school budgets. "It's a bad budget -- the town will pay for this down the road," says First Selectman Fossi.
The Planning and Zoning Commission takes the Zoning Board of Appeals to court in July over a variance that would allow apartments at Main and Gilbert Streets.
The Good Government Party, born in 1963 to support the schools, officially dies in July. In its heyday, it has 75 members and collects as many as 1,295 votes for one of its candidates. But none ever wins and the party has been inactive for 15 years.
Dr. Peter Yanity proposes condominiums for his Main Street property, prompting many debates, but no condos.
In August, Westport developer Edmund Cadoux asks the Planning and Zoning Commission for 61 condominiums on the old Sullivan property on Prospect Ridge, zoned for that use for five years. The result is Quail Ridge.
By a 1,300-to-1,000 vote, a September referendum rejects the selectmen's effort to exempt town property from zoning. Exemption would have allowed Boehringer Ingelheim to lease the former Barlow Mountain School as a commercial use in a residential zone. Boehringer gives up on Barlow.
On the bus trip to a football game in September, several members of the high school band get drunk. The band's appearance is cancelled. "I know it sounds idealistic, but I expect the people who were drinking to own up to what they did," Principal James Spafford declares. "And I know that's a heck of a challenge."
In October, on the 200th anniversary of the event, 1,000 militiamen re-enact the encampment of General Rochambeau's troops in Ridgebury.
In the 1970s, references to drugs, alcohol, and sex as well as vulgarities had slipped into the yearbook, prompting a board ban on abbreviations and innuendoes. In October, pressured by students, the board relaxes the ban. Three teacher advisers to the high school yearbook quit in protest.
Former State Rep. Elizabeth Leonard, the first woman to be first selectman, is elected in November. It’s not exactly a victory of women over men – her opponent is Selectman Lillian Moorhead. The score: Leonard, 3,895; Moorhead, 2,061. Moorhead outpolls Robert Swick for selectman, and keeps her seat on the board.
The A&P supermarket closes its doors in November, but the liquor store remains.
Elizabeth Rolle, then one of only 50 women rabbis in the world, becomes spiritual leader of Temple Shearith Israel in November.
Francis P. Moylan becomes the town's first full-time fire marshal in December. He'd been a part-timer for 26 years.
Republican Martha Rothman narrowly defeats Norman Craig, 1,707 to 1,588, in a special election in January for state representative after Elizabeth Leonard resigns in November 1981 to be first selectman.
Walter Gengarelly announces he'll run for governor on the Libertarian Party ticket. He winds up getting 130 votes (of 7,486 voting) in Ridgefield, and collects 7,942 in the state, far less than 1% of the turnout.
School administrators in February win a 31% raise over three years. The high school principal's salary would go from $39,000 to $51,000.
One night in February, a Copps Hill Shell worker is robbed of its night deposits. Gregory Winsauer, 19, working at nearby Fred's Exxon, spots the robber, gives chase, and catches him in woods off Copps Hill Road, wrestling him to the ground until police show up. In August, he is given the police department's first Citizen's Valor Award.
The will of Johanna Laszig creates the Laszig Fund to aid Ridgefield's elderly.
The New England Institute for Medical Research on Grove Street files for bankruptcy in February. The institute later closes, its buildings catch fire and burn, and the place is razed for office condominiums.
Counts of egg clusters on trees confirm that the Gypsy Moth caterpillar, which defoliated thousands of trees for the past few springs, will not return in record numbers. They tended to have population explosions every eight to 10 years.
More than 50 children are sent to three hospitals March 18 after a car hits black ice, strikes a school bus, which rolls over on Peaceable Street March 18. No one is seriously injured, but the crash prompts a study of road sanding procedures.
Parents submit petitions with 700 signatures, asking that any sex education courses proposed be brought to a referendum.
Against the order of the Pope, traditionalist French Bishop Marcel Lefebvre comes to St. Thomas Aquinas Seminar on Tackora Trail in April to ordain seminarians. Six years later he is excommunicated.
A development corporation owned by the Rockefeller family options 58 acres in Ridgebury for development. The sale never goes through.
Genoa Deli opens on Danbury Road, in the old Wayside Market location.
Rain cancels the Memorial Day parade, and the selectmen ask coordinators to have one July 4.
In heavy June rains, 175 dealers for the Community Center Flea Market arrive at the traditional location, Veterans Park fields, but their wheels do thousands of dollars in damage to water-softened playing fields. The Parks and Recreation Commission subsequently bans use of the fields for vehicular events, including the long-running Lions antique car shows each September.
A 26-member study panel recommends converting the seventh and eighth grade East Ridge Junior High School into a middle school of grades six through eight.
The town has its first -- and only -- "Heritage Day" July 4, with the Connecticut Fifth giving military displays, a dixieland jazz band at the community center, and special shows at the Keeler Tavern.
A year after a car smashes it, Dr. Robert Mead fixes the Cass Gilbert Fountain, which is replaced in July on its Main Street and West Lane island.
James Spafford resigns after four years as high school principal.
A 33-year-old Air Force veteran kills both his parents with a shotgun in August. He flees, is later captured in California, convicted and sent to prison.
Prompted by incidents of late-night revelry, a Town Meeting in August approves an ordinance banning drinking in public without a permit. The 65-24 vote is dominated by senior citizens.
In October, Rick and Donna Addessi buy the Scott Block, in which their Main Street jewelry store has been located since 1966.
Republican Martha Rothman beats Democrat Linda Bohacek for state representative in November by what is called a record margin: Rothman gets 71% of the vote.
Safe Rides, which offers drives home to kids who are intoxicated or want to avoid being with drinkers, launches in Ridgefield Nov. 12. A year later, it has provided 626 rides with the help of 3,500 volunteer hours.
Police in late November and December scour the town for a white male in his 20s who stabbed a boy and a girl, each 14, in separate incidents at Mimosa. The man is never caught.
That fall, the Ridgefield Family Y, fearing the high price of developing its Ivy Hill Road site, says it wants to buy the closed Barlow Mountain School and build a pool there.
As school officials decide whether to close Branchville or Veterans Park Schools, First Selectman Elizabeth Leonard proposes turning the latter into a town and school office building.
The Ridgefield Boys Club in late December offers to pay the town $39,200 for the 4.9 acres it leases on Governor Street. The offer answers a court decision that the town's $1-a-year lease to the all-male club is unconstitutional government support of a discriminatory organization.
The Board of Selectmen is increased from three to five members to give it greater representation. In the 19th Century, it had been a five-member board.
WREF’s 180-foot transmitting tower is erected at the edge of the old town dump in January.
More than 700 people pack a February town meeting to approve the sale of Barlow Mountain School to the Ridgefield Family Y for $625,000.
Because of enrollment declines, the school board votes 7-1 in February to close Branchville School.
In only 12 hours Friday, Feb. 11, nearly two feet of snow falls on town, one of the fastest accumulations on record.
The Connecticut Public Expenditure Council reports in March that Ridgefield is the 12th richest town in the state in personal income.
An anonymous donor says that he or she will give $1 million toward the expansion of the Ridgefield Library, starting a process that leads a renovation and addition that almost doubles the size of the building.
A 23-year-old Ridgefielder is arrested in June after he grabs a cement-based handicapped parking sign and begins smashing a car illegally parking in a handicapped spot at Copps Hill Plaza. Police describe the damage as “extensive.”
In the worst vehicular accident in the town’s history, four people die when their light plane crashes and burns June 11 off Mopus Bridge Road just after taking off from Danbury Airport.
Forty teachers protest after the school board allows four students who had flunked English to participate in graduation.
On commencement night, June 13, a hit-and-run driver kills Christopher Ely, 17, outside a North Salem Road graduation party. An 18-year-old classmate is arrested and convicted. He later commits suicide.
A town meeting votes June 23 to spend $600,000 to create three new athletic fields and renovate many others.
A federal judge rules in July that the town cannot give land to the Boys’ Club for a swimming pool unless the club opens its doors equally to girls. The club refuses and the land deal gift falls through. The judge later rules that the $1-a-year lease for the clubhouse is also illegal, and the club agrees later that year to pay the town $59,000 for the land.
Ken Carvell, named the town’s first appointed assessor in 1975, leaves that summer to take a higher-paying job in Westport.
The U.S. Postal Service says in August that it’ll ignore the Planning and Zoning Commission’s rejection of its permit for a new post office on Catoonah Street and will build anyway.
A study committee recommends creating a historic district in Ridgebury.
First Selectman Elizabeth Leonard, who once opposed the Ballard Green senior housing, proposed adding $1.5 million more housing for the elderly.
Two tokens replace eight quarters as admission to the trash transfer station that fall.
In the November election, Elizabeth Leonard beats Mike Venus, 4,243 to 1,801, for first selectman, but Mr. Venus ekes out a seat on the board, beating Robert Swick who polled 1,798, three fewer votes.
CVS, a big drug chain, announces in November that it will move into the old A&P supermarket on Danbury Road.
Police report 16 accidents in November involved cars crashing into deer.
Group W reported in December that it was providing cable TV service to 70 of the 200 miles of road in town.
The state Department of Education calls Ridgefield's junior and senior high schools among the best in the state, based on federal criteria.
The Zoning Board of Appeals vetoes an expansion of Altnacraig nursing home on High Ridge to 120 beds after neighbors bitterly oppose the plan.
All town vehicles that spring sport front plates saying "Ridgefield Home of Champions" after Ridgefield High football, boys and girls soccer, hockey, and girls cross country teams all win state championships that school year.
School Superintendent Elliott Landon calls the leaking high school roof "a disaster" in March.
Affected property owners reject a new historic district along upper Ridgebury Road in March.
Since 1982, developer Peter Friedman has been purchasing corporate-zoned land in upper Ridgebury. In March, more than 200 acres in hand, he reports that "it's my grave desire to have a Rolls Royce project there. What is right for Ridgefield is a Chesebrough-Pond’s, an American Can, an IBM and not Union Carbide. I don't want to build a city."
In a presidential primary in March, Ridgefield Democrats join the state in supporting Gary Hart (62%) over Walter Mondale (26%) or the Rev. Jesse Jackson (6.5%).
The town settles a lawsuit, brought by Attorney William Laviano on behalf of a man arrested for drinking in public. Mr. Laviano claims the town's anti-public-drinking ordinance is unclear, unfairly enforced, and violates civil rights. The town abandons the law and passes a clearer version that still stands.
Conductor Maxim Shostakovich, who recently fled Russia and is the son of composer Dmitri Shostakovich, leads the Ridgefield Orchestra in an April concert. Maxim's son, Dmitri, is pianist for his grandfather's Second Piano Concerto. Both live in Ridgefield.
Charles Szentkuti proposes a two-story office condominium, called the Executive Pavilion, at the old New England Institute site on Grove Street. Zoners approve.
Lack of members prompts the Women's Town Club to fold after 28 years. "They'd rather earn $10 or $15 in an afternoon than sit in a meeting all afternoon," said the last president, Elaine Knox. "I think we just got caught up in the times."
In an unusual referendum that June, voters reject the school budget because it's too low. A higher budget later passes.
On Sunday, June 24, the first parent-sponsored, alcohol-free post-graduation party takes place. It is a year after a drunken graduate kills a classmate with a car at a graduation party at which alcohol was served. The party has taken place annually since.
Former school board member Barbara DePencier is named principal of Scotland School in June.
The Ridgefield Youth Orchestra travels to Europe that summer and gives concerts on both sides of the Iron Curtain.
The trash transfer station switches from quarters to tokens Aug. 1.
After holding up a Wilton bank, a Bridgeport man robs the Ridgefield Savings Bank branch on Governor Street in August. Ridgefield police capture him a short while later. It's the fourth and last bank robbery of the century. All four cases are solved.
Rick and Donna Addessi buy the Gaeta block on Main Street in August.
On Aug. 12, Barbara (Mrs. John) Grasso of Ridgebury Road gives birth to Alyssa Brook, Joseph Anthony, and Scott Andrew.
That summer the town undertakes a $600,000 renovation of many athletic fields, including installation of underground irrigation. The project drags on into the fall, causing many game-scheduling headaches.
Also that summer a $1.5-million asbestos-removal project begins in the elementary schools. It, too, drags into the fall.
In September, the selectmen approve $5,000 to begin work on a Danbury Road bypass. The road opens 15 years later.
The same month, big cement blocks barricade a ramp connecting Yankee Ridge shopping center with parking lots to the south. Yankee Ridge owners disliked it's being used as a shortcut. Despite much criticism of the move, the blocks are still there.
With a $1-million anonymous donor's gift and another $500,000, the Ridgefield Library undertakes a major expansion during the year. After closing for the final month work, the library reopens just after Christmas more than double its previous size.
James Lapak, director of the Ridgefield Family Y, says membership has grown to 4,000 people. He expects another 2,000 once the pool is completed in 1985.
Republican John Rowland beats incumbent William Ratchford for Fifth District Congressman. Ronald Reagan takes the town, 8,500 to 3,200 for Walter Mondale.
The new Ridgefield Post Office opens in November.
Ridgefield's Center Historic District is placed on the National Register of Historic Places in the fall.
Children's playing with matches leads to a smoky fire that takes hours to subdue at the old New England Institute. Part of the building is the old Ridgefield Golf Club, built in 1895 off Golf Lane, and moved here in the 1930s to be a goat barn.
In May, 324 Ridgefield High School students gyrate as long as 12 hours at SuperDance, raising $28,000 to fight muscular dystrophy. To celebrate, popular teacher Bob Cox shaves his beard (and doesn't grow it back until 2000. By then, what was once black is white.).
Galloway’s Pub, a popular watering hole in the Grand Union shopping center, explodes in July after gas leaks from a propane truck. No one is injured, but the destroyed restaurant never reopens.
In September, the sixth grade, which had been in the elementary schools, moves to the East Ridge Junior High, which is renamed East Ridge Middle School.
"Five years of work" goes up in flame in January as the Tower of Pizza burns down on Route 7.
In January, Danbeth Partners proposes a $45-million corporate park in the northwest corner of town. The company gets approval but the market for offices drops out. The land is now the Turner Hill subdivision.
Around-the-clock paramedic service begins Feb. 1.
Charles Szentkuti proposes building 426 condominiums on Farmingville Road. The idea gets nowhere, and the land is now the Norrans Ridge subdivision.
Saying he'll run on the theme, "the American dream for all Americans," newcomer Jeffrey Peters announces he'll run for Congress. He doesn't make it past the convention. In 2000, living in New Hampshire, he's a candidate for president on the ticket of the We the People Party, which he founds in 1994.
Superintendent Elliott Landon leaves for a post on his native Long Island. (He returns to Connecticut in 1999 to take over the Westport school system.)
Jennifer Benusis, a Ridgefield High School senior, is named Ms. Connecticut in March. Three years later, sister Alison Benusis, an RHS junior, becomes Connecticut Teen All American.
The Zoning Board of Appeals rejects Pamby Motors' application to put a Yugo sign at its Danbury Road dealership.
Gasoline prices fall below $1 at a couple of gas stations in March, but others are charging as much as $1.60 a gallon for regular.
The Annual Town Meeting in May rejects a plan to spend $2 million on a third firehouse somewhere north of the village.
Ridgefield native Romeo Petroni, who's been seeking the GOP nomination for governor, bows out of the race in June. "I don't have the votes," he says.
Despite youngsters' repeated pleas for a place to go skateboarding, town officials shy away, fearing injury lawsuits.
Saying that spring that its numbers have dwindled from more than 100 to "30 good, active members," leaders of the Ridgefield Volunteer Fire Department fear the organization may die. It's still alive and well.
That summer, the town rallies around an elm, proposed for felling so Prospect Street can cross Main directly into the Grand Union shopping center. Tree supporters say it's a rare survivor of Dutch elm disease and a symbol of what's best about Ridgefield. Opponents say it will die soon anyway. In 2000, the elm is alive and well.
In a September GOP primary, Westport's Judith Freedman beats former Ridgefield state representative Herbert V. Camp for state senator. Sixteen-year incumbent Senator John Matthews is retiring.
As the race for state representative moves closer to November, GOP incumbent Jane Jansen quits, citing family considerations. Jan Johns fills the slot, but loses in November to Barbara Ireland, the first Democrat to hold the job since 1911. The Press's Nov. 6 headline: 'Irish' Eyes Are Smilin'.
Brunetti's Market, a familiar store on Main Street for a quarter century, announces in November it will close.
A Better Chance (ABC), denied a town-owned building on the Community Center property, finds a home on Fairview Avenue to house girls from the inner city who will attend Ridgefield High School.
Tree Warden John Pinchbeck reports in November that "maple decline" is killing many roadside trees and a virus is attacking many ashes.
David Larson, a former math teacher and football coach from Southington, is hired as school superintendent in December.
In December, the town has an advisory vote on whether to support the construction of Super 7. Only 1,636 of the 12,900 voters show up, with 1,241 against and 393 for the expressway. The vote helps mold official policy on the road for years to come and eventually, Governor Rowland shelves the project.
Altnacraig on High Ridge, the town's only nursing home, is for sale. Eventually it closes. In 1994, it burns to the ground.
Citing her painful rheumatoid arthritis, Elizabeth Leonard announces in April she won't run for a fourth term as first selectman.
John and Patricia Manningham die of smoke inhalation after a baseboard heater starts a fire in their Twin Ridge home April 3.
A Ridgefield man is arrested in June for shooting an acquaintance through the head at a Farmingville Road house. A year later he is sentenced to 10 years in prison for manslaughter.
In July, Dr. David Sklarz, middle school principal, resigns. He is the third principal to leave in two months – Bernadette Marczely left the high school in May and Angela Wormser-Reid quit Ridgebury in June. “It’s a difficult time,” says fledgling Superintendent David Larson.
First Selectman Elizabeth Leonard proposes converting the former Holy Ghost Novitiate on Prospect Ridge, then the school office building, into congregate housing for the elderly.
On Oct. 4, barely two weeks after summer ended, a freak snowstorm dumps three inches on the town, felling countless leaf-laden trees and limbs, and knocking out electricity to 83% of the homes in town. Some remained without power for four days.
Sue Manning is elected first selectman in November.
Ridgefield leads the state in car-deer accidents with 63 reported.
Books Plus on Main Street, the town's oldest bookstore, closes.
School board offices move from the old novitiate to former Branchville School in January, but by May school officials are wondering about reopening Branchville due to signs enrollment would start rising again.
State Rep. Barbara Ireland says in March that Super 7 "certainly seems to be coming."
Eleven classrooms at Scotland School have plastic sheeting for ceilings in April after melting ice and snow cause widespread leaks in the flat roof.
Morganti Inc., a Ridgefield contracting firm for 68 years, is bought by a Greek concern.
Claiming a violation of free speech, supporters of Lodestar sue the school board after the high school literary magazine publishes an alumni submission with colorful language that prompts the superintendent to ban non-student submissions. The battle will last three years and cost the board more than $400,000.
Deer ticks and Lyme disease are breaking news in the spring.
A pick-up truck driven by an off-duty Norwalk policeman shatters the Cass Gilbert fountain, the fourth time in 12 years, prompting the state to recommend the monument be surrounded by guardrails.
Stonehenge Inn's 170-year-old building is destroyed in June by a fire of undetermined origin.
Boehringer Ingelheim announces in July plans for a 250,000-square-foot corporate headquarters in Ridgebury.
An outcry is heard in July after the school board awards Superintendent Larson an 18% pay increase (to $90,000) shortly after two referendums heavily cut the school budget. Two months later, Larson quits to return to Southington, whence he came.
Voters agree to buy the "Crouchley property" next to the post office in July.
Janel Jorgensen, a Ridgefield High School senior, wins a silver medal as a member of the 400-meter women's medley relay team at the Olympics in Seoul. She is the only person ever to win an Olympic medal as a Ridgefielder.
The Housatonic Area Regional Transit District (HART) announces in October it will start running buses between Danbury and Ridgefield every 45 minutes Mondays through Saturdays. The service lasts 10 months before HART figures out it will never come close to being self-supporting.
The library decides to add a program room.
Democrat Barbara Ireland handily defeats Tim Klvana for a second term as state representative in November.
The average selling price of a house is $350,000.
The state Supreme Court rules Jan. 31 that Carol M. McConnell, a Danbury Hospital nurse from Ridgefield, has a right to die. Mrs. McConnell has not regained consciousness since a January 1985 auto accident, but the state has fought removal of life support. Support is removed; she dies Feb. 28.
Amid a poor national economy, it takes a record three budget referendums to pass the budgets that spring. Many town and school employees are laid off. "Cuts sink morale," says a July 6 headline.
A life-care complex is proposed in June for the Ippoliti land on Danbury Road and zoning for it is approved the next May. Nothing happens.
A strange fungus is killing most of the Gypsy Moth caterpillars in June in the latest outbreak of the tree defoliators. "We've never seen anything like this," said the state entomologist.
In June, the school board names Jerry Marcus of White Plains as superintendent.
The Republican Town Committee rejects former First Selectman Elizabeth Leonard's candidacy for Board of Selectmen, but a GOP caucus in July overrules the committee and puts her -- and other rejections -- on the ticket.
GranCentral Market, which had occupied the old First National since 1974, says it will close in August. "We're just not getting support," said an executive.
Times may be tough but by September, the town's Dlhy Ridge Golf Course has 2,000 Ridgefielders registered as users, a record in its 15 years.
Richard McGlynn retires as fire chief and on Oct. 30, Richard Nagle, a former New York City firefighter, takes over.
A 130-foot pole, the tallest structure in the village, is erected in November over the police station to hold cellular phone communications as well as police radio antennas.
To save money, the school board offers teachers $27,000 in cash if they'll retire early. Many jump at the chance.
A Waterbury firm proposes in November building a senior housing and health care complex called Laurelwood on Route 7.
Despite the budget battles of the spring, Ridgefield's tax hike of 11.6% was the biggest in Fairfield County, says the Connecticut Conference of Municipalities in December. But the Connecticut Public Expenditure Council notes a month later that Ridgefield ranked 122nd among 169 towns in taxes.
After a complaint that it violates separation of church and state, the Creche is moved from the Community Center grounds, where it stood each Christmas since 1952, to private property on Main Street.
Only 26 permits for new houses were issued in 1989; just five years early 137 new houses were built.
Ridgefield’s population growth, slowed by 1980s recession, reaches 20,919.
First Selectman Sue Manning announces plans to give the village business district a facelift, with old-style lighting fixtures, benches, and brick walks.
A real estate official reports in February that 76,000 square feet of office space is vacant in town.
In March, the town begins charging for ambulance calls.
Ground is broken in April for the new Ridgefield Bank headquarters on Danbury Road.
Romeo Petroni, a lifelong Ridgefielder, is named a Superior Court judge in May.
Encore Books opens at Copps Hill Plaza.
The first three ABC students graduate from Ridgefield High School in June.
Lacking enough money, The Ridgefield Family Y announces in June that it will close immediately. "We have done all that we can do," says President Bruce Hopkins.
The Ridgefield Press announces in July that despite an earlier announcement, it will not be sold to the Times-Mirror Corporation.
Ridgefield Cinema, the town's last movie house, closes in August.
For the first time in years, school enrollment increases in September -- albeit slightly: from 3,284 the previous September to 3,300. School officials are concerned.
Aldo Biagiotti's book, Impact: The Historical Account of the Italian Immigrants of Ridgefield, Conn., is published in September.
The Gulf War causes gas prices to jump 15 cents a gallon almost immediately in September.
Vivian Schneider becomes the first Ridgefield Volunteer Fire Department woman firefighter.
Barbara Ireland wins a third term as state representative, topping Beth Yanity, 4,968 to 3,823.
In November, President George Bush signs a bill into law creating the Weir Farm National Historic Site.
Men working on a new slate roof for a century old Main Street mansion at King Lane set it afire in November, causing $500,000 in damage.
Joseph Ellis is named high school principal.
In December voters approve an ordinance, complementing a new state law requiring recycling, imposing $100 fines for not recycling, but town officials are still wrestling with how to make sure families follow the law.
The Ridgefield Swim Club is formed to try to take over the Family Y.
The Ridgefield Press publishes a 16-page special supplement, “Ridgefield and A World at War,” marking the 50th anniversary of the start of World War II and containing stories of war and the home front.
A town employee is found to have embezzled $50,000 and faces up to 20 years in prison. A restitution settlement and plea bargain kept her out of jail.
Rotary goes co-ed, electing State Rep. Barbara Ireland its first female member in January.
Thirty-two yellow ribbons are tied on trees at the middle school honoring the Ridgefielders serving in Operation Desert Storm in February.
Two dogs corner a rabid raccoon in Ridgefield in late March, the first case of rabies recorded in Connecticut since 1960 and the beginning of the epidemic that was to sweep through the state and is still a threat.
The Fitzgerald quadruplets -- Sean, Brittany, Tyler, and Ryan -- are born on March 20.
Hay Day Country Market opens in June.
A black bear visits town in early July, the first time one had been sighted in many years.
As Bridgeport Hydraulic Company prepares to take over the Ridgefield Water Supply Company, residents of High Ridge are without water for two weeks in late summer because of pressure problems.
The state income tax passes on Aug. 22.
Prospect Ridge affordable housing and the Congregate Housing, both built by the Housing Authority, open in the fall as did Halpin Court, affordable housing built privately by the Nolan brothers of Danbury.
Regina Yannuzzi wins two seats on the Board of Education in November, running as a Democrat write-in candidate for a four-year seat and the party's nominee for a two-year seat.
President Bush signs a bill providing $1.75 million to establish Weir Farm National Historic Site.
The school board votes in January to eliminate the outdoor smoking area at the high school.
The Class of 1992 has a record-breaking 11 National Merit Scholarship finalists.
Laurelwood, the town's first large-scale care center for the elderly, is approved April 14 for a 50-acre site on Route 7.
Boehringer Ingelheim opens its new administrative building in April.
Liz Leonard resigns from the Board of Selectmen because of ill health. Two weeks later, on July 13, she dies.
In the spring, the ripple effect of bad times leads to big town and school budget cuts, including three cops and a fireman. The schools, which lost 36 teachers in four years, drop eight more.
Less than three years after he’s hired, Jerry Marcus quits as school superintendent and moves to Atlanta.
Dunkin Donuts opens in August.
Karl Seymour Nash, editor and publisher of The Press for more than a half century, dies on Dec. 22 at the age of 84.
The state says plans to extend Super 7 expressway from Norwalk to Danbury would be put on hold at least 10 years.
In May, the town votes to buy the old Barlow Mountain School from Village Bank, which had foreclosed the mortgage on the Ridgefield Family Y.
The town votes in June to reopen Branchville School to serve the growing elementary enrollment.
Beechwood wells off Farmingville Road go online in June for Ridgefield Water Supply Company, ending a two-year moratorium on new hook-ups.
The pilot dies, but a young passenger escapes as a vintage airplane crashes on Pine Mountain in July.
Woolworth's, the town's only "five and dime," closes at the end of October.
A major fire in January shuts down Pizza Hut for weeks.
Ridgefield Recreation Center opens Jan. 15.
A suspicious fire in January levels Altnacraig mansion, a 90-year-old High Ridge landmark. Firemen are at the scene 14 hours.
Jo Ellyn Schimke is sworn in Feb. 1 as first female commandant of the Marine Corps League.
Laurelwood opens Feb. 17.
By March 24, 75 inches of snow have fallen, canceling school 12 times.
The Allan brothers sell 440 Main Street, now the Gap et al.
Duchess opens in June.
The town rents part of the old high school to the District Nursing Association in June.
With a $250,000 state grant, the town begins village beautification that includes new sidewalks, hedges, and streetlights.
Voters in October agree to re-open Branchville School.
Chris Scalzo defeats Di Masters for state representative in November, the first time in eight years a Republican holds the office.
A Norway Spruce is felled and shipped to New York to become the Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree.
After a "vigorous" two-hour discussion, a November Town Meeting vetoes a regional diversity program for the schools, 101 to 81.
The Barn, a long-awaited teen center, opens in mid-December.
Some 3,500 homes spend part or all of Dec. 25 without electricity after a Christmas Eve storm.
Ridgefield Girls Initiative is founded in February by the American Association of University Women to boost girls' self-esteem.
The Planning and Zoning Commission asks the selectmen in April to buy the IBM property, suggesting a $5-million offer.
Beatrice Brown ends her 25 years as conductor of the Ridgefield Symphony Orchestra in April.
Eight-term Town Clerk Dora Cassavechia announces in June she'll retire.
Eleanor Karvelis, only the second woman to be a principal here, dies June 24 at 67.
A Superior Court judge in July overturns the school board's 1993 firing of teacher Nancy Sekor.
John P. Cooke runs for first selectman on the Independent Party ticket.
On Aug. 8, the U.S. Postal Service issues a 78-cent stamp honoring suffragist Alice Paul. She is the first Ridgefielder ever pictured on a postage stamp. However, three years later, a second Ridgefielder -- Henry Luce -- appears on another stamp.
Rainfall is 10 inches below normal, wells are running dry, and the selectmen impose a water emergency at the end of August.
The Alternative High School opens in September.
A parade of 55 Bernese mountain dogs marches down Main Street in October in the first of what becomes an annual tradition.
Sue Manning is elected to her fifth and final term as first selectman in November, defeating Barbara Manners by 450 votes. Independent John Cooke is a distant third.
Dr. John Heller, who brought the New England Institute for Medical Research here in 1954, dies Dec. 13 at the age of 74.
Petitioners ask in December that Pelham Lane be declared the town's first "scenic road."
During the winter of 1995-96, the most snow of any winter in the century falls on the region: approximately 111 inches. Jan. 7-8, the town gets 21 inches in 24 hours.
Pamby Motors opens new showroom on Route in middle of the Jan. 7 blizzard.
As it attempts an emergency landing at Danbury Airport in May, a plane crashes on Pine Mountain, killing two.
The town pays $2 million for development rights to the 101-acre Brewster farm in Farmingville, the first such arrangement in the town's history.
Alternative High School has first graduation in June.
Pilot Richard G. Campbell, the flight engineer, is among the dead as TWA Flight 800 explodes off Long Island July 18.
The Press changes its printing schedule in July, allowing it to be on the stands and delivered by mail Thursdays.
Dr. James Sheehan retires July 31 after 41 years as a Ridgefield pediatrician.
Silicon Valley Group (SVG) buys the 201,000-square-foot Perkin-Elmer building and 50 acres on Route 7 Aug. 1. The plant was built in 1967 to house Benrus, the watchmaker.
In September, 20 children enter kindergarten at the resurrected St. Mary’s School, the beginnings of an elementary school expands to higher grades in the years that follow.
To avoid a long and possibly costly lawsuit over zoning -- and the threat of a big multifamily housing project, voters in October agree to pay Peter Friedman and others $17.5 million for their 252 acres in Ridgebury, mostly to sell off as single-family housing.
Sidney Rothstein debuts in October as the new music director of the Ridgefield Symphony Orchestra.
A nor'easter hits town Oct. 19 with 6.16 inches of rain in 24 hours, the heaviest since the Flood of '55.
WLAD buys the ailing WREF, ending its local coverage of the town.
The Historic District Commission refuses to allow the First Church of Christ, Scientist, to put vinyl siding on its church, sparking a two-year lawsuit. The church loses.
The town's first portable classroom in years opens at Ridgebury School in January.
In February, the State Supreme Court upholds the school board's right to fire Nancy Sekor back in 1993.
The Zoning Board of Appeals in March rejects a variance that would have allowed the town to double the size of East Ridge Middle School.
Ottaway, a division of Dow Jones -- then in the midst of financial changes, decides in March not to buy Acorn Press, publishers of The Ridgefield Press and four other weeklies.
Voters reject in April an attempt to exempt town from zoning in order to build the expanded middle school.
Bob and Lessley Burke win $37 million in the Connecticut Powerball lottery May 14.
With the Junior Prom that May, the high school begins using Breathalyzers before admitting students to major social events.
Jeffrey Hansen announces in July he's quitting as school superintendent.
The Gap opens on Main Street Aug. 21.
The town creates a 59-lot subdivision from its 1996 Ridgebury purchase to sell at $11.7 million.
A merger between the Nash family, owners of Acorn Press -- The Ridgefield Press's parent -- and the Hersams of New Canaan Advertiser fame, creates the seven-paper Hersam Acorn Newspapers.
Ruth McAllister becomes first woman police sergeant in September.
IBM signs a contract with Toombs Development to buy 678 acres at Bennett's Pond.
Abe Morelli is elected first selectman Nov. 4, beating Rudy Marconi who comes back two years later to beat Mr. Morelli.
The Girl Scouts give the town 42-acre Camp Catoonah in November after the Sturges family, the original donors of the land, pointed out that it couldn't be sold. In May 2000, the camp is renamed Sturges Park.
In February, the school board picks Dr. Ralph Wallace, outspoken and sometimes controversial superintendent in Cheshire, as the new school superintendent.
Bedient’s Hardware closes in the spring. The town’s oldest store dates to the 1780s.
Voters in April approve up to $7.55 million to buy the 58-acre Ippoliti tract on Danbury Road for a possible new school.
Ridgefield Bank opens a branch at Ancona's Market in spring, the first banking office in Ridgefield to be open Sundays.
Chez Lenard, Main Street's by-now venerable hot dog stand, moves to Bailey Avenue after a nearby store owner sues, saying the wiener wagon drives away business. The cart soon returns to its old spot a half block north after many petitioners rise to its support.
For the first time since 1982, rain cancels the Memorial Day Parade.
Governor Rowland taps State Rep. Chris Scalzo to run for state comptroller. John Frey gets nod to replace Scalzo on local ticket. Democrats, who'd expected the popular Scalzo to run, had put up no opponent. In November, Frey wins, Scalzo loses.
Voters on Aug. 29 reject putting a new middle school on the just-purchased Ippoliti property. On Nov. 21, they do it again.
The Board of Selectmen votes in November to outlaw skateboarding in the village, but also establishes a skate park on East Ridge.
Landmark Academy says it will buy the old Notre Dame Academy on West Mountain for its prep school. It does, and the renamed Ridgefield Academy opens the next year.
The new owners of the old IBM land unveil plans in December for a corporate center, 150 units of multi-family housing, a conference center and hotel, and a 27-hole golf course. The land is called Bennett's Pond.
After 22 years as police chief, Thomas Rotunda retires to become executive director of the Connecticut Division of Special Revenues.
After 22 years as the town's department store, Caldor closes. Kohl’s arrives in April 2000.
When a proposal for a bypass between Route 102 and Route 35 is announced in February, residents of Quail Ridge -- through which the road would go -- are up in arms. The plan dies quickly.
A group forms in February to save the Scott House on Catoonah Street. The 1740s building will be moved to a pocket park at Grove Street and Sunset Lane to become the Ridgefield Historical Society headquarters.
Phyllis Paccadolmi retires in February after 53 years at the library.
The school board votes in March to build a new middle school.
Priceline, an online buying service, goes public in March and Ridgefielder Jay Walker, its founder, is suddenly a billionaire.
Pinchbeck's Nursery closes in April after 96 years in business.
The school board votes in April to build a sixth elementary school rather than add onto the existing five.
Richard Ligi is named the town's fourth police chief on April 22.
Chancellor Park at Laurelwood opens in May.
It's been a dry season and BHC, the water company, orders water use restrictions July 1.
The Ramapoo Road sewer line, the first sewer system expansion in years, is completed in August to serve 170 homes.
Voters adopt a pooper scooper ordinance in September, but nary a ticket is issued for unscooped poop in the many months that follow. No enforcement method is provided.
State officials in September are watching Great Swamp mosquitoes for both encephalitis and the new West Nile virus.
The remains of Hurricane Floyd dump 12 inches of rain in two days in mid-September, cutting power and causing more than $2 million in damage. Officials say a third of the town's roads need some repair.
The town votes in the fall to renovate the old high school auditorium on East Ridge, unused since 1972, into a playhouse for the performing arts.
Bypass Road, between Old Quarry and Farmingville Roads, is opened in mid-October, more than 25 years after it's first proposed.
Rudy Marconi is elected first selectman in November. Of 19 first selectmen during the 20th Century, he is only the fourth Democrat to win the office.
In proof that every vote counts, two candidates for selectman — Joseph Heyman and Michael Jones — tie at 3,787 votes each. In a runoff election, the first of its kind here, Heyman wins by 400 votes.
Under clear skies and in not too cold temperatures, thousands come to the village New Year's Eve for Festival 2000, a musical and fireworks celebration of the new century and millennium.