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Greenwich has come a long way since its Horseneck days

December 21, 2018

I came upon an interesting bit about something known as the Perpetual Fund, or Connecticut School Fund. Back in the day, the fund was derived from the Western Reserve, a tract of land in Ohio sold by the state and that was derived from those whose lands had been damaged by British raids during the Revolution.

Evidently, the town later received money from the Perpetual Fund that was to be used just to support the local schools. In 1836, funds were distributed, and Greenwich’s share was $9,000. I realize $9,000 wouldn’t go far today. It might buy a handful of desks, but the $9,000 went a long way for the schools in Greenwich back then.

I wonder about the private school in Greenwich conducted by John Perrott starting in 1766. I never thought of this, but Greenwich, or Horseneck as it was called then, was home to a private school.

I never found out about the oldest house in Greenwich until I read a piece in my newspaper. Perhaps it was the demolition of the extraordinary house on Clapboard Ridge Road, probably the most beautiful house I’ve seen, with its double living rooms. It was leveled to put a terrible house on the property. How do these things happen?

According to the Hortulus Society, which was a garden club, in 1973 there were 169 houses that dated to the old days. I wonder how many of them are left. I hate to think. Unfortunately, since then, the deplorable situation has gotten worse.

Fortunately, then-First Selectman Wilbur M. Peck proclaimed July 18, 1947, as Founders Day. It was a long journey from the day that Capt. Daniel Patrick, and Robert and Elizabeth Feake dropped anchor in what is now Cos Cob, to the present-day Greenwich Avenue and the many outstanding homes in backcountry Greenwich, to say nothing of the shorefront properties.

At first, the town was known for selling liquor, joining people in marriage unlawfully, and having no church or school — which was not well thought of, to say the least. Evidently, most of the trouble was caused by many not well put together. That was why, in 1650, we were once again in the New Haven Colony with orders to attend church in Stamford.

Of course, more resentment came from the school situation, which at the time was none but which was taken care of quickly when Mead School opened its doors. Then, there were 250 children going to school 52 weeks a year from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m.

After that, Greenwich was known as the town with the finest school in the area. This prompted a big increase in the many, many folks who decided that Greenwich was the town for them, all 65,000, which includes Cos Cob, Riverside, and Old Greenwich. It then became one of the finest places to live in the area outside of New York City.

On the other hand, as one who has lived in Greenwich all my life, which is a long time, it seems to me that although many say the town has changed for the worse, in my opinion that is not true. Finding a parking spot on Greenwich Avenue is not easy, nor is finding a place at many of my favorite parts of town, such as my beloved library.

But sometimes I think that the reason I love the town so are the many wonderful aspects to it, in spite of all.

Greenwich native Norma Bartol, a former Greenwich Time reporter and columnist, lives in the backcountry.

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