Greenwich Historic Communities
If you live in Greenwich, visit often or work in Town, you probably have a sense that this is a place with a long and interesting story. You may know something of the history of the Town but are interested in learning more about the political, economic and demographic changes that have shaped the community since its founding in 1640. Perhaps you’re curious about a specific section of its nearly 50 square miles. Well, you’ve come to the right place! The interactive map below will help you discover the history of specific communities, some with names that reach back across the centuries to the earliest settlers. To get started, just click on a community name.
Banksville is a historic community centered on North Street in northeastern Greenwich on the New York border. It was named after the originator, John Banks, who established a thriving cottage industry of shoemakers in the area during the 1840s and 1850s. Banks supplied the shoes sold at John Dayton’s shoe store, which was located in the first business building built on Greenwich Avenue when it was created as part of the Borough of Greenwich in 1854. Besides the cottage industry, Banksville offered a round-trip stagecoach service from the Greenwich train station to Bedford, New York. It had its own school, postal service, general store, church and parsonage. The original Banksville Baptist Church and parsonage still stand at their sites on North Street, but as renovated private homes.
The historic community of Belle Haven covers a wide expanse of the central Greenwich shoreline originally owned by the farmer Abraham Mead. When Mead died in 1827, he left over 160 acres to his two sons, Zophar and Isaac Mead, who continued to farm the land. Isaac Mead had one son, Augustus Mead, who joined with Nelson Mead to sell a portion of the farmlands to the Belle Haven Land Company when it was formed in 1882 by Nathaniel Witherell, Robert Bruce and Thomas Mayo. The company incorporated in 1884. By 1886, the shoreland area of the Belle Haven subdivision featured 88 prime lots. After laying out the roads, which required 100 men, construction of the development began in 1889. The hub of Belle Haven activity, however, was the Belle Haven Casino, currently The Belle Haven Club, which was organized in 1889, but opened to great fanfare on the Fourth of July in 1892.
The earliest settlement in western Greenwich, Byram was sited along the eastern shoreline of the Byram River. The earliest known settler in Byram, Thomas Lyon, was originally from Stamford, Connecticut. He married Martha Winthrop who had emigrated to the New World from England as a child with her mother, Elizabeth Winthrop Feake, one of the founders of Greenwich in 1640. Martha Winthrop had been granted 300 acres of land in Greenwich by her grandfather, Massachusetts Bay Colony Governor John Winthrop. But she died young, and Thomas Lyon remarried and moved to Fairfield, Connecticut. Once there, he hired an attorney, John Banks, Sr., to attest to his right to the 300 acres which he claimed the “Dutch Governor” of New York had by then illegally seized. After negotiations with the Dutch and the English, including John Winthrop, Jr., the Town of Greenwich granted Thomas Lyon 300 acres of land on the eastern bank of the Byram River in 1676. After the legal settlement, as evidenced on official documents from the 1680s, the neck of land along the Byram River was called “Lyon’s Point.”
Chickahominy was named by Civil War veterans to commemorate the Battle of Chickahominy. The community grew with the trolley service, which began in Greenwich in 1901. After the trolley began service along Hamilton Avenue, a six-year building boom began that encompassed the geographic area between Hamilton Avenue and the Post Road. It was established by and populated primarily with Italian immigrants who formed just one of the pocket communities serving the local construction and utility needs of the burgeoning number of businesses and wealthy summer residents throughout Greenwich.
The name of the historic community of Cos Cob has been attributed in lore to either an English derivation of a Native American word, Cassacubque, meaning “a great ledge of rocks,” or to the description of a cob, a round clay structure, built by a man named Coe, hence “Coe's Cob;" but neither has been verified. The earliest local records indicate that the European settler Ebenezer Mead began purchasing meadowlands that extended from Horseneck Brook to the Myanos River on land named “Indian Field, Cos Cob” along the central shoreline of Greenwich as early as 1695. The deeds, however, did not mention the Native Americans (Munsee) who lived on that neck of land. It was not until after December 18, 1703, when Waspahin (John Cauk), Aurems (Orens) and Pax-can-a-hin “sold the land for a valuable consideration” that the development of both the entire “Lower Field” and the “Upper Field” of Cos Cob began in earnest. Ebenezer Mead continued to buy land on the point until 1713, after which time his son, Ebenezer Mead, Jr., added to the family’s farm, creating such expansive holdings that the area became known simply as Mead’s Point.
William Rockefeller, brother of John D. Rockefeller, and partner in the Standard Oil Trust, first came to Greenwich in the 1870s and constructed a palatial Victorian residence on Putnam Avenue in 1897. By 1881, he had purchased over 100 acres on Lake Avenue to create a “Gentlemen’s Driving Association.” The private trotting park, which required 50 men to create, included a one-quarter-mile racetrack, which was reputed to be the finest in the country. The ground was so rocky that they had to blast it out in order to create the loamy track. In 1922, both William Rockefeller and his son, William Goodsell Rockefeller, heir to the Standard Oil fortune, died. At the time, the former natural woodland and racetrack in “Deer Park” on Lake Avenue in central Greenwich included 122 acres, and the extended Rockefeller family’s joint land holdings in Greenwich encompassed a vast expanse of 538 acres north of Putnam Avenue in central Greenwich stretching from North Maple Avenue west over to Glenville. By 1926, the subdivision of the original “Deer Park” lands was under way. The area was upgraded to one-acre zoning in 1955.
The small historic community of Field Point, originally named “Horseneck,” was a shoreline neck of land in the center of town used as a pasture for horses in the 17th century. It became a portion of the farm of Abraham Mead. When Mead died in 1827, he bequeathed his farm to his two sons, Zophar and Isaac. Zophar had one son, Oliver, but he died unmarried in 1887. In Oliver’s will he bequeathed his farm to his cousin Oliver D. Mead. On July 14, 1899, Oliver D. Mead sold 112 acres of the farmland to the Field Point Land Company, which began creating an exclusive residential park beginning in 1901. The development transformed the rural trotting park previously used by the neighboring Belle Haven residents into 21 four-or- five acre shorefront estates. All of the plots had been sold by 1916; however, both the original Oliver Mead homestead at 9 Pear Lane (1825, 1860, 1890) and the Zophar Mead homestead, ca 1792, at 15 Pear Lane were preserved and still stand today.
Originally, the historic community of Glenville was called “Sherwood’s Bridge” after the extended Sherwood family members who lived in the area. Glenville Road was called “the road to Sherwood’s Bridge.” The name Glenville appeared as early as 1756 as a one-room public school. By 1773, when Anglicans represented only eight percent of the state and there were only a few non-Congregational religious dissenters, the first Baptist church, named the King Street Baptist Church, was organized in Glenville and served by ministers from New York. The church was used as a hospital during the American Revolutionary War, but had members like James Green who allied with New York and were true Loyalists. Green, like other sympathizers throughout town, had his property confiscated as a result of his treasonous acts.
Greenwich, originally called Horseneck, encompassed all of the land between the original settlement of what is today’s Old Greenwich and the western border along the shore of the Byram River. The name “Horseneck” was the central Greenwich neck of pastureland used by the settlers for horses in the 17th century. (Today that neck of land is called “Field Point.”) Originally surveyed in 1669, “twenty-seven proprietors” began drawing lots for the land in Horseneck in 1672. The 27 proprietors, however, did not have a clear title to develop the lands west of the Mianus River. Negotiations with the Native Americans finally settled the ownership of this area on February 1, 1686, when the remaining 14 Native Americans signed a deed of sale to the Town of Greenwich for all the lands from the west side of the Mianus River to the Byram River. In return for the wide expanse of rich fertile land, the Native Americans received 30 acres of fenced-in planting land at “Cos Cob Neck ye lower point” for their use during their lives. The name of the historic community of Greenwich was not changed from Horseneck until 1848, when the train first arrived and the name chosen for the only station was “Greenwich” because Horseneck was deemed too provincial. The original “Greenwich,” founded in 1640, became Greenwich, Old Town (see Old Greenwich).
Stamford residents Gene Tunney, former Marine and heavyweight boxing champion, and Arthur M. Starck started the Stamford Building Company, The Fairchester Realty Company and The Fairfield Mortgage Company in 1946 to provide home purchasers with a complete package of services including sales, financing and construction. Their first project was the creation of a zoned residential development with suitable and affordable housing for returning World War II veterans on the 200 acre former site of the H. O. Havemeyer estate, “Hilltop,” on Palmer Hill Road and Havemeyer Lane at the Stamford border. They named the development Havemeyer Park and the streets after famous generals and admirals of World War II, like Marshall, MacArthur and Halsey, but they were unable to keep Eisenhower as the residents preferred Northridge Drive.
An expansive central Greenwich planned residential enclave of the 1920s and 1930s that evolved into an exclusive neighborhood association off Round Hill Road was the creation of the famous New York architect I. N. Phelps Stokes and the Olmsted Brothers' landscape design firm of Central Park fame. Stokes purchased the original W. A. Husted farm encompassing almost 177 acres in 1900 and constructed a Tudor stone castle of his own design between 1908 and 1910. In 1910 he added a wing, which was an original 1597 half-timbered Tudor manor house he had seen in English Country Life. He purchased it and had it dismantled and shipped to the site in 688 cases overseen by the English foreman who reconstructed it high on a hill off Round Hill Road. Beginning in 1925 Stokes began subdividing his estate, selling two to seven acre plots replete with underground utilities and town water, eventually creating a 155-acre subdivision of significant estates that was named Khakum Wood. The mansion, including the 1597 manor-house wing, was demolished.
The Mianus River, named for the Native American sachem, Mayn Myannos, was the source of the name of the historic eastern communities of Greenwich that bore its name, including Mianus and Mianus Neck, in the 17th century. At that time the Mianus River was the primary inland route used by the Munsee Indians, Dutch and English colonists to serve the earliest settlements in Greenwich. After the near extinction of the local indians at the Battle of Strickland Plains in February of 1644, the farmland settlements began slowly radiating west and north from the original settlement (Old Greenwich today) into the contiguous geographic “lands lying by the Mianus River,” which included Mianus, Mianus Neck (now Riverside) and today’s North Mianus at the northernmost section of the Mianus River. It was not until after the 1660s that the owners of these newly settled lands, who retained their early ties to Stamford on the eastern border of the settlement, ventured west beyond the banks of the Mianus River.
By the 20th century, the subdivisions created throughout the town had melded into unique neighborhoods within the larger communities of Greenwich. For instance, Milbrook became the name of an in-town "carefully restricted residential park" created in 1923-1924 as the brainchild of Arthur H. Waterman, a Brooklyn speculator, and Armand L. Tibbitts, a Wisconsin landscape architect. Constructed on the former property of Jeremiah Milbank's great estate “Milbank” on Putnam Avenue, the new neighborhood was replete with its own golf course, tennis courts and private country clubhouse. Tibbitts, in fact, liked the community so much that after he completed the landscaping, he moved from Wisconsin into one of the homes he had designed. The Milbrook Country Club did not formally open until 1926.
The historic community of North Greenwich was formed when the North Greenwich Congregational Church was established in 1826. Founded by non-Quaker families, the parish expanded the boundaries beyond the area formerly included in the historic “Quaker Ridge” area as far east as Round Hill. Afterwards the far northwestern backcountry area was named “North Greenwich,” a name which it retains to this day.
After 1688 the area along the northern Mianus River, originally called “Steep Hollow” and later North Mianus, developed into the town’s first business center. It was the site of the only gristmill in town, granted to Joshua Haight, who held a monopoly on the business serving the early settlement until 1704. Both the gristmill and a sawmill, which was built in 1691, were located near the bridge over the Mianus River at the intersection of today’s Palmer Hill and Valley Roads. The bridge was built on the location where the saltwater tides from the Sound met the fresh water and created a sandbar where one could safely ford the river. In 1688 the bridge allowed for the first connection of the “Main Country Road” between Boston and New York along the King’s Highway or the Westchester Path. This early “Main Country Road” began at the Stamford border, turned south at the Mianus River bridge and continued down Valley Road until it reached what is today East Putnam Avenue in Cos Cob; from there it continued west to the border with New York.
The historic community of Old Greenwich is the original Town of Greenwich. On July 18, 1640, local Native Americans, who had inhabited the land since the late Archaic Period, sold what was then a shoreline patch of marshy wilderness (currently the tip of Old Greenwich) to a small group of settlers for the sum of 25 red coats, only a portion of which was delivered. The first founder was Captain Daniel Patrick. He was by reputation a freewheeling, unscrupulous rogue who had emigrated from the Netherlands with his Dutch wife, Anne Van Beyeren, after being appointed in 1630 by the new Governor John Winthrop of the Massachusetts Bay Colony to be one of the first military commanders of the militia in the New World. The second, Robert Feake, was the son of a British goldsmith who had emigrated from England 10 years before and, by 1640, was a wealthy landowner in Watertown. The third settler was a young intrepid Englishwoman, Elizabeth Winthrop Feake, immortalized by Anya Seton in The Winthrop Woman. She was the niece of Governor John Winthrop and his formerly widowed daughter-in-law who had married Robert Feake after emigrating from England in 1631. Elizabeth Winthrop's particular purchase, which was an exceptional transaction for a woman at the time, was "Monakewego," a neck of land known today as Greenwich Point, but on maps of the period as “Elizabeth’s Neck.” A portion of these lands was subsequently transferred from Patrick and Feake to Jeffrey Ferris, an Englishman who is credited with naming the settlement “Greenwich” after the town of Greenwich in England.
“Greenwich” became the name for central Greenwich in 1848 when the first train station was constructed in town. It was changed because “Horseneck,” the former name for the downtown central area, was considered too provincial. Afterwards, the original community of Greenwich became “Greenwich, Old Town,” but when the train began stopping there in 1872, the community’s name was changed again to “Sound Beach” in order to attract summer tourists to the beaches. It reverted back to “Old Greenwich” in 1931 because there were no longer any public beaches to serve tourists disembarking from the train.
In 1706 the Town of Greenwich facilitated the first settlement into the central northwest area known as Pecksland. The town gave Jeremiah Peck, a Harvard graduate who had originally arrived in 1678 as the first “settled” minister of the First Church (today’s First Congregational Church in Old Greenwich), 40 acres of land in the northwest mid-country in lieu of a portion of his salary. The shortfall was due to Quakers who had refused to pay his salary. The Quakers did not agree with Peck’s religious orthodoxy nor did they want to financially support the First Society’s Church. They were not alone in their discontent, but the Connecticut General Assembly’s mandatory tax to support Congregational ministers did not end until 1798, and its mandatory requirement to attend the Congregational Church did not change until 1818 when a new Constitution of the State of Connecticut officially separated church and state and disestablished the Congregational Church.
The last uncontested major tract of Native American land within the western border of Greenwich was deeded to the town in 1701. The deed was witnessed by Waspahin, a Munsee Indian renamed “John Cauk.” A lottery was held that divided the surveyed woodland lots among “78 proprietors”; each proprietor received one acre for every four-pound estate based on the 1697 Tax List, which allowed for the development by 1712 of the far northwestern New York border settlements for the first time. The lots began north of the “Main Country Road" (West Putnam Avenue today) in Pemberwick, an area named after the original Native American “Pemberwog Brook” (an artery of the Byram River), and continued north along the western border up to the town line with New York State.
In 1701, when the famous “Cauk’s Purchase” of land was finalized by the Town of Greenwich, today’s North Greenwich encompassed an area originally named “Byram Long Ridge,” sited on a long ridge of land on the northwestern border with New York. The area was renamed “Quaker Ridge” in recognition of the extended Marshall family of Quakers who settled in the area and were the wealthiest estate holders in town as registered in the Town of Greenwich’s Commonplace Book as early as 1697.
The original historic 17th-century community of Mianus Neck first became Riverside in the 19th century. In 1865 Mianus Neck was the location of the Continental Mower and Reaper Company, which built a plant on the western shoreline of the Mianus River. It was not a successful endeavor and closed after only two years. That same year Jeremiah Atwater, a real estate broker in New York, moved to Greenwich and within a few years realized the potential of the area, started buying land in Mianus Neck and constructing houses. Atwater, in association with Luke Vincent Lockwood, a New York attorney and resident of Mianus Neck, succeeded in renaming Mianus Neck “Riverside” in 1869 to attract summer renters and homeowners. To further enhance their communiy, they established a new Riverside railroad stop and train station. Lockwood was superintendent of the Episcopal Society Sunday School and, with a donation of land by Jeremiah Atwater, organized and constructed today’s St. Paul’s Church on Riverside Avenue in 1876.
Riversville was a small village in northwestern Greenwich that developed along the Byram River that supported the Wilcox Factory started by Josiah Wilcox in 1828 for manufacturing tinner’s tools. By 1858 they had added carriage hardware to their product line. In 1867 Wilcox constructed a house for a “Mission Sunday School” for the “Association of the Union Society of North Greenwich.” The factory operated for almost 75 years, closing in 1904. During those years the extended Wilcox family constructed numerous homes along Riversville Road, a few of which still stand today as historic landmarks, as well as the Wilcox Pond.
The over 150-acre Rock Ridge Farm of Zaccheus Mead between Glenville Road and Lake Avenue had originally been one of the greatest farms in central Greenwich, but by 1882 it had lost its investment value as a farm when the site was purchased for $15,000 by Mr. and Mrs. Nathaniel Witherell. The Witherells created a rural weekend retreat on the farm for poor working girls from New York City with a “Vacation House” they constructed named “Cherryvale.” They later added a poor house for children called “The Fold,” which they maintained as a free summer home for needy children. By 1899 they had subdivided a portion of the farmlands into two-acre plots with town water and electricity that developed into an exclusive residential community, incorporated on November 26, 1901, as the Rock Ridge Association. Listed among its elite residents were the Rockefeller and Lauder families. Each plot initially sold for $15,000, exactly what Witherell had paid for the entire farm, reaping enormous profits.
The Connecticut Legislature had required local authorities "to establish schools so as not to suffer so much barbarism in any of the families as to have a single child unable to read the Holy Word of God, and the good laws of the Colony." The first Greenwich public school opened in 1667 in a one-room schoolhouse in today’s Old Greenwich. By 1756 there were nine school districts throughout Greenwich, governed by school committees overseeing one-room schoolhouses like the Round Hill School. The historic community of Round Hill, however, was named after an immense, elevated, round mound and viewing site in northwest Greenwich. It was the highest and most strategic point in that section of backcountry Greenwich as depicted on American Revolutionary War maps, like Robert Erskine’s survey for the U.S. Army in 1778.
Settlers attending the Second Society’s Church in central Horseneck facilitated the town’s northeastern expansion along the Stamford border in the historic community of Stanwich. They appealed to the General Assembly to relieve their burden of having to travel eight or nine miles over poor roads to attend meetings and Sunday services at the Second Society of First Church. In response, the General Assembly authorized the third “Ecclesiastical Society,” named the Stanwich Parish. Created in 1732, half of the parish was in northeastern Greenwich and half was in northwestern Stamford, Connecticut. The new name and church membership, in effect, married the sections of both towns. Within seven years, as enumerated on the 1739 real estate list, the Stanwich Society represented 36 heads of households. By then the “First Society” (Old Greenwich) had 59 heads of household, while the powerful central “Second Society” (Central Greenwich) had 210 heads of household.