The Changing Landscape

It’s 1947 and you drive into Greenwich through its main traffic artery, the Post Road. The town, smaller in population by almost half, only one house to every two and a half acres. Dutch elms line the roads. People drive both down and up Greenwich Avenue.

Other things are more recognizable to the modern visitor, like a reputation for achievement. In 1947 Greenwich High’s football team won the state championship, while its literary magazine, The Green Witch, took first place in a national competition. Captains of industry stand at train stations most mornings and return most nights.

It is very much “a dormitory of the metropolis,” as Inside Greenwich, a summary of that year’s official town report, put it. Home-building has skyrocketed; there are as many houses going up in 1947 alone as did in all the prior four-and-a-half years combined.

They call it an enclave; then as now. But look closer at the data points of two years in the life, spaced out by seventy years, and enclave is hardly the word. You sense a quiet if thrusting dynamism at the center. Greenwich remains rooted in the same forty-eight square miles but has never stood still.


THEN & NOW

A look at life here, by the numbers

HOW MANY ARE WE?

1947
37,189
total population

2017
61,171
total population


HOME SWEET HOME

1947
7,990
 dwellings
Total assessed value was $72.7 million
Average assessed value was $9,100

2017
20,042
residential units(approximate)
Total assessed value is $26.24 billion
Average assessed value is $1,309,238


FROM PONTIACS TO PORSCHES*

1947
11,511 registered vehicles

2017
54,420 registered vehicles(approximate)

*numbers represent total number of vehicles, not numbers of Pontiacs and Porsches


POLITICAL LANDSCAPE

1947
8,376 Republicans
1,763 Democrats
10,147 Other

2017
12,813 Republicans
9,450 Democrats
13,773 Other


LONG ARM OF THE LAW

1947
63 officers and administrators

2017
211 officers and administrators


THE LONG AND WINDING…

1947
200 miles of roads

2017
265.4 miles of roads


GREENWICH POINT

1947
300,351 visits

2017
496,403 visits


HEADING TO THE ISLAND

1947
91,098 Island Beach visits

2017
31,329 Island Beach visits


GREEN ACRES

1947
25,192 open acres with a total assessed value of $43,384,120

2017
5,375 open acres with a total assessed value of $53,571,770 (we have an additional 3,211 acres of open protected space)


WHO’S RUNNING THIS PLACE?

1947
877 town employees
(711 salaried, 152 daily wage, 14 sewer district)

2017
2,360 full-time staff
334 part-time staff


WORKING 9 TO 5

1947
There were fifty-one manufacturing plants in Greenwich, employing 4,072 workers

2017
Greenwich’s finance and insurance industries employ 7,158 people. Manufacturing now accounts for about 520 jobs in town. Total employment in town is 35,119


THE TAX MAN IS HAPPY

1947
$3,640,950 in tax revenue

2017
$362,543,168 in tax revenue


THE DAILY GRIND

1947
1,800 people daily boarded a train at one of four stations to Grand Central Station

2017
6,235 people daily board a train at one of four stations to Grand Central Station


BEYOND BOOKS

1947
Greenwich Library loaned 291,106 books

2017
Greenwich Library loaned 1,224,463 items (including books, DVDs, CDs, audiobooks, games, eBooks, downloadable audiobooks, digital periodicals and streaming video)


CARE AT NATHANIEL WITHERELL

1947
33 staff members

2017
225 staff members


GET SMART

1947
205 public school teachers; Cost per pupil: $294.85

2017
850 public school teachers; Cost per pupil: $21,964


SPEAKING THEIR LANGUAGE

There are 33 languages listed as primary languages for students at Greenwich High School.

They include: Albanian, Armenian, Cantonese, Creole-Haitian, Dutch, English, Farsi, French, German, Greek, Hindi, Italian, Japanese, Kinyarwanda, Korean, Luganda, Malayalam, Mandarin, Mandingo, Persian, Filipino, Polish, Portuguese, Romanian, Russian, Serbo-Croatian, Spanish, Swedish, Tagalog, Tibetan, Turkish, Urdu and Visayan



FUN FACTS

DO YOU KNOW?
Tidbits that may just come in handy at your next cocktail party

1947

What’s in a Name
The name East Port Chester was changed to Byram by an act of the RTM.

Fire Island
On August 24, the Casino on Great Captain’s Island burned to the ground.

Women on the Force
The position of policewoman was created in the detective division.


2017

In Store
The cost per square foot on Greenwich Avenue varies between $80 at the very top up to $150 for the coveted center three blocks, which is still a bargain compared to fancy friends Rodeo Drive (about $100 to $250 per square foot) and Madison Avenue (Midtown ranges between $500 and $2,500).

Park At Your Own Risk
Parking tickets account for about $1.2 million in revenue per year (that’s about 10,000 tickets per month). No doubt the 300 spots on the Avenue are the greatest contributors.

Uber Rich
Greenwich is home to six of the 400 richest Americans—they have a combined net worth of $32.2 billion (roughly the same amount as the Indiana state budget).



FIRST PERSON

LIVING HISTORY

For ninety-two years Muriel Putnam Smith has called Greenwich home. Here, she shares her memories of a bygone era

Muriel Putnam Smith first came to Greenwich in 1925 at the age of four. She is a direct descendant of General Israel Putnam who famously escaped from the British during the American Revolution down the steep slope now known as Put’s Hill. Her mother was active in the Daughters of the American Revolution; her father owned the Pickwick Arms Hotel. Today she lives in backcountry.

Muriel remains a part of town life and in 2015 she was a special guest during Greenwich’s 375th anniversary celebrations. Seated at the entry to Putnam Cottage she shared stories about what Greenwich was like back when. She recently spoke to us about her memories of seventy years ago.


WHAT DO YOU REMEMBER ABOUT GREENWICH IN 1947?

It was very pleasant, a very nice place to live. There weren’t all these people around. Now it’s jam-packed with people.

WHAT DID YOU DO IN TOWN THEN?
My father owned the Pickwick Arms Hotel at the top of Greenwich Avenue. Everybody went there for cocktails at the Meridian Room every afternoon at five o’clock. It held at least 100 people.

WAS GREENWICH VERY SOCIAL LIKE THAT?
Oh, yes. It was a place where there were lots of parties. It was very social. Everyone kept busy doing social activities. We went to lots of parties. Families had cocktail parties each night, and on Saturday nights all the country clubs had dances. It was very gay.

YOU HAD GREENWICH POINT AND ISLAND BEACH. HOW ABOUT SKATING RINKS OR OTHER PUBLIC RECREATION?
Nothing. If you belonged to a club, you had squash and swimming and golf—and that was about it.

YOU MOVED TO TOWN WITH YOUR FAMILY IN 1925, WHEN YOU WERE FOUR. WHERE DID YOU LIVE?
My father bought a house in Milbrook. There were only five or six houses in Milbrook then.

TRUMAN CAPOTE LIVED IN MILBROOK IN THE 1940S. DID YOU KNOW HIM?
Oh, yes. I remember him very well. He went to Greenwich High and I went to Greenwich Academy. I was older than him so we didn’t socialize, but I walked by his house every day.

WHAT DO YOU REMEMBER ABOUT GREENWICH AVENUE THEN?
There was the Pickwick Arms Hotel at the top of the street, across from Thomas Cook real estate office. Down the Post Road there was the Pickwick Movie Theater. We used to go to the movies every Saturday afternoon, and then get an ice cream next door.

On Greenwich Avenue itself, you had vegetable markets, stores that sold food. A few dress shops, and shoe stores. They had a place that sold uniforms, which was where I got my uniform for Greenwich Academy. My favorite store on Greenwich Avenue when I was a girl was Meads. I loved it because the window was full of dolls.

WAS THE AVENUE A TWO-WAY STREET?
Yes. I got married in 1947, and it became one-way shortly after that. I got used to it being two way. Once I made a mistake, I tried to drive up the Avenue, and a policeman yelled at me.

WHAT WAS IT LIKE GOING TO GREENWICH ACADEMY?
It wasn’t so huge then. It was just an old building on North Maple Avenue, which I think is part of Brunswick now. We used to put on plays at the Academy, and wear these costumes. My favorite teacher was Miss Elsie Gay, who taught French. She used to bring croissants to class so we could see what people in France had for breakfast.

WHAT WAS IT LIKE DRIVING AROUND TOWN?
We didn’t have the interstate in 1947. We had the Merritt Parkway and the Post Road. My father owned a lot of gas companies from here to Maine. In the summer we used to travel to them. When we came home, I would be so happy as we came down the Post Road from Stamford. There were huge trees everywhere, everything was so cool and lovely. Back then there wasn’t any traffic. There weren’t so many people in town then, you see. It was just a gorgeous place to live.


WE WOULD LIKE TO THANK THE FOLLOWING SOURCES FOR THEIR HELP:

Rita Azrelyant, Director of Parking Services; Lynn Bausch, RN, Director of Nursing, Nathaniel Witherell; Katie DeLuca, Town Planner; Lauren Elliott, Town Assessor; Judd B. Everhart, Connecticut Department of Transportation; Kimberly Eves, Greenwich Public Schools; Roland Gieger, Town Budget Director; Stasha Healy, Greenwich Historical Society; Peter Mynarski, Jr., Finance Director Kate Petrov, Greenwich Library Public Relations Officer; Denise Savageau, Conservation Director; Nancy Steffens, Connecticut Department of Labor, Communications Officer; Tom Torelli, Allied Property Group; Craig Whitcomb, Parks & Recreation; Registrar of Voters Office; Greenwich Highway Division

 

 

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