Explore the Greenwich neighborhoods and their history.
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 descriptions below will help you discover the history of specific communities, some with names that reach back across the centuries to the earliest settlers.
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 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.”
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.
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 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.
“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.
s 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.