My name is Jeffrey Bingham Mead. I was born and raised in Greenwich, Connecticut USA. I also add the Asia-Pacific region -based in Hawaii- as my home, too. I've been an historian and author my entire adult life. This blog site is where many of my article and pre-blog writing will be posted. This is a work-in-progress, to check in from time to time.

Saturday, November 21, 2015

Talk of the Town: Save the Thomas Lyon Homestead!

by Jeffrey Bingham Mead

President Jo Conboy of the Greenwich Preservation Trust stands in front of the Thomas Lyon homestead with Historian, Author and Blogger Jeffrey Bingham Mead, August 20, 2014. 

Learn more about the history of the Thomas Lyon Homestead by clicking this link to the Greenwich Preservation Trust

The Greenwich Preservation Trust welcomes your support! Go to this PayPal link for online donations.  You may also send printed check donations to:

Greenwich Preservation Trust
P.O. Box 4719
Greenwich, CT 06831. 

Talk of the Town: Greenwich's Public Square That Almost Was

by Jeffrey Bingham Mead

Well, this proposal certain caught my eye:

What is this, you ask? Under the headline, GREENWICH BEAUTIFUL. PLAN FOR PUBLIC SQUARE, Greenwich Graphic featured a circa 1911 proposal for the creation of such a public square on the eastern side of Greenwich Avenue south of the Old Town Hall and across the street from the main post office, now the home of Restoration Hardware. 

The suggestion for this came from a well-known orthopedic specialist, Dr. Charles H. Jaegar. 

"It seems almost superfluous to speak of the need of a public square in Greenwich," the accompanying article states, "the need is so apparent and so long felt. Every other New England village has a public square." 

Really? A town common? Yes, but a public square of this scale? I'm not so sure. 

The case was made for the creation of this public square "on Mead's, Maher and Webb's property." Greenwich Avenue, it was pointed out, 

"is narrow, the trolley tracks tend to make it more narrow, besides which it has a steep grade. There is not an open place in the whole town where during busy hours a team [of horses?] can be turned around in comfort or even safety." 

Remember that these words about pre-SUV Greenwich Avenue were penned over a century ago: "The street can now hardly accommodate the traffic using it, and causes serious inconvenience for shoppers and storekeepers alike. It is certainly not an ideal business street." 

It was felt that a public square was needed in anticipation of future town growth, "the time is not far distant when it will have 50,000 inhabitants." Greenwich today has over 60,000 residents. 

"Every city in the world is awakening to the realization that in order to develop properly a city plan of growth must be prepared." Perhaps those lines would eventually give way to the formation of the famous or infamous Greenwich Planning and Zoning Commission. 

"Greenwich is rightfully considered to be one of the most beautiful residence towns in the United States." There is a great deal on consensus on that point -flattering as it is. 

"Its business district alone has not kept pace with the progress. The establishment of a public square, embellished with high class business houses as proposed, would make Greenwich still more beautiful, and greatly increase values of all property in the town by attracting still greater numbers of desirable residents." 

How would such a plan for a public square in Greenwich unfold? "A private syndicate of public spirited men" would be in charge. A "competent architect should draw a general plan for the buildings facing the three side of the square." The buildings themselves would be "harmonious in style and monumental in character." That would certainly go over well, even today. 

Now, it was the case that there were several structures on the site of the proposed square. Given the current sentiments about anything involving demolition the idea of removing buildings today would be met with opposition. "Only two  or three would have to be removed, the remaining ones would simply have their facade altered. The cost of removing the buildings would be trivial compared to the value of the finished work." 

"And remember, it would be cheaper to do it now then it anytime in the future." We've heard that before and since, right? 

In addition to the adding of a large public square in the heart of Greenwich being added, the proposal on the practical side suggested that "the business area would be increased by a large percent and would be sufficient for years to come. They would be ample accommodations for autos, carriages, etc." With regards to "accommodates for autos" I am left wondering. We still deal with the need for parking in Year 2015. 

It was thought that "civic pride would be awakened" and further improvements would result in "an inspiration for other towns to follow."

"The cry for Greenwich beautiful should be our slogan."

The public square was never constructed. Furthermore, I've not found any evidence that Greenwich officials took this proposal into serious consideration. This left me to wonder if the article and published illustration included above were put forth as a trial-balloon.

Source: Greenwich Graphic. Saturday, November 6, 1909. Page 3.