History of Norwalk, Connecticut

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For the history of the state of Connecticut, see History of Connecticut.
"General view of the Green, Norwalk, Conn." published in 1855 by Ballou's Pictorial
1847 Map of Norwalk

This is a brief compilation of Norwalk, CT that ranges from early America including settlers, patriots, and Native Americans to the 21st century. Included are references to landmarks, transportation and industry.


Census History[1]
Year Pop. ±%
1790 11,942 —    
1800 5,146 −56.9%
1810 2,983 −42.0%
1820 3,004 +0.7%
Year Pop. ±%
1830 3,792 +26.2%
1840 3,863 +1.9%
1850 4,651 +20.4%
1860 7,582 +63.0%
Year Pop. ±%
1870 12,119 +59.8%
1880 13,956 +15.2%
1890 17,747 +27.2%
1900 19,932 +12.3%
Year Pop. ±%
1910 24,211 +21.5%
1920 27,743 +14.6%
1930 36,019 +29.8%
1940 39,849 +10.6%
Year Pop. ±%
1950 49,460 +24.1%
1960 67,775 +37.0%
1970 79,288 +17.0%
1980 77,767 −1.9%
Year Pop. ±%
1990 78,331 +0.7%
2000 82,951 +5.9%
2010 85,603 +3.2%


"Some early men inhabited at least three separate sites in the Norwalk area. Artifacts found at the Bitter Rock Shelter [ Rock shelter ] in the ledge high above Ward Street indicate that the site was occupied around 5,000 B.P.[Before Present][2] making it the oldest known human habitat in Norwalk. Spruce Swamp, originally a fresh-water pond one-half mile north of Long Island Sound, was first occupied by Amerinds [ Indigenous peoples of the Americas ] about 3000 B.P. Projectile points found here suggest that the earliest residents of this site were primarily hunters. Later occupants eventually added shellfish to their diet first, clams, then, when the waters became warmer, oysters. As the present Long Island Sound moved inland, Spruce Swamp became a salt-water pond,[3] and the site was abandoned at some time between 1000 B.C. and 1500 A.D. In the layers of the midden, two unique objects - a decorated paintstone, [painted stone?] which may have depicted an astronomical phenomenon or have been a plan of the original village, and the skull of an adult male, bearing healed scars that seem to indicate ante-mortem trephination [roughly meaning a hole drilled, incised or scraped into the skull using simple surgical tools while recipient is alive] - may provide important clues to the origins of these people. The third site, Sasqua Hill, some distance northeast of Spruce Swamp, was occupied for several thousand years and may still have been used by the Indians residing in the area when white men arrived."[4]

"An approximately 3,000-year-old pot crafted by native-Americans and unearthed in Norwalk many years ago is evidence of that history." Local history buffs have a Norwalk resident to thank for saving the pot. The resident said it was discovered along East Rocks Road and brought to a [unnamed] curio shop eventually donating it to The Norwalk Museum.[5]

17th century[edit]

"Norwalk, with reference to the matter of settlement, appears first upon the page of history in A. D., 1640. In his passage through Long Island Sound in 1614, Adrian Block, a Dutch navigator, had sighted from his bark's [ Barque ] deck, the Norwalk Uplands, Coast Lands and Islands, denominating the latter "The Archipelago" ; and Higginson[6] relates that in 1638 Edward Hopkins, William Goodwin[7] and himself, three important Connecticut Colonists, held, in or near, "Narwoke" a successful parley with its aboriginal owners."


Purchase of Norwalk by Harry Townsend, WPA mural
Roger Ludlow Monument in East Norwalk

Norwalk was purchased in two separate transactions in 1640 and 1641 by Daniel Patrick[8] and Roger Ludlow. Patrick purchased areas west of the Norwalk River and east of the Five Mile River (present day South Norwalk, Rowayton, and West Norwalk) on April 20, 1640. Ludlow purchased areas east of the Norwalk river (present day East Norwalk and Saugatuck) on February 26, 1641 according to the Gregorian calendar; or February 26, 1640 on the then still commonly used Julian calendar. The later purchase by Ludlow is misleadingly depicted in Norwalk founding memorabilia (such as the WPA painting shown) as having occurred in the year 1640.

Patrick had traveled to Connecticut from Massachusetts and had participated in the Pequot War during 1637 and 1638. On April 20, 1640 Patrick purchased from the Indians of Norwake and Makentouh:[9]

It was also noted that Patrick may have been purchasing the land with the goal of expanding the New Haven Colony which at the time was distinct from the Connecticut Colony.[9]

The areas east of the Norwalk river were then purchased in 1641 (still commonly cited as having taken place in 1640) by Roger Ludlow from Chief Mahackemo of the Norwalke Indians (actually the residents of Norwauke village of the Siwanoy subdivision or "sanchemship" of the Algonquian language family).


INDIAN DEED TO ROGER LUDLOW. (East side of Norwalk River.)

[following text verbatim]

"A copyie* [*footnote below] of a deede of sale made by Norwaike Indians, unto Master Roger Ludlowe, of Fairfield, as followeth, 26th February, 1640. An agreement made between the Indians of Norwaike and Roger Ludlowe : it is agreed, that the Indians of Norwaike, for and in consideration of eight fathom of wampum, sixe coates, tenn hatchets, tenn hoes, tenn knifes, tenn sissors, tenn jewse-harpes, tenn fathom Tobackoe, three kettles of size hands abont, tenn look-ing glasses, have granted all the lands, meadows, pasturinge, trees, whatsoever their is, and grounds betweene the twoe Rivers, the one called Norwaike, the other Soakatuck, to the middle of sayed Rivers, from the sea a days walke into the country ; to the sayed Roger Ludlowe, and his heirs and assignes for ever ; and that noe Indian or other shall challenge or claim any ground within the sayed Rivers or limits, nor disturb the sayed Roger, his heirs, or assignes, within the precincts aforesaid. In witness whereof the parties thereunto have interchangeably sett their hands."

[following without original graphics]

the marke [of] Roger Ludlowe.

Witnesse[:] Tomakergo, Thos. Ludlowe, the marke of Tokaneke, the marke of W, marke of Mahachemo, Sachem, Adam, prosewamenos the marke.

[following from original author]

[* footnote] These "copies" were recorded in the Book of Deeds in the year 1672.[10]

INDIAN DEED TO CAPT.[Daniel] PATRICK. (Of the meadows and uplands, adjoininge, lyiage on the west tide of Norwake Rlver.)

[text verbatim]

"An agreement betwixt Daniell Patrick and Mahackem, and Naramake and Pemenate Hewnompom indians of Norwake and Makentouh the said Daniell Patricke hath bought of the sayed three indians, the ground called Sacunjte napucke, allso Meeanworth, thirdly Asumsowis, fourthly all the land adjoyninge to the aforementioned, as farr up in the cuntry as an Indian can goe in a day, from sun risinge to sun settinge ; and twoe Islands neere adjoining to the sayed carantenayueck, all bounded on the west side with noewanton on the east side to the middle of the River of Norwake, and all trees, meadows, waters and naturell adjuncts thereunto belonginge, for him and his forever ; for whith Lands the sayed Indians are to receive of the sayed Daniell Patricke, of wampum tenn fathoms, hatchetts three, howes three, when shipps come ; sixe glasses, twelfe tobaokoe pipes, three knifes, tenn drills, tenn needles ; this as full satisfaction, for the aforementioned lande. and for the peaceable possession of which the aforementioned mahachemill doth promise and undertake to silence all opposers of this purchase, if any should in his time act, to witnesse which, on both sides, hands are interchangeably hereunto sett, this 20th of Aprill, 1640."

[following without original graphics]

wittnesses, Tobi ffeap, John How marke., pomenate his marke., mamechom marke, marke naromake.[11]

Regarding Native Americans from what is now Norwalk[edit]

"These were scattered remnants of tribes, as the relics of the Old Field [ Indian old field ] near the almshouse[12] testify, being of diverse kinds, and the modes of burial in the graves discovered are different. Evidently hungry Indians had come to Norwalk as wanderers from their original country. There was a village of a clan of Mohegans [ Mohegan people ] at Belden's or Wilson's Point,[13] however, one of the independent villages which Bancroft [ George Bancroft ?] tells us were scattered between the Hudson and Connecticut rivers. It was then called Naramake, after a great chieftain, and Norwalk is a name derived from the same root-word, instead of being a punning contraction of Northwalk, which is a general impression. The late William S. Bouton, a local antiquarian, distinctly traced the site of this village twenty years ago, near the present residence of Mr. Burchard. Nearby was a feasting ground marked by a deposit two feet deep of shells and animals' bones whore the Indians used to have what we call Rhode Island clambakes. Naramake was the home of Mahackemo and the others who signed the deeds which Roger Ludlow and Daniel Partrick secured from the Indians."[14]

"Indian remains have not, to any considerable extent, been discovered within the area of middle Norwalk. There were Mohegan burying-grounds at Belden Point, Barren Marsh bank, Indian Field and Saugatuck, but none, probably, of pretence, elsewhere. It seems surprising that with the Indian's innate appreciation of the bold and striking, that such a spot, for instance, as the Norwalk Rocks should not have been appropriated for the burial of their braves. There is, however, no reason for believing, that this eminence was so used."[15]

Settlement and Incorporation[edit]

" [In] 1659 The first Meeting House was built at the corner of East Ave. and Fort Point St. [ Then named the Ancient Country Road from Stamford to Fairfield ][16] This building was the place where the people of Norwalk worshiped on Sundays and where the men of the town gathered to discuss the business of the town. The building was probably made of logs and was the dimensions were 30 feet long and 18 feet wide. This building did not have a bell. The men were called to meetings by beating the drum. Inside the building were bare benches with no backs. The building had no heat."[17]

The Founder's Stone Monument [a.k.a. Founding Monument], which was formerly at East Avenue and Fitch Street,[18] is now in front of the [East Norwalk] railroad station.[19][20] At its former location it marked the earliest Norwalk settlement and adjacent first Meeting House (seat of government). Inscribed on the monument: "Norwalk Founded A.D. 1649. Its earliest homes were planted in the near vicinity of this stone. First Meeting House erected opposite, West.""[21]

The initial settlement gathered its first Congregational church by 1652. Its first minister was Thomas Hanford (1621–1693).

In 1677 the Thomas Hyatt house was constructed. The Hyatt house still stands along Willow Street and is Norwalk's oldest residence.[22]

First Settlers Monument

The two first settlers, Richard Olmsted and Nathaniel Ely arrived from Hartford in 1649. They were followed by fourteen others. Norwalk was incorporated on September 11, 1651, when the General Court of the Connecticut Colony decreed that "Norwaukee shall bee a townee". Those listed on the First Settlers Monument in the East Norwalk Historical Cemetery included: George Abbitt, Robert Beacham, Stephen Beckwith, John Bowton, Matthew Campfield, Nathaniel Eli, Thomas Fitch, John Griggorie, Samuel Hales, Thomas Hales, Walter Haite, Nathaniel Haies, Rev. Thomas Hanford, Richard Homes, Ralph Keiler, Daniel Kellogge, Thomas Lupton, Matthew Marvin, Sr., Matthew Marvin, Jr., Isacke More, Jonathan Marsh, Widow Morgan, Richard Olmsted, Nathaniel Richards, John Ruskoe, Matthias Sention, Sr., Matthias Sention, Jr., Thomas Seamer, Richard Webb, Walter Keiler.

The settlers engaged in agricultural pursuits. The first major planted crop was corn which was soon followed by wheat, rye, oats, and barley. Community plots were located where the Pine Hill Road area is today. Cows were raised for dairy products and the first use of Calf Pasture Beach for pasturage took place as early as the 1650s. Eventually flax and hemp were grown for the local production of linen and rope. Flax production increased notably and by the early 18th century was being exported to the British Isles to provide the town with a modest export economy. The present day Flax Hill Road between South Norwalk and Rowayton is a vestige of that early important crop.[22]

18th century[edit]

1766 Connecticut Map with Former Norwalk Borders

St. Paul's Parish, an Episcopal church was incorporated in 1737. It became St Paul's on the Green.[23]

A Maryland Physician's Travel Diary[edit]

Alexander Hamilton (Maryland doctor) wrote in his 1744 travel diary, Itinerarium, about Norwalk:

"WITHIN three miles and a half of Norwalk is another river, called by the Indian name of Sagatick. This I forded at low tide. I dined at one Taylor's [*] here."

"I ARRIVED at Norwalk at seven o'clock at night. This town is situated in a bottom, midst a grove of trees. You see the steeple shoot up among the trees about half a mile before you enter the town and before you can see any of the houses."
"While I was at Taylor's the children were frightened at my negro. Slaves are not so much in use as with us, their servants being chiefly bound or indentured Indians. The child asked if that negro was a–coming to eat them up. Dromo indeed wore a voracious phiz [(Anatomy) slang chiefly Brit the face or a facial expression],[24] for, having rid twenty miles without eating, he grinned like a crocodile, and showed his teeth most hideously."
"Betwixt Taylor's and Norwalk, I met a caravan of eighteen or twenty Indians. I put up at Norwalk at one Beelding's, [ John Belding **] and as my boy was taking off the saddles, I could see one half of the town standing about him, making inquiry about his master."[25]

[ * ] "The eighteenth-century village (Now a part of Westport, Connecticut) encompassed by the district was first known as Taylortown for the many members of that family who settled there. One early site remains that is identified with this family: the 1730 house built by John Taylor in the center of the district at 1 Old Hill Road. Seth Taylor established the drill ground for the local militia near the end of the French and Indian War, which remained in use until after the Mexican War. Daniel Freelove Nash, a member of another family prominent in the district throughout its history, built his house about 1736 (41 Kings Highway North). It is said that it once served as a public house, or tavern."][26]

[ ** "The Beldens were hospitable people entertaining many visitors from the surrounding towns in a generous fashion."][27]

Yankee Doodle[edit]

See also: Yankee Doodle

Connecticut's state song, Yankee Doodle, has Norwalk-related origins.[28][29] During the French and Indian War, a regiment of Norwalkers was assembled to report as an attachment to British regulars. The group was commanded by Col. Thomas Fitch of Norwalk (son of Connecticut governor Thomas Fitch).[30][31] Assembling at Fitch’s yard in Norwalk, Fitch’s younger sister Elizabeth, along with other young local women who had come to bid them farewell, were distraught at the men’s lack of uniforms and so they improvised plumes from chicken feathers which they gave to the men for their hats.[32][33]

As they arrived at Fort Crailo, New York, the British regulars began to mock and ridicule the rag-tag Connecticut troops who only had chicken feathers for uniform. Dr. Richard Shuckburgh, a British army surgeon, added new words to a popular tune of the time, Lucy Locket (i.e., "stuck a feather in his cap and called it macaroni", macaroni being the London slang at the time for a foppish dandy).[34]

The modern-day bridge in which I-95 crosses the Norwalk River in Norwalk is named the Yankee Doodle Bridge.[35] Half of the bridge was closed briefly for repairs near Labor Day in 1984.[36] After the revolution Col. Thomas Fitch V served as a Norwalk Town Councilman and assisted with the reconstruction of the town after the burning. He was buried in the East Norwalk Historical Cemetery.[33]

Revolutionary War[edit]

In 1776, American spy Nathan Hale set out from Norwalk by ship (the converted whaleboat Schuyler) toward Huntington, New York on his ill-fated intelligence-gathering mission.[37][38]

Following the townspeople’s pleas for fortifications, in the spring of 1777 six cannon were mounted in salient positions for the defense of Norwalk. Soon afterwards in April, British forces arrived to march on Danbury, the location of an important military depot. Although the British had intended to land at Norwalk, the six cannon forced a last-minute change of plans and unprotected Compo Beach at the mouth of the Saugatuck was selected instead.[39]

Norwalkers carried out one of the war's more spectacular escapades in November, 1778. A flotilla of twenty whaleboats from Norwalk skipped past British warships anchored in Huntington Bay and stealthily discharged its passengers. The raiders made straight for The Cedars, a public inn kept by "Mother Chid," well known for harboring Connecticut Tories. Sixteen Tories were taken prisoner and several were killed before the raiders departed.[40]

Battle of Norwalk
Part of the American Revolutionary War
Battle of West Rocks monument.jpg
Monument commemorating the Battle of West Rocks in Norwalk, Connecticut
Date July 12, 1779
Location Norwalk, Connecticut
Result Destruction of all properties in Norwalk except six houses
Thirteen Colonies  Great Britain
Commanders and leaders
Brig. General Samuel Parsons,[41] Colonel Samuel Whiting William Tryon, Thomas Garth
800 2,500
Casualties and losses
20 killed, 96 wounded, 23 missing[41]

The Battle of Norwalk (also known as the Battle of West Rocks or Battle of the Rocks) was a series of skirmishes between the Thirteen Colonies and Great Britain during the American Revolutionary War. The attack was one part of a series of raids on coastal Connecticut towns collectively known as Tryon's raid. The battle was fought in Norwalk, Connecticut on July 12, 1779. 70th (Surrey) Regiment of Foot of Great Britain commanded by Major General William Tryon[42] arrived on July 10, 1779. They marched in a two pronged attack on both sides of the Norwalk River. They followed a path along what is today East and West Avenues burning everything along the way. Only six houses within the business district at Head of River were spared.[43][44]

In 1779 British forces sought to disrupt American naval activity in Long Island Sound. General William Tryon was ordered to cripple the seaports of New Haven, Fairfield, and Norwalk. New Haven was raided on July 5, Fairfield was raided on the 7th and in retribution for resistance by the townspeople, completely burned. Residents of Norwalk, certain of what lay ahead, began to make provisions for the defense of their town, mostly by huddling up in the upper hills of the city known as "The Rocks."

[note:] From an 1893 U.S. Geological Survey map, The Rocks can be described presently as an area being roughly bordered by Bayne St. to the north, East Rocks Road to the east, Cannon Street through Ward Street and Main Street to the west.[45] (Ward Street formerly named 'Stickey Plain Road' ) Additionally, an 1867 Beers, Ellis & Soule map "Plan of Norwalk, Plan of South Norwalk, Connecticut" illustrates three rock formations in an area surrounded by modern-day Jarvis St. through to Union Avenue, Adams Avenue and West Rocks Road. A fourth rock formation is illustrated to the northwest of Jarvis Street.[46]

On July 9, 1779 Brigadier General Samuel Holden Parsons, of the Continental Army, was in Redding, Connecticut where he had been sent by Commander-in Chief George Washington to assess the situation and take charge of the militia in case of further raids, as Washington and General Oliver Wolcott felt that Norwalk would be the next target of the British. Parsons also urgently appealed to Brigadier General John Glover[47] of the Continental Army to bring his brigade to Norwalk from where he was camped in New London, Connecticut.

On Saturday July 10 at 2:00pm the British fleet, including the flagship HMS Camilla (1776) and the HMS Hussar (1763), left Huntington Bay, New York and crossed Long Island Sound to Norwalk. Around 5 that afternoon the fleet anchored outside the Norwalk Islands and troops began rowing ashore. At about the same time, the "Hussar" entered the Norwalk River to cover the landing of troops and destroy whatever shipping was to be found.

"To follow the course of the enemy through the town on that day of terror one should start at Fitch's Point, where the troops landed on the evening before and en-camped for the night. The place has been marked with a metal tablet mounted on a wayside stone by the Norwalk Chapter D. A. R."[48][49] These troops included the 54th (West Norfolk) Regiment of Foot, the Landgraf Regiment, and the Jaegers, made up of Hessian mercenary volunteers. Fanning's Regiment of Loyalists landed at 3:00am. The soldiers rested on their arms and just before dawn began their march to the center of town. They met virtually no resistance from the local militia in this area until they reached Grumman Hill,[50] where fifty Continental troops and a few militiamen, all under the command of Captain Stephen Betts, attempted to halt Tryon's advance. After a brief skirmish the British took the hill and sent the colonists fleeing.

General Thomas Garth, who landed his troops, two flanks of Guards and two fusilier regiments, in Old Well around 7 AM, meantime began to march ashore to join with Tryon's forces. At Flax Hill they met with strong resistance from Nathaniel Raymond and fourteen other irregulars from the town of Old Well (South Norwalk). General Garth lost a light cannon to the "rebels" before marching along the river by West Avenue, being constantly harassed by Norwalk militia, irregulars, and citizens above them on the bluffs, The British crossed the Norwalk River at the location of today's Wall Street while the colonists crossed about a quarter mile upstream at Cross Street, making their way over Sticky Plain to "the Rocks" where the stronghold of the rest of the militia and Betts' Continentals was located.

The two British columns converged at the Mill Hill area by the town green (41°07′03″N 73°24′34″W / 41.1174°N 73.4095°W / 41.1174; -73.4095Coordinates: 41°07′03″N 73°24′34″W / 41.1174°N 73.4095°W / 41.1174; -73.4095) then proceeded north to the area then known as "the Rocks" where they met heavy resistance from the Norwalk militia and Continental troops.[51]

General Tryon began burning houses (in East Norwalk) which local militia had used as cover to pick off his soldiers. General Garth also burned along West Avenue for the same reason. A total of eighty houses, two churches, eighty-seven barns, seventeen shops, and four mills were burned by the British. Losses were later estimated to amount to over 26 thousand British pounds.

General Tryon had commanded his raid on the Connecticut coast in the preceding days, attacking New Haven, Connecticut and Fairfield, Connecticut. Most of Fairfield and Norwalk were destroyed. Tryon's raid was intended to draw colonial forces away from the defense of the Hudson Valley. In spite of pressure from Governor Trumbull, George Washington did not move his troops.

Norwalk was heavily damaged. George Washington described it as having been “destroyed” in his report to the Continental Congress after the battle.[51]

"After many salt-pans were destroyed, whale-boats carried on board the fleet, and the magazines, stores, and vessels set in flames, with the greater part of the dwelling-houses, the advanced corps were drawn back, and the troops retired in two columns to the place of our first debarkation, and, unassaulted, took ship, and returned to Huntington Bay."

The assault claimed one hundred thirty homes, forty shops, one hundred barns, five ships, two churches, and some flour mills and saltworks. After the Revolutionary War, many residents were compensated for their losses with free land grants in the Connecticut Western Reserve in what is now Ohio; this later became Norwalk, Ohio.

Methodist evangelism[edit]

Jesse Lee Monument

Cornelius Cook delivered the first Methodist sermon in Norwalk near the New Canaan parish line in 1787.[52] Jesse Lee the Methodist preacher who was so successful at establishing his sect in New England that he was given the nickname "The Apostle of Methodism" first preached in New England at Norwalk on June 17, 1789. He asked a local resident if she would allow him to preach in her home and was refused. She also refused him the use of a nearby empty house her husband owned, so Lee preached under an apple tree. Lee was a circuit rider who preached at numerous locations around New England. On his next visit to Norwalk, he was allowed to preach at the "town-house". Lee eventually served as chaplain to Congress for six terms.[53] A bronze plaque on a rock marks the approximate place where Lee's original sermon took place under the apple tree in 1789 and is in a traffic island at the intersection of U.S. 1 and Main Avenue in Central Norwalk.

19th century[edit]

"In 1826, agents of the U.S. Treasury Department (which was in charge of lighthouses at that time), after surveying various sites in the Norwalk Islands, decided that the western end of Sheffield Island was the most suitable spot for a light to mark Norwalk Harbor."
"With the end of the Civil War, shipping traffic in the harbor increased, and in 1867 Congress appropriated funds to build a new lighthouse and keeper’s quarters."
"The new structure was two-and-a-half stories tall and built out of granite blocks. At the front end of the roof, a cast-iron lantern tower rose to forty-six feet. A fourth-order Fresnel lens, which produced alternating red and white flashes and was installed in the old tower in 1858, was moved to the new lighthouse."[54]

In 1836 the central area around Wall Street and the Green was incorporated as the Borough of Norwalk with an area slightly smaller than the present day First taxing district.[55][56]

"Part of Main Street", 1855 engraving in Baillou's Pictorial

In January 1849 the New York and New Haven Railroad began operating between its nominal terminal cities through Norwalk. In 1852 the Danbury and Norwalk Railroad connected Norwalk with Danbury. The South Norwalk station was used by both railroads. The first major U.S. railroad bridge disaster occurred in Norwalk in 1853. The engineer, Edward Tucker, carelessly neglected to check the open drawbridge signal as his one hundred and fifty passenger train approached the Norwalk River.

May 6, 1853, Leslie’s Illustrated News

He only realized the bridge was up within about four hundred feet of the gap, which proved to be insufficient to stop the train. The engineer and the fireman jumped from the train and then the locomotive, two baggage cars (the latter also a car for smokers) and two and a half passenger cars (the third car split when the train finally came to a stop) went plunging off the tracks into the river. Forty-six people drowned or were crushed to death, and an approximately thirty people were more or less severely injured.[57] Tucker, who survived, never overcame his feelings of guilt, and five years later committed suicide. By 1872 the NY&NE merged with the Hartford and New Haven Railroad to form the New York, New Haven and Hartford Railroad which lasted until its merger with Penn Central in 1969. The Housatonic Railroad leased the D&N in 1887. The Housatonic was then purchased by the NYNH&H in 1892 and the D&N became the Danbury Branch of that railroad.

Norwalk is reputed to have been one of the stops on the northward land route of the Underground Railroad. Several trunk lines emanated from New York City, a central point in the escape route, which one passing through Greenwich, Darien, Norwalk, and Wilton. Several era-houses still standing have secret chambers or passageways that could have been used to hide runaways but no documentation exists that identifies one particular house or even one area. However, tradition states that a house at 69 East Avenue was Norwalk’s stop on the Railroad.[citation needed]

Oyster Cultivation[edit]

See also: Oyster farming

"Oyster culture has been a leading industry of the town since the friendly Indians showed the first settlers the natural beds off the Norwalk shores. A Norwalk oysterman, Captain Peter Decker, was the first in the industry to introduce steam power in oyster dredging (1874).[58]

"The first attempt to use steam power for oyster dredging of which we have any knowledge was made at Norwalk Conn when a boiler and engine were put on board the sloop Early Bird in 1874 for the purpose only of turning the drums with which the dredge lines were hauled. Later this vessel was further improved by the addition of a propeller and this was found to add so materially to her effectiveness that since that time several screw steamers have been built expressly for this work. They are generally of small size ranging from 20 to 53 tons from 50 to 83 feet in length with a beam of 12 to 20 feet."[59]

Although eventually overfishing pushed Norwalk's industry into a decline, a renaissance has been occurring since the later part of the last century, although eastern oyster diseases Dermo and MSX remain a problem for the industry.[60]

In 1871 the area known formerly known as Old Well was chartered by the state legislature as the City of South Norwalk. In 1893 the Borough of Norwalk was reincorporated as the City of Norwalk and at that time both cities were wholly within and subject to jurisdiction by the Town of Norwalk.[61][62]

Pine Island Cemetery gravestone of victim of the 1878 Adelphi steam ship explosion in Norwalk Harbor

On September 28, 1878, 15 people were killed when the steamship Adelphi exploded sue to a rupture in a furnace.[63]

20th century[edit]

East Avenue, from a postcard sent in 1909
Wall Street circa 1905

In 1913, the cities of Norwalk, South Norwalk, the East Norwalk Fire District, and the remaining parts of the surrounding Town of Norwalk consolidated into the present day City of Norwalk.[64] After consolidation the Town of Norwalk continued its existence but it is now governed by the Mayor-council government of the City.

Former Norwalk City Hall
Location 41 North Main Street, South Norwalk, Norwalk, Connecticut
Area less than one acre
Built 1912
Architect Bissell, Frank H.; Barber, Joel D.
Architectural style Colonial Revival
NRHP Reference # 95000282[65]
Added to NRHP March 23, 1995

The former Norwalk City Hall is located at 41 North Main Street in the South Norwalk section of Norwalk, Connecticut and built in 1912. The building was added to the National Register of Historic Places on March 23, 1995. Norwalk's city hall has relocated to 125 East Avenue. The first and second floors of the structure later became home to Norwalk Museum, which was operated by the city government. As a museum, the building contained archival material and other items related to Norwalk's culture and history, including documents, items of significance to the history of Norwalk and artwork. In May 2012, the city removed funding for operation of the museum. The former city hall was not owned by the city, and according to city officials, the annual rent was not justified by the several thousand annual visitors. The museum was closed to the public later that month.[66] Renamed Norwalk Historical Society Museum, it is presently located at 141 East Avenue, Norwalk, CT.[67]

On May 19, 1921 the Connecticut General Assembly passed an act that split the city of Norwalk into six taxing districts with Rowayton formally joining the city as its sixth taxing district.[68]

Palace Theater on Main Street in South Norwalk

"The Palace Theater in South Norwalk was built by Samuel Roodner.[69] When it opened on December 21, 1914, the Palace Theater contained 1,149 seats. Over the years, the Palace Theater hosted renowned performers such as Enrico Caruso, Mae West, Harry Houdini, W.C. Fields, among others. At one time, the Palace Theater was known as "the theater you play before you play the Palace Theater in New York." Palace in New York By 1941 it was operated by Warner Bros. Circuit Management Corp. The popular movie house closed in 1966 and remained dormant until 1975 when Russell Fratto purchased the building with plans for revitalizing it into The Palace Performing Arts Center."[70]

The Ku Klux Klan, which preached a doctrine of Protestant control of America and suppression of blacks, Jews and Catholics, experienced a nationwide revival in the 1920s and had formed a Klavern in Norwalk by 1923. During that summer, Klan members set fire to a 30-foot-tall (9.1 m) cross on Calf Pasture Beach and painted a large "KKK" on the stone wall surrounding industrialist James A. Ferrell's Rock Ledge Estate in Rowayton. By 1926, the Klan was riven by internal divisions and became ineffective, although it continued to maintain small, local branches for years afterward in Norwalk as well as Stamford, Bridgeport, Darien and Greenwich.[71]

Norwalk made New York Times front-page news for two months in 1954 during the wave of accusations exposing"disloyal citizens" when the Mulvoy-Tarlov-Aquino Veterans of Foreign Wars Post divulged that it was turning over to the FBI names and addresses of residents whose records or activities were deemed to be Communistic.

The disclosure was intended to attract new members to the Post but it set in motion a nationwide controversy that pitted hardliners against civil libertarians. Chairman of the House Un-American Activities Committee Harold Velde (with approval from Senator Joseph McCarthy) suggested that the VFW turn over names of suspected Communists to it, as well as the FBI. On the other hand, the state branch of the Americans for Democratic Action condemned the VFW for not allowing those charged to answer the accusations, and the chairman of the American Veterans’ Committee, Bill Mauldin, censured that action as "vigilante tactics which violate the spirit of Americanism." Asked at a news conference to comment on the Norwalk VFW’s stand, President Dwight Eisenhower replied that no one was could be prevented from reporting suspects to the FBI and that since the VFW was not making the names public there was no basis for libel or slander.

The original story had placed the onus for sifting data and forwarding names to the FBI on a special committee allegedly formed from among Post membership of men "from all walks of life." When the national VFW commander appeared before the House Veterans Committee he unequivocally stated there had been no committee, no investigation, no evaluation, and no discussion of suspects among the Norwalk Post membership. On NBC television the local commander stated the Post "never screened, never evaluated material, and never publicized it." In a radio broadcast, Suzanne Silvercruys Stevenson, founder of the Minute Women of the U.S.A. and a member of the Norwalk VFW Auxiliary, labeled the committee story a myth. She explained that a timid person had shared his suspicions about an individual with Communist leanings with the Post commander and that when the informant was reluctant to turn in the name the Post commander had done so in his behalf.

The spotlight on Norwalk was particularly embarrassing because the community was playing host to a group of newspaper men from NATO countries here under sponsorship of the State and Defense Departments to visit "a typical American town".

At Main and Wall streets in Central Norwalk after the October 1955 storm

Over the weekend of October 14–17, 1955, 12-14 inches of tropical storm rain caused the Norwalk River, along with many other Connecticut rivers, to severely flood from the heavy rains. Some dams along the Norwalk River broke, sending walls of water surging downstream, knocking out bridges and additional dams. Several lives were lost in addition to millions of dollars worth of damage along the Norwalk River watershed alone.[72] Norwalk's downtown area, located at the point the river flows into the Norwalk Harbor, was particularly devastated, and has yet to fully recover.[citation needed]

In the mid-1970s, under the administration Mayor William Collins, the city government and several local organizations started the South Norwalk Revitalization Project. Its goal was to preserve the historic architecture of South Norwalk ("SoNo") and revitalize the neighborhood, especially on Washington Street and several surrounding blocks. "The Washington Street National Historic District was established, and 32 buildings were placed on the National Register of Historic Places," according to the Web site for the Maritime Aquarium at Norwalk.[73]

The government, the Norwalk Redevelopment Agency, the Junior League of Stamford-Norwalk, The Oceanic Society and the Norwalk Seaport Association all worked to start an aquarium focusing on Long Island Sound as a tourist attraction to strengthen the business climate in the neighborhood. In 1986, ground breaking ceremonies took place on the site of a former 1860s iron works factory, an abandoned brick buildington the SoNo waterfront.[73] The aquarium, originally named the Maritime Center at Norwalk, was opened in 1988 and rounded out with an IMAX movie theater and a boat collection.[73] In 1996 the facility was renamed the Maritime Aquarium at Norwalk.

21st century[edit]

In 2002 Norwalk was the location of the nationally-covered murder trial of Michael Skakel. After a four-week trial, Skakel was convicted on June 7 for the 1975 murder of Martha Moxley.[74][citation needed]

On Sunday May 25, 2008 the last service at the First United Methodist Church of Norwalk was held prior to a deconsecration ceremony that marked the end of the church use of the distinctive yellow brick building at 39 West Avenue. The Methodist congregation had been formed in 1789 during the visit by Jesse Lee, but is survived by three other Methodist churches in the city.[75][76]

First United Methodist Church circa 1910

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Connecticut State Register and Manual". Connecticut Census Information. State of Connecticut. September 17, 2015. Retrieved 9 May 2016. 
  2. ^ "What about AD, BC, BCE and BP Ages?". Geology Labs On-line. 1999. Retrieved 27 February 2016. 
  3. ^ "Spruce Swamp Pond". Google Maps. Retrieved 27 February 2016. 
  4. ^ Wing, Deborah; Stewart, Gloria P. (1979). NORWALK: being an historical account of that Connecticut town. Canaan, New Hampshire: Phoenix Publishing. pp. 10;11. ISBN 0-914016-56-3. 
  5. ^ Koch, Robert (August 8, 2013). "3,000-year-old native American pottery from Norwalk to be restored". The Hour. Norwalk, CT: The Hour Publishing Company. Retrieved December 28, 2015. 
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  9. ^ a b Deborah Wing Ray, Gloria P. Stewart (1979) (3rd printing 2004). Norwalk: being an historical account of that Connecticut town. Norwalk, CT: Norwalk Historical Society. pp. 232. ISBN 0-914016-56-3
  10. ^ "Deed to Rodger Ludlowe" COMPILED BY EDWIN HALL, PASTOR OF THE FIRST CONGREGATIONAL CHURCH. (1847). The Ancient Historical Records of Norwalk, Connecticut: With a Plan of the Ancient Settlement ... JAMES MALLORY & CO., NEW YORK: BAKER & SCRIBNER. p. 30. ISBN 1143221176. 
  11. ^ "Deed to Capt. Patrick" COMPILED BY EDWIN HALL, PASTOR OF THE FIRST CONGREGATIONAL CHURCH. (1847). The Ancient Historical Records of Norwalk, Connecticut: With a Plan of the Ancient Settlement ... New York: JAMES MALLORY & CO., BAKER & SCRIBNER. p. 31. ISBN 1143221176. 
  12. ^ "Alms House Cemetery Also known as: Poor House Cemetery, Town Farm Cemetery". Find A Grave, Inc. Retrieved 12 January 2016. 
  13. ^ "Location of Wilson Point". Google Maps. 2016. Retrieved 31 January 2016. 
  14. ^ Weed, Samuel Richards (1902). Norwalk After Two Hundred & Fifty Years...etc. South Norwalk, Conn: C. A. Freeman. p. 102. 
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  21. ^ Booth, Richard A. (2005). "NORWALK CITY HALL AREA". City of Norwalk, Connecticut. Retrieved 18 February 2016. 
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  25. ^ Hamilton, Dr. Alexander (1712 - 1756) (2003). "Early Americas Digital Archive". Itinerarium. Maryland Institute for Technology in the Humanities (MITH). Retrieved 22 January 2016. 
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  27. ^ Norwalk Historical and Memorial Library Association (1901). Norwalk After Two Hundred & Fifty Years... C.A. Freeman. p. 299. 
  28. ^ "Sites, Seals & Symbols". Archived from the original on 2008-03-14. Retrieved 2008-03-20. 
  29. ^ "Thomas "Yankee Doodle" Fitch". Retrieved October 15, 2015. 
  30. ^ "History and Genealogy Unit, CT State Library. Revised 2-04. Yankee Doodle". Retrieved 2008-03-28. 
  31. ^ "David O. White, Connecticut State Library FitchT". Retrieved 2008-03-21. 
  32. ^ Debra Wing-Ray, Gloria P. Stewart (1979) pp. 44-45. The authors seem ambivalent about the credibility of the story noting: No account of Norwalk's part in the French and Indian War would be complete without reference to the Yankee Doodle story. Generations of Norwalkers have come to believe the charming tale... Appealing though this account may be its authenticity is dubious. In a footnote they also point out that Lawrence Hochheimer could not find Thomas Fitch V listed in the rolls for the French and Indian War, nor could he find General Edward Braddock in the vicinity of Rensselaerville in the summer of 1755. Unfortunately they do not draw any connection between Braddock and the rest of the "tale" so the mention of Hochheimer's research seems somewhat irrelevant. It may be worth noting that Fort Crailo is in the city of Rensselaer, New York not in the town of Rensselaerville, New York.
  33. ^ a b Fedor, Ferenz (1976). The Birth of Yankee Doodle. New York: Vantage Press, Inc. ISBN 0-533-02047-6. 
  34. ^ "Fort Crailo". New York State Military Museum and Veterans Research Center. Retrieved 2008-06-01. 
  35. ^ "Long Island Sound - Soundkeeper". Retrieved 2008-03-21. 
  36. ^ Mcfadden, Robert D. "Robert D. McFadden, I-95 Bridge Closed, Jamming Traffic". The New York Times. Retrieved 2008-03-21. 
  37. ^ "Nathan Hale (1755-1776) Hero of the American Revolution" (PDF). Retrieved 2008-03-20. 
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  43. ^ A Brief History of the Battle of Norwalk
  44. ^ Norwalk was scene of 'largest battle' fought in Conn
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  49. ^ Coughlin, Bill (11 March 2012). "Fitch's Point Marker". The Historical Marker Database. Retrieved 23 June 2016. 
  50. ^ "Grumman-St. John House, 93 East Avenue". The Norwalk Preservation Trust. Retrieved 24 June 2016. 
  51. ^ a b Connecticut History Connection
  52. ^ Edwin Hall (1847), p. 170
  53. ^ "June 17: Jesse Lee; Christian History Institute". Retrieved 2008-06-05. 
  54. ^ "Sheffield Island, CT". Lighthousefriends.com. 2001. Retrieved 20 January 2016. 
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  56. ^ Deborah Wing Ray, Gloria P. Stewart (1979) p. 114.
  57. ^ Reed, Robert C. (1967). Train Wrecks: A Pictorial History of Accidents on the Main Line. New York: Bonanza Books. 
  58. ^ Workers of the Federal Writers' Project of the Works Progress Administration for the State of Connecticut (1938). CONNECTICUT, A GUIDE TO ITS ROADS, LORE, AND PEOPLE. Boston, MA: HOUGHTON MIFFLIN COMPANY. p. 265. 
  59. ^ Various staff writers (1884). Bulletin of the United States National Museum, Issue 27. Washington, D.C.: U.S. Government Printing Office. p. 655. 
  60. ^ Connecticut Department of Agriculture. "DOAG: Oyster Diseases". Retrieved 2008-06-01. 
  61. ^ List of cities in Connecticut
  62. ^ Deborah Wing Ray, Gloria P. Stewart (1979) p. 135.
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  65. ^ National Park Service (2009-03-13). "National Register Information System". National Register of Historic Places. National Park Service. 
  66. ^ Koch, Robert. "Norwalk Museum closed a month early to 'secure collection and save money'." The Hour. May 23, 2012, http://www.thehour.com/news/norwalk/norwalk-museum-closed-a-month-early-to-secure-collection-and/article_624fa581-91f0-5387-8d79-388b0de34bf2.html
  67. ^ "Visit Us". Norwalk Historical Society. 2006. Retrieved 3 April 2016. 
  68. ^ "The Rowayton Historical Society - History of Rowayton". Retrieved 2008-06-05. 
  69. ^ Created by: Taquoshi (9 Sep 2013). "Samuel Roodner". Find A Grave. Retrieved 20 January 2016. 
  70. ^ Contributed by Anna (2000). "Cinema Treasures". Cinema Treasures LLC. Retrieved 20 January 2016. 
  71. ^ DiGiovanni, the Rev. (now Monsignor) Stephen M., The Catholic Church in Fairfield County: 1666-1961, 1987, William Mulvey Inc., New Canaan, Chapter II: The New Catholic Immigrants, 1880-1930; subchapter: "The True American: White, Protestant, Non-Alcoholic," p. 82; DiGiovanni, in turn, cites (Footnote 210, page 258) Chalmers, David A., Hooded Americanism, The History of the Ku Klux Klan (New York, 1981), p. 268
  72. ^ There were three major storms in that affected Norwalk in 1955: Hurricane Connie, Hurricane Diane, and an unnamed storm in October. See "The Connecticut Floods of 1955". Retrieved 2008-04-01. 
  73. ^ a b c "The Maritime Aquarium: History". Retrieved 2008-08-04. 
  74. ^ May 4, 2002: trial held in Connecticut State Superior Court in Norwalk, CT which took four weeks with Judge John Kavanewsky presiding."Martha Moxley - The Recently Solved Murder". Retrieved 2008-06-01. 
  75. ^ Jared Newman (2008-05-26). "Oldest Methodist church closes after 188 years". The Hour. 137 (147): A5. 
  76. ^ James Lomuscio (2008-05-26). "Emotional farewell for a city church". The Advocate (Norwalk). 179 (40): A1. 

External links[edit]