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West Street Park

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The West Street Park is one of two triangular, greenlike parks created at the western end of the Borough of Danbury after it was expanded in 1846. Unlike the park on Franklin Street, about a half mile north of this site, the West Street Park has evolved into a significant commemorative green. As early as 1867 it appears labeled as a park on city maps and in an 1875 bird's-eye view lithograph of the by then urbanized borough it is shown as a formal, evenly triangular space, its edges lined with elms. Its use as a commemorative park began in 1880 when A.E. Housman donated a statue of an eagle atop a pedestal of rusticated granite to Danbury's Village Improvement Society. Whether the eagle had any commemorative purpose, however, is unclear. Its base carried only the legend "V.I.S." and "Erected 1880" and the only newspaper account located stated only that "it will make a handsome ornament to that piece of green." Housman was a wealthy native of New York State, a world traveler and antiquarian who was responsible for numerous monuments and historical markers throughout the Danbury area. He lived for a number of years on nearby Deer Hill Avenue, and he was responsible as well for the gift to the city of the bust of President James A. Garfield that now stands in this park. The eagle monument was replaced in 1931 by the Soldiers and Sailors Monument, a monument to Danbury servicemen in all wars to that point. Its dedication on November 11, 1931 was attended by Governor Wilbur Cross, Senators Hiram Bingham and Frederic Walcott, and by more people than had attended any public celebration in Danbury since the signing of the Armistice ending World War I in 1918. Two years earlier, in 1929, the Garfield Monument had been moved to the park from its original site to the north, at the intersection of West Wooster and Division Street with Washington Avenue in the section now known as Wooster Village. It was moved at the request of neighborhood residents who petitioned the city for its removal at the time that a new concrete pavement was being laid on Division Street.

The park was traditionally the site of Memorial Day ceremonies throughout the 1940s, '50s, and '60s, held at the time of year when the cherry trees were in flower. It was convenient to parades, the routes of which went through Main Street. This older park is sometimes upstaged today by newer war memorials erected to the veterans of more recent wars in Korea and Vietnam in Rogers Park at the south end of the city.

Although neither central in location nor in its role in the city's development, this place has along history as a commemorative park. Its statuary is significant as well, particularly the Soldiers and Sailors Monument.

 

 
 

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