Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Walking Season

Everyone seems to be doing walking tours these days. This past weekend saw two excellent examples, hosted by two of the Town's premier organizations, the Historical Society and the Land Trust. And the weather for both was absolutely gorgeous.

On Saturday about 40 of us gathered at the old Stanwich Congregational Church, where we received handouts and watched a slide presentation on the erstwhile village of Stanwich. Few people now remember that Stanwich was once a thriving community, with an inn, a large church, a neighborhood school, a general store, and a post office. Today, you can drive right past and not even notice what was once as much a part of the Greenwich landscape as Riverside or Glenville. Tempus edax rerum, and all that.

We walked from the church to what was once the center of the village, at the intersection of Taconic and North Stanwich, noting several old and historic houses along the way. When we reached the old inn, once a stopping-place on the Cos Cob-Ridgefield stage route, it turned out that the current owner was a member of our group, and he invited us onto the premises and into the house. Inside it was very reminiscent of the Putnam Cottage across from Christ Church, with a staircase winding up from the front hallway and small squarish rooms on either side.

The inn (now a private residence) has been moved back considerably from its former spot right on Taconic Road, the result of an incident about 50 years ago in which a careless driver chose to ignore the stop sign on North Stanwich and plowed straight ahead and up onto the porch of the inn. The then-owner moved it back about 50 feet, much to the chagrin of former owner and erstwhile Town Historian Bill Finch. Cousin Bill (we're related through the Merrill family of Newburyport, MA, back in the 1600's) had once hoped to restore the inn to its former function and glory, but it was not to be. Still, the current owner has stuffed it with antiques, and I am sure that if Bill were still with us, he would be happy to see the result.

We then walked back along Taconic to the former manse of the Stanwich Congregational Church, now owned and lovingly restored by Russ and Debbie Reynolds. There we were treated to a lavish spread of lemonade and wine and strawberries and cheese and crackers and guacamole and cake and chocolate-chip cookies, to list a few of the highlights. Russ gave us something of the history of the manse, and brought out copies of his book, "Loyal to the Land", for those who wanted to do further reading on the intertwined history of Greenwich and the Reynolds family. It was a wonderful way to spend a lovely Saturday afternoon.

On Sunday the Land Trust held its annual Arbor Day walk and tree-planting. We parked at the Round Hill Club and walked past the tennis courts and the fitness center to a path that led into the woods. After many twists and turns, the path debouched into a wide meadow. A second meadow was the venue for the tree-planting and the traditional refreshments with which the Land Trust rewards its walkers. Again, the weather could not have been better, and it was a treat to learn about a hidden corner of the Town which has been made safe from development forever.

And so, dear reader, let us pity those parvenues who rush in their SUVs from McMansion to golf course to tennis court to pool to cocktail party and back again, without ever getting out to stretch their legs and discover the riches of this Town we live in. Do you think, as they roll through the stop signs at the corner of Taconic and North Stanwich, that they know or care about the hamlet that once flourished there? Or, as they tee off or hoist a glass at the 19th hole, that a magical meadow full of wildflowers lies just a few minutes away? No, probably not. There are, it seems, two Towns of Greenwich: that of those who race around in their SUVs, and the one which you can discover only on foot. It's as though there are two parallel universes co-existing side by side; and we can all be grateful to the Historical Society and the Land Trust for helping to open our eyes to the existence of the only one that truly matters.


Blogger diana said...

I grew up in Stanwich in the 50s and 60s and I remember the Stanwich Inn being moved.The Owner was a woman named Mrs Bomiesler.
It was a wonderful place,the Tennys owned the post office,the Bunks had a farm on the corner, Frank Chase had the big victorian across the corner from the Bunks.We built our house in a field (306 Taconic )that had been a milita camp grounds.Not spiffy like today, much better then.

January 05, 2010 1:02 PM  
Blogger Bill Clark said...

Thanks for the memories, Diana! Have you been back to visit recently?

January 05, 2010 1:37 PM  

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