Greenwich Celebrates Founder’s Day at Historic Feake-Ferris House
By Richard Kaufman
On Wednesday, the community gathered at the historic and newly renovated Feake-Ferris House, the first and oldest house in town, to commemorate the 379th anniversary of the founding of Greenwich.
The celebration coincided with the town’s “This Place Matters!” contest in which residents were tasked with taking photographs of places in Greenwich that matter to them. More than 80 photos were submitted for the contest, and six were announced as winners.
The founding of Greenwich has been celebrated since 1947, thanks in part to Alice Binney, the founding president of the Greenwich Historical Society.
“She urged the [First Selectman Wilbur M. Peck and the Selectmen] to have the town commemorate Founder’s Day annually, so the citizens of our great country would remember and preserve the stories and structures of the courageous men and women who lived before them, and whom through their indomitable spirit, shaped our heritage,” said Davidde Strackbein, chairwoman of the historical society’s board of trustees, at the ceremony.
Greenwich was founded on July 18, 1640 by Robert and Elizabeth Feake, and Captain Daniel Patrick. The purchased land, which today stretches from the stream bisecting Binney Park, then called Asamuck, to the border between Greenwich and Stamford, then called Patamuck, was acquired for 25 coats — 11 of which were paid.
Elizabeth purchased “Elizabeth’s Neck”, now known as Greenwich Point, and the lands leading to the point upon which the Feake home was built in or about 1645. Jeffrey Ferris subsequently purchased the house from Elizabeth in 1653, and he and his son made some expansions thereafter.
Residents Martin and Anna Waters purchased the property several years ago, and instead of bulldozing the historic house to make way for their new one, they partnered with a group lead by the Greenwich Point Conservancy to help save it. Architects Krist Dodaro and Jon Roos handled the restoration and building project, which was funded by the GPC through private donations.
“Jon cataloged and computer modeled each post and beam, each timber in this building. We were able to overlay the dendrochronology on top of that, and we were able to utilize the research we had regarding the history of that house and the will from Jeffrey Ferris,” said GPC president, Chris Franco. “All of this made the story of the house very clear.”
The two story building features the original cellar, stonewall, foundation, floors and ceilings.
“The most exciting find was when we were carefully peeling off layers one at a time, and we found that inside one of the interior walls, one of the original windows had been encapsulated for over two centuries,” Franco said. “It has the original glass in it. We believe that it’s the oldest sash window in America that still has the original glass in it.” The original window was the basis for re-designing the rest of the windows on the house.
First Selectman, Peter Tesei, said the house is an important part of Greenwich.
“This will be here for many generations and it tells the earliest part of Greenwich’s story, which is a wonderful story,” he said. It’s a story of strength, courage, resiliency and frankly, it opened the way to what we all enjoy today.”
Debra Mecky, Executive Director and CEO of the Greenwich Historical Society, then unveiled the winners of the second annual “This Place Matters!” contest, which is part of a national initiative from the National trust of Historic Preservation to mobilize residents around places that are important to them and their community.
“[The submissions] include parks, wildlife, places of worship and not surprisingly, Greenwich Point, a jewel in our town’s crown,” Mecky said. “Many participants included statements about why they are inspired by these places and why they are important to preserve. The result is a dynamic montage of Greenwich’s places that will help the historical society deliver an important part of our mission for creating meaningful connections between the past and the present.”
One by one, six winners (three hi-resolution photos and three low-res) were unveiled to oohs and ahs from the crowd. The photos will be on display at the Historical Society’s brand new campus which opens up on Columbus Day Weekend.
Check out the winners below: