For a town whose reputation is often pegged to money it is perhaps no surprise that even after it was purchased by the British in 1640 the settlers of the town preferred to remain a part of the Dutch colony of New Amsterdam, a colony swayed first and foremost by all things financial. Those English buyers did well by themselves in the pocket book as well. For the cost of 25 coats, Daniel Patrick and Robert Feake picked up all the land between the Asamuck and Potommuck brooks.
For 200 years farming was the main activity in Greenwich, with a sprinkling of mills. Industry never really took hold in the town. There was a saltworks and an ironworks and shipbuilding but nothing that would leave a lasting mark. What would, however, leave an indelible impression on Greenwich was the railroad which arrived in 1848. At first New Yorkers used the easy access to Greenwich for a summer escape. When the humidity started to rise the rooms would fill at Ye Old Greenwich Inn, The Castle and The Crossways Inn in Old Greenwich, and The Maples Inn, The Lenox House and the Edgewood Inn.
Then, rather than rack up hotel charges the wealthy came to live. There was the “Tin Plate King,” Daniel Gray Reid. And the “Sugar King,” Henry O. Havemeyer. The “Mattress King,” Zalmon Gilbert Simmons, built the showiest estate of all. the families of Morgan, Rockefeller and Dodge all found their way to Greenwich. By the 1920s any list of richest American towns always had a place reserved on it for Greenwich. Our walking tour will begin in a cluster of civic buildings and then wander up the “Rodeo Drive of the Northeast where retail rents command more than midtown Manhattan per square foot...
Grenwich Post Office
310 Greenwich Avenue
This Classical Revival single-story building was fashioned from brick with stone detailing, includinga colonnade and balustrade across the roof, in 1917. In 2010 it was put up for sale by the federal government - asking price about $18 million.
WITH YOUR BACK TO THE THE POST OFFICE, WALK NORTH ON GREENWICH AVENUE (HAVEMEYER PLACE WILL BE ON YOUR RIGHT).
290 Greenwich Avenue
Like its neighbors across both streets, the post office and the old town hall, the Havemeyer Building resides on the National Register of Historic Places. The Romanesque-style building of yellow brick was constructed as the town’s central school.
Old Town Hall
299 Greenwich Avenue
The first Greenwich town meetings were held at irregular intervals in private homes and schoolhouses. A regular town meeting hall was built in the 1760s on Putnam Avenue near the site of the Second Congregational Church. During the Revolutionary War it was used as a guard house for the Greenwich Artillery Company and subsequently burned by the British. Back into private houses went the town council for decades until a new town building was constructed in 1836. After two score years the town business had outgrown the little space and began adjourning in public halls. The abandoned building, on the site of the Soldier’s Monument, was used as a jail for a short time but burned on October 15, 1874. Finally this Beaux Arts building, constructed on plans from Smith,W.J., Mowbray & Uffinger, was dedicated amidst great fanfare on October 19, 1905. Since the 1970s the Greenwich Arts Council has operated out of the former Greenwich Town Hall, as well as a senior center.
west side of Greenwich Avenue
Henry O. Havemeyer, the “Sugar King” of the American Sugar Refining Company, donated over $250,000 towards the construction of schools in Greenwich. In 1909 his family deeded the triangular parcel of land inside the corner of Greenwich Avenue and Arch Street for a public park. The Common is what is left over after the construction of the Havemeyer School.
240 Greenwich Avenue at Elm Street
This Beaux Arts tour-de-force, complete with topping dome, was constructed for the Greenwich Trust, Loan and Deposit Company. The bank opened for business on the east side of Greenwich Avenue on July 12, 1887. It still operates as a bank but the Greenwich Trust nameplate is long gone.
Saint Mary Roman Catholic Church
178 Greenwich Avenue
The first mass in the Town of Greenwich, conducted by the Saint John’s Parish of Stamford, was held sometime in 1854 in a house off Greenwich Avenue. By 1860 a small church had been built in town and in 1874 Saint Mary Parish was organized. This site was purchased in 1878 and a church dedicated in May 1879. It was destroyed by fire in 1900 and the current stone sanctuary dates its completion to 1905. On June 17, 1950, in this church Ethel Skakel, the daughter of George and Ann Skakel, married Robert F. Kennedy. The groom’s older brother John F. Kennedy, then a Democratic congressman from Boston, was the best man.
Putnam Trust Company
125 Greenwich Avenue
Putnam Trust organized in 1902 and almost made it to a 100th birthday celebration but was swallowed up by the Bank of New York in the 1990s. For much of that time the bank was headquartered in this powerful Neoclassical vault.
TURN RIGHT ON PUTNAM AVENUE.
First Presbyterian Church
1 West Putnam Avenue at northwest corner of Lafayette Place
A breakaway from the Second Congregational Church in 1881 led to the organization of this congregation. After deliberating for a year this site was purchased and the current church building was finally dedicated on October 25, 1887.
50 East Putnam Avenue
This high-style Colonial Revival building was added to the Greenwich streetscape in 1916. Within the span of a few years the town picked up several community service buildings - the YMCA, the YWCA and the Greenwich hospital. When it was decided to preserve the historic building in the 1990s, $10 million was budgeted to get the job done. More than a decade later the project is still going on and the price tag is north of $40 million.
First United Methodist Church of Greenwich
61 East Putnam Avenue
Circuit riding preachers brought Methodism to Greenwich as early as 1787 but it was not until 1843 that the “Horseneck Methodist Episcopal Society” was organized and a meetinghouse constructed. The cornerstone for the present house of worship was laid on May 12, 1868 upon which was constructed a fine example of a New England Carpenter Gothic church.
Second Congregational Church
139 East Putnam Street
Second Congregational Church of Greenwich was founded in 1705 when people living on the west side of the Mianus River decided to ease their transportation difficulties by establishing their own church. The first house of worship was 32 by 26 feet and cost $1,500. Over the years, it was replaced with larger wooden buildings until in 1856-58 the current stone church with its soaring, open-faced steeple was constructed. But not without controversy. Many thought the building, that cost $46,300, was too showy for a Congregational church.
Soldiers’ and Sailors’ Monument
intersection of Maple Avenue and Putnam Avenue
This remembrance to the Greenwich volunteers who gave their lives in the War Between the States was unveiled to great fanfare with a grand parade of veterans and speeches by high-ranking politicians on October 22, 1890. It occupies the site of the old town hall where most of the enlistments for the war would have been made. The monument was designed by Lazzari and Barton of Woodlawn, New York at a cost of about $6,000 to the Town of Greenwich.
181 East Putnam Avenue
This impressive Greek Revival house dominated by a quartet of fluted two-story Doric columns, was constructed elsewhere around 1840 and moved here at some time before 1879. The house’s unusual shape may have come about during a remodeling project in the 1860s. In recent times it has served as office space and a conference center.
216 East Putnam Avenue
Francis Tomes was an Englishman who came to America to find his fortune importing hardware in New York City. By 1861 Tomes was successful enough to hire Calvert Vaux of Central Park fame and one of America’s most important early Victorian architects, to design his family home. Vaux delivered an eclectic French Second Empire creation with mansard roof, classical pediments, sculpture groups and balustrades. Vaux included an illustration of the house in his influential 1867 book, Villas and Cottages, calling it a “Wooden Villa with a Curved Roof.” After suffering financial reversals Tomes was forced to sell the estate to Andrew Foster Higgins, the principal in the Johnson-Higgins Marine Insurance firm, in 1877. The house remained in the Higgins family until 1963 when it was sold to the adjacent Christ Church for use as a rectory.
Christ Church Greenwich
254 East Putnam Avenue
In Colonial times, the center of Greenwich was known as “Horseneck.” The local Anglicans built the Horseneck Chapel in 1747-49 on the brow of the Great Hill (later Put’s Hill). The parish of Christ Church was established on December 25, 1833 and the current stone sanctuary was consecrated in 1910.
243 East Putnam Avenue
Major General Israel Putnam, commander of the wintering Continental troops in Redding, was surprised by a British foraging party in this outpost on March 26, 1779. Local tradition has the 61-year old Putnam driving his horse down the rocky embankment to the east to escape the British dragoons - feared infantry who rode their horses into battle before dismounting to fight. A large stone and plaque tell the tale of “the famous ride down ‘Put’s Hill.’” The small building was known as Knapp’s Tavern during the Revolution and has been restored to its appearance at that time.
TURN AND RETRACE YOUR STEPS BACK TO THE TOUR STARTING POINT. TO SEE MORE OF GREENWICH YOU CAN TURN LEFT OFF PUTNAM AVENUE ONTO EITHER MILLBANK AVENUE OR MASON STREET. BOTH RUN INTO HAVERMEYER PLACE. TURN RIGHT ON HAVERMEYER TO REACH THE TOUR STARTING POINT IF YOU CHOOSE THIS OPTION.