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Elmwood Park

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Danbury, the first frontier settlement in northern Fairfield, was founded by eight families from Norwalk in 1684. They laid out "The Town Street," present day Main Street, and erected the meetinghouse in the vicinity of the cemetery on Wooster Street behind the Old Jail which faces the park. Thus, the area surrounding present Elmwood Park has been the center of Danbury's civic and cultural activities since it was founded. Initially, the militia companies trained there, and later on it was used as the site for agricultural affairs and band concerts.

Danbury was originally established as an agricultural town, but as other towns were laid out around it, Danbury became a regional trading center, and Elmwood Park became the center of regional as well as town activities. During the Revolution, Danbury was a major supply depot for the continental armies. A British raid in 1777 destroyed much of the town that had built up along the Town Street and the common, but it was quickly rebuilt and the area near the present park remained the governmental and cultural center of what was then a long, linear settlement.

In 1785, the Ecclesiastical Society moved the meetinghouse from the green to the corner of Main and West Street. A year before, in 1784, Danbury was designated a "half-shire" town and began sharing county seat activities with Fairfield. The first courthouse and jail were constructed by 1794 on the sites occupied by their later successors which are extant today facing Elmwood Park. Even though the meetinghouse was moved from the area, it remained the acknowledged center of town.

In 1801, Major Ezra Starr, owner of the portion of the park north of Wooster Street, deeded it to the town so it would remain a "common" in perpetuity. At that time there was only one street going along the east side where it bowed out to accommodate the park. In 1853, over objections, $2,000 was raised through subscription to build a road along the west side. It was planted with trees and a hay crop and became a public park. In 1879 the park was further improved with benches, a fountain, a bandstand and serpentine walks and on July 19, 1879, it was reopened as Elmwood Park.

It became the starting points for parades in downtown Danbury and the bandstand was the site of summer concerts by local bands. Charles Edward Ives, who grew up in Danbury and later became an important American composer, was greatly influenced by these parades and concerts. His father, George E. Ives, was the band leader and Charles Ives' earliest compositions were played by his father's band.

In the mid-19th century, Danbury became an important regional center for Irish immigrants when St. Peter's Roman Catholic parish was established in Danbury. The church was erected on the north end of the park on the site where a Universalist church had been situated. It remains an important major development in the area as, in later decades, the church built three three-story annex and service buildings facing the west side of the green. All of these buildings and the church are important community activity centers today.

Elmwood Park has been a public gathering place and the center of civic and cultural affairs since Town Street (the present Main Street) was laid out when the community was established. It is closely associated with the Revolutionary War when it was the site of a raid led by General Tryon when the town center was destroyed by fire. It is also associated with Charles Ives the composer whose earliest works were played at concerts held on the common, after it was converted to a park in the mid-19th century.

 

 
 

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