Other locales within the town include Titicus, on Route 116 just north of the village; Ridgebury, in the northern section of town; Scotland, which is south of Ridgebury; Farmingville, northeast and east of the village; Limestone, northeast of the village; Flat Rock, south of the village; and Florida, just north of Branchville.
Ridgefield was first settled by English colonists from Norwalk and Milford in 1708 when a group of settlers purchased land from Chief Catoonah of the Ramapoo tribe. The town was incorporated under Royal Charter in 1709. The most notable 18th Century event was the Battle of Ridgefield (on April 27, 1777). This Revolutionary War skirmish involved a small colonial militia force (the Connecticut Continentals, part of the Continental Army), led by, among others, General David Wooster, who died in the engagement, and Benedict Arnold, whose horse was shot from under him. They faced a larger British force that had landed at Norwalk and was returning from a raid on the colonial supply depot in Danbury, Connecticut. The battle was a tactical victory for the British but a strategic one for the Colonials since the British never again attempted a landing by ship to attack colonial strongholds during the war. Today, the dead from both sides are buried together in a small cemetery on Main Street on the right of the entrance to Casagmo condominiums: "...foes in arms, brothers in death..." The Keeler Tavern, a local inn and museum, features a British cannonball still lodged in the side of the building. There are many other landmarks from the Revolutionary War in the town, with most along Main Street.
In the summer of 1781, the French army, under the Comte de Rochambeau marched through Connecticut, encamping in the Ridgebury section of town, where the first Catholic Mass in Ridgefield was offered. (The town of Lebanon, Connecticut is where the first Catholic Mass was offered in the state.)
For much of its three centuries, Ridgefield was a farming community. Among the important families in the 19th Century were the Rockwells and Lounsburys, which intermarried. They produced two Connecticut governors, George Lounsbury and Phineas Lounsbury. The Ridgefield Veterans Memorial Community Center on Main Street, also called the Lounsbury House, was built by Gov. Phineas Chapman Lounsbury around 1896 as his primary residence.
In the late 1800s, spurred by the new railroad connection to its lofty village and the fact that nearby countryside reaches above sea level, Ridgefield began to be discovered by wealthy New York City residents, who assembled large estates and built huge "summer cottages" throughout the higher sections of town. Among the more noteworthy estates were Col. Louis D. Conley's "Outpost Farm", which at one point totalled nearly , some of which is now Bennett's Pond State Park; Seth Low Pierrepont's "Twixthills", more than , much of which is now Pierrepont State Park; Frederic E. Lewis's "Upagenstit", that became Grey Court College in the 1940s, but is now mostly subdivisions; and Col. Edward M. Knox's "Downesbury Manor", whose included a 45-room mansion that Mark Twain often visited.
These and dozens of other estates became unaffordable and unwieldy during and after the Great Depression, and most were broken up. Many mansions were razed. In their place came subdivisions of one- and two-acre lots that turned the town into a suburban, bedroom community in the 1950s, 1960s, and 1970s. However, strong planning and zoning has maintained much of the 19th and early 20th Century charm of the town, especially along its famous mile-long Main Street.
Right after World War II, Ridgefield was one of the locations considered for the United Nations secretariate building.
The Aldrich Contemporary Art Museum is a leading venue for the world's best contemporary artists. Its exhibitions have attracted international attention and respect. The museum was redesigned and expanded in 2004, and offers many special programs, including concerts.
Ridgefield Symphony Orchestra began as the Ridgefield Symphonette in 1965 with 20 players, only a third of them professionals. It became fully professional by the end of the decade and today has 75 musicians and draws soloists of international reputation. In 1984, Maxim Shostakovich, then a Ridgefielder, conducted a sold-out concert of music by his father, Dmitri Shostakovich, with the composer's grandson, Dmitri, performing as piano soloist.
The Ridgefield Playhouse, opened in December 2000, is housed in the "old Ridgefield High School" auditorium, designed in the 1940s by Cass Gilbert Jr. (son of Cass Gilbert, architect of the Supreme Court building and the Woolworth Building), and extensively remodeled as a playhouse. The Playhouse is the year-round venue for dozens of concerts and other performances, many by internationally known artists such as Joan Baez, Paul Newman, Arlo Guthrie, Jose Feliciano, the Bacon Brothers, Blues Traveler, Peter Yarrow, Marcel Marceau, Barbara Cook, and Moscow Boys Choir. The Playhouse also shows movies, many of them first-run.
Weir Farm National Historic Site straddles the Ridgefield-Wilton border, and is the only National Park Service property in Connecticut. The site preserves much of the farm of J. Alden Weir (1852-1919), a painter of the American Impressionism style, and was later used by his son-in-law, Mahonri Young (1877-1957), noted sculptor and a grandson of Brigham Young. The site include the Weir Farm Art Center and a gallery, and many special events take place there, including shows by visiting artists in residence. The Ridgefield Conservatory of Dance was founded as the Ridgefield Studio of Classical Ballet in 1965 by Patricia Schuster. In 2002 it became the Ridgefield Conservatory of Dance, a non-profit 501(c)3 organization. The Ridgefield Conservatory of Dance is home to two pre-professional performance companies: The Ridgefield Civic Ballet and The Contemporary Dance Ensemble. The conservatory presents the Nutcracker annually at The Ridgefield Playhouse.
Located at the intersection of West Lane and Route 35, the Peter Parley Schoolhouse (c. 1750) the “Little Red” schoolhouse is a one room schoolhouse in use in the town until 1913. The site and grounds are maintained by the Ridgefield Garden Club. The building is open certain Sundays and displays the desks, slates and books the children used.
Ridgefield's public open space includes Aldrich Park (65 acres), Bennett's Pond state park (460 acres), Brewster Farm (103 acres), Florida Refuge (63 acres), Hemlock Hills/Lake Windwing (421 acres), Pine Mountain (368 acres), the Seth Low Pierrepont State Park (313 acres), and the Weir Farm National Historic Site (57 acres). A more complete list, along with descriptions and a few trail maps, can be found the Ridgefield Open Space Association's website Rules governing the use of this land can be found at town hall, or on ROSA's page
The town's largest industry is Boehringer Ingelheim Pharmaceuticals Inc., whose United States headquarters are located in the Ridgebury section of town.
In 2006, the tree selected to display in Rockefeller Center, New York for the Christmas season was chosen from Ridgefield.
Ridgefield's Roman Catholic school, St. Mary, serves preschool through eighth grade. A private school, Ridgefield Academy, teaches preschool through eighth grade and is situated on a former turn-of-the-20th-Century estate on West Mountain. There are also various preschools and a Montessori school.
There were 8,433 households out of which 43.0% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 70.6% were married couples living together, 6.0% had a female householder with no husband present, and 21.6% were non-families. 18.9% of all households were made up of individuals and 7.5% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.78 and the average family size was 3.21.
In the town the population was spread out with 30.6% under the age of 18, 3.2% from 18 to 24, 27.8% from 25 to 44, 27.5% from 45 to 64, and 10.9% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 39 years. For every 100 females there were 92.8 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 89.4 males.
The median income for a household in the town was $107,351, and the median income for a family was $127,981. Males had a median income of $100,000 versus $50,236 for females. The per capita income for the town was $51,795. About 1.3% of families and 2.4% of the population were below the poverty line, including 1.7% of those under age 18 and 5.3% of those age 65 or over.
Ridgefield has been associated with numerous famous people in many different fields. A brief summary includes actor Robert Vaughn and actor/playwright Harvey Fierstein live in town. Authors have included Eugene O'Neill, Howard Fast and Cornelius Ryan. Children's book authors Richard Scarry, Maurice Sendak and Andy Luckey have lived in town. Ridgefield is home to American portrait artist John Howard Sanden. Cartoonist Roz Chast, a frequent New Yorker magazine contributor, lives in town. Businesswoman Carolyn Kepcher, who appeared on the NBC show The Apprentice, is a resident, as is Judy Collins. Conductor Maxim Shostakovich once lived in town, as did Time magazine owner Henry Luce and his wife, Clare Boothe Luce, who was also a playwright and Congresswoman. Jeremiah Donovan was a United States Representative from Connecticut.
Kurt Waldheim, the former Secretary General of the United Nations, rested in town at the estate of a friend, and Theodore Sorenson, former advisor to President John F. Kennedy, was once a town resident. Ira Joe Fisher, a poet who is also a weatherman on CBS television, lives in town as does veteran newsman Morton Dean
Curt Onalafo, head coach of the Kansas City Wizards went to Ridgefield High.
Government, health and education:
Jack Sanders' history Web site:
Jack Sanders, an editor at The Ridgefield Press, has extensive information about the town's history at his Web site
Houses of worship:
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