Wednesday, September 05, 2007

The previous post on Elmwood Park drew the attention of Dennis Elpern, the Director of Danbury's Planning and Zoning Department. Mr. Elpern and I spoke on the phone a few weeks ago, and he gave me some background information on the restoration project.

Mr. Elpern, who came to Danbury in 1988, used to drive past the park on his way to and from City Hall each day. He couldn't help but notice the crumbling sidewalks and overall unkempt look of the park, and out of professional curiosity went to the Danbury Museum & Historical Society (formerly known as the Scott-Fanton Museum) and did some research. He learned that the Commons, which is what Elmwood Park was, has probably been there since the Revolution, when the intersection of Main Street and South Street marked the southern boundary of Danbury. There was a Meeting House associated with the cemetery which is behind what is now the Old Jail at the corner of Main and Wooster Street. There was a bandshell, and it seems reasonable to assume that George Ives, father of Charles Ives, performed there on many a summer evening with the band that he directed.

The militia used to drill in Elmwood Park, and folks would gather there to hear election results in the fall. The Park was named for the large elm trees that dominated it and Main Street. At some point it was renamed Fountain Park, possibly because of the devastation caused by Dutch Elm disease in the early 1900s. The old photos also show a fountain and a fence.

The fountain and the fence were the starting points for the restoration work that was completed in 1998. The city hired the Danbury landscape architectural firm of Jane Didona to replicate the old fountain and the fence in an informal, English garden type of setting, for a total budget of about $250,000. Didona is also responsible for the design of the new library plaza, Kennedy Park, the Children's Garden at Tarrywile Park, a streetscape enhancement and traffic plan for the Gilbert & Bennett Wire Mill Redvelopment project now underway in Georgetown, and numerous other local and regional projects.

(I don't have a good photo of the fountain. I borrowed this one from the website of Didona Associates. I hope they don't mind.)

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