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Redding, Connecticut Businesses
coming of the Railroad, built between 1850-1852 from Norwalk
to Danbury sparked the businesses of West Redding. Before
that time Side Cut/Simpaug Trpk. did not cross and connect
to Long Ridge Road, at best the section of road currently
running from Side Cut to Long Ridge was a dirt path used by
the locals but not a main route of travel...for example the
Stage coaches ran across either Simpaug Turnpike or Merchant
Rd. to Picketts Ridge to George Hull Rd. to Long Ridge and
the addition of the Railroad came a depot, post office and
a store. J. L. Griffin appears to be the first selling Dry
Goods, Groceries, etc.. in the West Redding area. His name
appears on the Beer's map of Redding business directory circa
1867 as a dealer of Dry Goods and Groceries. The building
stood where the Baptist Church is today (2006) on the south
side of the tracks and has been said to have been built in
1864 so it's a good bet that it was Mr. Griffin's store initially.
W. Griffin, a relative, lived directly behind the West Redding
store in the house still standing today on Side Cut (though
modified I'm sure). Later a man named, William Mandeville,
owned and operated the West Redding Store prior to 1900. Not
much is known of him outside of his name being mentioned.
business was in a good location, due to railroad traffic.
Looking to draw more people, the Danbury/Norwalk railroad
company had converted an old church (Methodist) campground
into a picnic/recreation park area they called Brookside Park
in West Redding. The entrance gates (stone pillars) of this
park is still standing over at the current West Redding Post
Office employee/service entrance and parking lot.
Park opened (slash) re-opened officially as a recreation park
in 1878, but historically the land was a popular destination
from approx. early 1860's to 1900. It was 30-acres, it had
a bridge crossing the Saugatuck River, a fishing pond, gold
fish pond, and many gravel covered paths for walking, most
of these paths leading to water fountains. It was very popular
with New Yorkers looking to get out of the city to picnic
and fish. So popular that a 2-story hotel was erected (burned
down in 1900) and a band/dance pavillion was added. The first
electric lighting generator in CT was said to have been installed
here in 1884. The property also had a caretaker's house and
next owner of the West Redding Store was John H. Jennings,
at or slightly before 1900, the General Store also contained
the Post Office in this period and probably had for some time.
John H. Jennings had been active in town, he is one of the
founders listed at Putnam Park (Redding/Bethel line). Putnam
Park was formed in 1887, John was the Chairman of the project.
When the Jennings owned the building it was a bit different
in appearance- it had a large Bay Window to the right of the
staircase on the second floor, 3 windows on ground level,
white picket fence and gate at ground level to the right of
the staircase leading to the second floor. What appears to
be a 60 yr old maple tree in the front right of the main (center)
portion of the building.
Jenning's ownership Samuel Clemens, a.k.a. Mark Twain arrived
at West Redding Station in 1908. Many gathered in the West
Redding Store's parking lot to greet him with cheers of welcome.
Shortly after a shoot-out occured at this train station involving
the local police and two burglars that had robbed the Twain
estate of silver early that evening. Sadly, in 1910 Twain
departed from this station for New York in a coffin.
Mr. Jennings came Emory P. Sanford. Emory came some time after
1914. It was in 1914 that his butcher shop in the Aspetuck
Valley (Povery Hollow) of Redding Ridge was condemmed by the
Bridgeport Hydraulic Company who felt the waste from his operations
would contaminate their reservoirs. Forced out of business
in Aspetuck, Emory Sanford arrived in West Redding and took
over the West Redding Store shortly after. He sold a wide
variety of products, including boots, shoes, paints in addition
to groceries and dry goods. Emory was active in the newly
formed West Redding Fire Department and is shown in many photos
with the first firetruck in town outside his store.
first WRFD was to the right of the current WR Post Office,
a simple barn that was later lost to fire.
photo in the 1950's shows it is still operating as a store
and gas station that was likely added in the 1930's (though
I cannot confirm that). The building has been altered by this
period as a bay window was added to the left of the main (center)
building and what appears to be apartments are to the right
where the old bay window used to be.
taken in the 1920's with Emory show the right second floor
has been framed in as a porch already. Bay Window Package
Store was occupying the left side of the building in the 50's
and from my recollections they had expanded to the main (center)
section by the 1970's, perhaps even the 1980's.
the 1920's Emory Sanford sold the building and property to
J. Birdsey Sanford for about $3,100. In the period J.B. Sanford
owned the store it was known as the Sanford Store. Gertrude
Sanford, J.B.'s daughter recalled that "everything in
the store was sold differently than it is in the present day.
We had to cut cheese, and butter was cut from tubs by the
pound. We had a coffee grinder, one of those great big old
things. People would buy a pound of coffee beans and have
them ground right there on the spot. Tea was sold by the pound...we
had oolong tea and green tea. We had penny candy, if you'd
believe it and there was a tennis court over where the West
Redding Post Office is now. Everyone on that side of town
came and played tennis there.
1946 Ken Bell bought the General Store from J.B. Sanford.
A little bit later the West Redding Post Office was erected
by Mr. Bell, moving the firehouse in the process. The General
Store, changing with the times, became more of a food store
that a general goods store. From Ken Bell on the information
about West Redding Store is spotted, likely due to the establishment
of the Country Emporium across the tracks in the late 1950's.
William Gordon was an owner in the 1950's and Fred Cole was
the owner after Gordon.
recently, the main building of the West Redding Store was
a rock/mineral business popular with kids in the 1990's. West
Redding's Red Garnets are well known in Natural History Museums
so it was a good match for the area.
far right of the building was Gail's Station House, a breakfast/lunch
restaurant in the 1990's from what I recall.
the building is home to the Baptist Church.
by any chance the parking lot is dug up for some reason and
large amounts of clamshells are found. They came for West
Redding's annual Clambake not Native Americans. The annual
Clambake was held each summer in the West Redding Store's
parking lot. Native American's were in the area, I have maps
that show their trails close to this area, but here at least,
clamshells were not the work of Indians.
mentioned above- the construction of the Country Emporium
on the opposite side of the tracks in the late 1950's had
an impact on the West Redding Store. The Emporium was very
popular and well known even to those outside CT. Mark Twain
Library's annual book fair was held there initially. It continued
successfully into the 1980's, and later became a Restaurant...think
it still is.
history of the Country Emporium is as follows: On April 12,
1950 J. Birdsey Sanford sold a barn and a quarter acre of
land on the north side of the RR tracks to Evelyn Marinelli
for $2,000. Seven years later on November 23, 1957 the Marinelli's
sold the barn to Michael Tree for $3,500.
Redding was changing in this time period, New Yorkers were
finding Redding to be a nice, tranquil little spot in the
country to rejuvenate themselves after a long, stressful work
week in the city and began converting their summer homes into
Tree was a New Yorker himself, having run a flower shop in
NYC he knew quite a few New Yorkers, and better yet their
buying habits. Tree got the idea for a country store from
two ex-Madison Avenue executives who started a store of their
own in New Hampton, NJ. Mr. Tree traveled the country for
ideas on how he'd like to set up the store. Having viewed
close to fifty shops he knew exactly how he wanted his store
to look and operate before he began building it.
characteristic he felt was most important was that when a
customer walked in he or she would be able to see only a small
portion of the store. This way the mystery of the store remained
and customers would make several visits in order to cover
all the items. His floors would be stacked from floor to ceiling
with odd and unusual tools, gadgets, and foods found almost
no where else. Initially there were no plans for a restaurant,
but later on was established.
Tree spent a little over two years fixing, renovating, repairing
and buying stock for his store. He turned the building in
two rooms with an upstairs shop, where hay was previously
and Helen Lalley, long-time residents of West Redding related:
"the interior boards of the Emporium were taken from
the Shepard Tannery in Bethel, CT, and if you look closely
you'll see they'll full of nail holes that were used to tack
skins up for curing. Mike Tree liked the antique look of them
so he managed to get them from the Shepards." Tree also
procured hundreds of antiques for the store, which he hung
on the ceilings and walls, and did not put up for sale. Outside
of the building he hung a "T" from an old Woolworth's
sign and weather vane in the shape of a tree. Inside, the
Emporium looked exactly as Michael Tree had envisioned it.
For a finishing touch he added a penny candy counter and a
huge round of cheddar cheese.
obtain enough capital to make his vision a reality, Mr. Tree
found about 30 stockholders; many were friends and acquaintances.
Having come from a show business background, many of these
friends were actors, singers and musicians. The names, though
not quite as impressive today, formed a list of very famous
and prestigious people of the 1950's and 60's:
Dalrymple, Wallace B. Dunckel, Carleton Scofield, Gypsy Rose
Lee, Jesse Rice Landis, Franklin Heller, Baron Polan, Jerry
Mason, Joan Vandemaele, Genevieve, and Julie Wilson are examples.
Memorial Day, 1960, the Emporium opens it's doors to the public
for the first time. It was a gala affair. Stars such as Genevieve
and Gypsy Rose Lee were present at the opening, with celebrity
Jean Dalrymple working the candy counter. More than a thousand
people looked through the store on opening day alone. And
at the end of just one weekend 90% of the Emporium's stock
had been sold.
success was spurred by a rather large amount of "free
press" the Emporium received from nationally renowned
publications: The New York Times ran a half-page ad,
that even Mike Tree wasn't aware of until reading it himself
the day is appeared, full page coverage in the Christian
Science Monitor and Gourmet magazine and a quarter
page spread in Look magazine.
Emporium's success and popularity continued and as a result
and several other factors, Mike Tree began serving food. He
credited two major influences in his decision to open an eatery:
#1, he had been giving out free coffee since the opening,
and people began to bring in their own bread, rolls and snacks
to the store. #2 was his friend, Jean Dalrymple, who felt
it would be nice to have a place to eat at the Emporium.
was a regular cook on weekdays but on the weekends there were
celebrity cooks in the kitchen. Jean Dalrymple, Genevieve
and Gypsy Rose Lee all cooked on weekends. The basic menu
consisted of pancakes, but as time went on famous foods such
as dillybread and dillyburgers, hot chili, and all kinds of
pancakes were created.
are varying opinions as to how Redding accepted the Emporium.
The Tree's felt that a first Reddingites did not want it,
but after realizing it was good for the town they began to
accept it. Herb Bronson recalled that, "it was an accepted
enterprise, probably well worthwhile." Gertrude Sanford
said, "It's very popular. I don't recall anybody resenting
it. I think they rather liked it." The Lalley's felt
acceptance was gradual, but successful."
a few years the original celebrities involved began to fade
away, but other stars replaced them. Mary Travers held her
wedding reception there, Tyrone Power has been there, and
Paul Newman brought his mother to the Emporium for Mother's
Day one year.
actual economic influence of the Country Emporium in West
Redding is limited to the growth of a small row of stores
adjacent to it and there is no written or factual evidence
to indicate any growth caused by the Emporium. But one thing
that has grown is the reputation of the establishment.
Tree said, "I built the Emporium so that people from
out of town could see the beauty of Redding." Which is
exactly what happened.
you go there now." said Bert Bronson, "you rarely
see a local person. They're all from Ridgefield, Southport,
Westport, or some place. No matter where you go everybody
knows about the Emporium, so apparently it's quite well known."
And it was.
Galer and her husband Gilbert purchased the Emporium from
Mike Tree on June 19, 1978.
of this history comes from Adam Foster's oral history project
interviews and his article that resulted from them. More to
come from Adam's amazing work very soon.
Country Emporium, restaurant, general store and Redding landmark,
was severely damaged by fire in March 1986.
the burnt-out site of the former Country Emporium, L'Hotellerie
des Bois (Little Hotel in the Woods) sprung phoenix-like from
the remains in 1988. The handsome, Victorian-style building
a complete departure in style, ownership and character. Read
the New York Times Review
Redding Remembered- Oral History Project
Ryder: Mayor of Umpawaug Hill
Man, typical fine American, a fine expansive spirit, direct,
generous, honest, upright.
are adjectives used by seven people I interviewed to find
out about a man who was possibly the most influential person
in Redding. His name, William Ryder.
Ryder was an elusive individual when it came to the Oral History
Project, although he essentially initiated this endeavor.
all started the day my mother, my sister, and I were selecting
a Christmas tree from Mr. Ryder's lot when he started to tell
me a story. A am told that I was captivated- I'm not too clear
on the details as that was six years ago. My mother noticed
my interest and thought to herself, "It's too bad that
other people can't hear these stories." She approached
Mr. Daniel Fuerst, Mrs. Averill Loh and Mr. Donald Wendell
with her brainstorm that would later be known as the Redding
Oral History Project.
am unhappy about the prospect of using the past tense throughout
this narrative, however, I hope the man will be brought to
life by the friends who knew him.
Hjalmar Anderson said, "Bill Ryder typified the real
rugged New Englander who's honest as the day is long. He was
ready to help at any time but a little bit risque and a little
bit blunt in the way he expressed himself. Underneath all
that he was certainly the heart of hope, no question about
that. As I say, the thing that stands out the most is real,
solid, four square integrity in every way."
Ryder had many friends who he acquired during his 83 years.
Mr. Boyd was one of his closest friends. Mr. Boyd wrote his
recollection of Mr. Ryder: "The first time I remember
meeting Mr. Ryder was when, one evening, I was working on
a house on Diamond Hill. We talked for quite a while, and
when he was leaving he put his hand in the pocket of his denim
jacket and handed me a couple good apples. This meeting was
the beginning of a friendship I will always cherish."
the next 28 years I found out a lot about his life, and most
of the time we would sit on the tailgate of his truck and
Ryder attended the Red Brick Schoolhouse on Umpawaug Road.
One of the games at noon recess was to try and throw small
stones through the opening in the peak of the school gable.
Evidence of some poor marksmanship are the chipped bricks,
surrounding the opening.
initials of the scholars of bygone days are carved in the
bricks at the end of the school. Of these W.R. is the one
that really catches the eye. Mr. Ryder told me he arosed the
teacher's ire by carving deeper than anyone else. To help
right a wrong he was ordered to fill up the carvings. He complied
but, so his art work would not suffer, he filled the letters
with plaster of Paris. These initials stand out white and
girl at the school when Mr. Ryder was a boy, seemed overbearing
to a point where she became the target of a little prank.
The sanitary facility was the customary outhouse, partitioned
so that one side was for the girls and the other for the boys.
But below the seat there was no divider. Using his inventive
mind the Ryder boy figured out that by cutting a paddle to
a certain length and angle he could reach the seat area on
the girls compartment via the hole below the seat in the boys
compartment. He waited patiently for his prey to use the facility,
and when she did he lower the paddle under the seat on his
side and let her have it with a few good whacks to the backside.
She raced out the door, into the school and soon stern measures
were taken on the Ryder boy by the teacher."
school was very important to Mr. Ryder for the rest of his
life, a teacher there became his bride. He always made sure
the building was in order.
Ryder later attended Connecticut Agricultural College, now
UCONN at Storrs. When a member of my family (Boyds) was a
student there, in the early 1970's, Mr. Ryder gave him a school
pennant which he had kept since 1916."
the entrance to one of the main buildings at Storrs, in a
rather inaccessible area, the initials W.R. appear again.
To enable him to accomplish this work of art, Ryder enlisted
a classmate to hold him by the heels, upside down, from the
2nd floor window while he did the carving."
long after his discharge from the Army during World War I,
William Ryder traveled to Kansas where he helped with the
wheat harvest and the large harvesting machinery in use then.
He often spoke of the long hours and people that worked there."
he returned to Redding, he spent most of his life running
the beautiful farm and nursery on Umpawaug Hill. The white
barn and outbuildings attest to his industrious nature. The
walls on the inside of the building carry a pretty good record
of dates and important events occurring over many years.
those years he ran a very productive construction business,
and many Redding residents live in the fine houses he built.
Ryder had many friends and so many people stopped to visit
him one wonders how he got any work done. He was often called
the Mayor of Umpawaug and was respected for his honesty, ability
to call 'a spade a spade.'
more blessed to give than to receive. This must have been
William Ryder's motto, and if so he must have been more blessed
than any man I have ever known. When one paid him a visit
it was impossible to leave without his giving you something
to take along, and if you refused, it would show up at you
premises in a couple of days."
to come on William Ryder soon.
Glasner Remembers West Redding
big social event of the summer was the clambake, held where
the general store is in West Redding (across from West Redding
Post Office). "All the oldtimers would get together.
You could eat all you wanted," Mr. Arthur Glasner, of
Limekiln Road, Redding, told us. "Some of the oldtimers
used to say that they would throw the clam shells over their
shoulders when they were through eating the clams. When the
clamshells reached up to the top of their necks, why then
it was time to quit."
Glasner was born in Brooklyn, NY. His early recollections
are of subways, trolley cars, and Propect Park. Mr. Glaner,
with his brother, mother and father, moved to Redding in 1930.
They travel to Redding during weekends before they bought
the house. When Mr. Glasner first moved into his house, it
was in the original state. There was no electricity or plumbing.
Cooking was done on a wood-burning range. The only source
of heat came from the fireplace. Kerosene lamps provided light.
of an old-limekiln are still on Mr. Glaner's Redding property.
Just the base of it is left today. The limestone rocks were
dynamited out of the quarry and hauled to the kiln. "The
lime rocks would disintegrate or burn. then the limestone
was put into barrels and sent to New York City. They used
the limestone to make plaster."
Glasner today, is well-known for his fine reproductions of
antique tin sconce lamps. He told us how it all started when
Florence Maine, a famous antique dealer in Ridgefield, approached
him with two antique tin sconce lamps and asked him to make
two more like them. "i've never done this before. I couldn't
do it," he said. "Oh, go ahead. You can do it,"
Glasner pointed out that he did not have any materials. Mrs.
Maine insisted he give it a try. Thus in 1959 after his brother
died, Arthur Glasner began his new career. "I got mixed
up in making these lighting fixtures. That's kept me busy."
Mr. Glasner is a meticulous artisan who reproduces lighting
fixtures in tin, just as they were, and similar to those in
old houses that used candles.
Glasner has observed many changes in his adopted town. "You
don't know people anymore. They rush right by in their automobiles.
Once I could hear a wagon coming up the road for quite a distance.
Nowadays, the automobile is right on top of you and by."
they had Ford Model T's, you could hear those. They would
rattle along. We bought a second-hand Ford car for $150.00.
they were kind of mean to travel in. They were very high.
They were built high because the ladies wore a lot of hats
with feathers on top. It was quite a tall thing. If you went
on a road that had a crown on it, why the thing was ready
to tip over! The car was plenty top-heavy."
this multi-talented man, Arthur Glasner, had not lived in
Redding all his life, he can still remember the times when
the town was a placid, pastorial community.
group of Redding citizens has provided the town with 270 acres
of open space, including the town's swimming area. The citizens,
calling themselves Redding Open Lands, Inc. (R.O.L.I.) initiated
the idea in 1970.
year before, Axel Bruzelius, who was an alternate on the Planning
Commission, became interested in a project in Lincoln, Massachusetts.
A whole farm in a suburb of Boston was purchased by local
citizens, The property was subdivided into several large acre
lots, which were sold, and which produced sufficient money
to pay back the purchase price. The excess land was given
to the town. Mr. Bruzelius decided Redding needed a similar
about this time Edward Steichen, the renowned photographer,
decided to sell all but 38 of the 421 acres he owned on Topstone
Road. Before Mr. Steichen put it on the open market he gave
the town the right of first refusal. A group of twelve citizens
decided to form an organization and attempt to accomplish
the same thing that had been done in Massachusetts.
began with the idea of building a park on Mr. Steichen's property.
Believing in R.O.L.I.'s idea, eleven more citizens joined
the group. James Jenkins was elected Presient of the first
meeting and William Karraker was elected chairman of the organization.
Their plan was to alter the size of the parcel so that the
land available for the town's purchase would be valued at
under a million dollars. They agreed that if R.O.L.I. bought
enough acreage, the remaining land's value would be brought
under a million dollars.
was able to negotiate a bank note for $350,000 dollars to
be secured only by the signatures of the 23 members of R.O.L.I.
This enabled R.O.L.I. to buy 117 of the 387 acres. The note
was signed on March 1, 1971.
town did indeed buy the other 270 acres, and it is now used
for open space and a natural park.
R.O.L.I. had to get its money back. They decided to sell their
acreage in plots. The smallest being 2.8 acres and the largest
being 10.6 acres. They sold all 15 plots and ended up with
a profit. These profits have been used to help the Conservation
Commission and the Land Trust.
Geoppler Cider and Vinegar Mill
the intersection of Topstone Rd. and Simpaug Turnpike stands
an impressive building. Once it was filled with the hustle
and bustle of a productive factory. In the past, during the
months of October and November, it churned with exciting activity.
This enormous building is the Geoppler Cider & Vinegar
four-story building was built in 1893 by Mr. Adolf Geoppler.
Apples were stored in the cupola, and an apple chute, extending
from the cupola (the top of the mill) to the basement, was
used to let the apples roll down to where they would be mashed.
When the apples reached the bottom floor, they were dropped
on to a large tray and into a huge burlap cloth. The power
to grind the apples was provided by a steam boiler. A press
was lowered, the juice was squeezed out of the apples, and
then was stored in barrels or jugs. The apple pulp was loaded
into a hand-wheeled cart and then dumped out in front of the
the juice has been pressed out of the apples, some of it was
stored in vats to ferment. A few months later it turned into
vinegar and was sold for about 25 cents a gallon. The cider
had to be kept in a warm, dry place in order for the fermentation
fifty gallon barrel of cider required about fifteen bushels
of apples. They were bought from residents who owned apple
trees. When asked what type of apple was used, Mrs. Geoppler
replied, "any kind, if it was an apple. Worms, bugs and
bees, all went in, but it was fine cider." To make a
barrel of cider the cost was about 2 dollars.
Geoppler usually had two men who helped him in the mill. Their
pay was probably only two dollars a day, but, as Mrs. Emma
Geoppler said, "You were just glad to have a job."
Geoppler Cider Mill was more than just a mill in the early
1900's. It was also the Post Office and RR Station, called
Sanford Station named for the many families named Sanford
in the area. Mr. Geoppler was the postmaster, Later the post
office was renamed Topstone because the mail became mixed
up with the Town of Stamford.
Geoppler recalled, "My husband came down one morning
to the room where the post offccie was and found that someone
had broken into the mill and blown the safe open. They had
grabbed the few dollars that were in the safe and most of
the 2-cent stamps Mr. Geoppler had in the mill."
case was never solved and the money was never recovered. However,
the safe, with a chunk blown out of the door, still remains
mill served as a post office, until cider operations ceased
in about 1940. Adolf Geoppler sold the mill in 1946, and for
a time it was used as an antique shop. Mr. and Mrs. Thomas
Sachetti renovated the mill into their home in the 1980's.
Redding Firehouse Jubilee
Kristen Bernhardt, Andrew Metzger
first year we had about 150 people, and they sat around, swatted
mosquitoes and told tall stories.," Tom Lalley, thirty-five
year member of the West Redding Fire Department, described
the First Annual Fireman's Hickory Charcoal Beefsteak Dinner.
dinner was initiated in 1954. Since then it has been drawing
crowds of up to 1,500 Reddingites, and many out of towners.
the first Fireman's Dinner, center cut sirloins, fresh green
salads, and homemade desserts were served. These were all
a hit, but the biggest hit of the evening was Tom Lalley's
Firehouse Jubilee Cocktail.
"Firehouse" as Tom refers to it, is a fantastic
tomato juice drink. "It started as a recipe we read in
a farm journal many years ago. We made some adjustments and
added and subtracted some ingredients so we feel its our own
recipe. We used it for about 20 years before the picnic."
The Laley's creation, when introduced, became an instant favorite,
people all over town could heard asking for "that tomato
juice" or "the juice cocktail the firemen make."
wasn't until 1960 or so that Tom realized his creation had
commercial possibilities. At first Tom mixed the jubilee in
a tub in his kitchen and brewed it on a three burner electric
first sale of the Firehouse Jubilee was at the opening of
the Country Emporium. "We made up 12 cases, and at the
end of the first day there was only half a case left."
Before long Tom was supplying it to local gourmet shops.
all the publicity the Jubilee was getting, Paul Dean Arnold
of Arnold Bakers became interested. After a short discussion,
Tom sold the Firehouse Jubilee to Arnold. Firehouse was produced
by Arnold for a while. Subsequently the rights were bought
back by Mr. Lalley and sold to Ocean Spray. To this day Ocean
Spray is producing Tom's Firehouse Jubilee. So next time you
take a sip of the now Ocean Spray Tomato Vegetable Juice Cocktail,
it's nice to know that a product distributed worldwide can
trace its roots back to Tom and Helen Lalley's small kitchen
on Redding Road.
Ives: Musical Visionary
Cathy Laning, Katie Tkach
August of 1912, Charles Ives and his wife Harmony came to
West Redding and bought land on Umpawaug Hill, across the
road from the site of General Putnam's headquarters in the
Revolutionary War (corner of Umpawaug and Topstone Rd). They
had the house and barn built, and moved in a year later. This
was their country home for the rest of their lives. They would
come out from New York City in the early spring, and stay
until late in the fall. Ives commuted each morning by train
to his insurance office in the city, and he did much of his
music writing on this train.
many years they had a horse named "Rocket" who was
very much a member of the family. Ives would ride "Rocket"
down the hill to Sanford General Store near the train station.
They also had a Model T Ford. Umpawaug Road in those days
was just a dirt country road, filled with "thank you
ma'am's, as Ives's nephew Bigelow describes it. It wasn't
paved until 1928, and when it was, Ives got quite upset. He
was also outraged when the first airplanes began flying over,
and whenever he heard one he would come out and shake his
fist at it and shout "Get off my property!" He didn't
want anything to disrupt the peaceful country world of Umpawaug
Hill which he loved so much.
our quest to capture the essence of Charles Ives- revered
classical composer, interpreter of the American scene, and
the man- we talked with John Kirkpatrick, Paul Winter and
Luemily Ryder. The synthesis of their recollections provides
a composite sketch of this muscian.
Kirkpatrick is the curator of the Ives Collection at Yale.
He is a well known Ives authority and has come to know Ives's
1937 Kirkpatrick met Charles Ives. He had been corresponding
with him for ten years, but had never met him.
can see him right there. I knew him during the last 17 years
of his life, and I saw him a few times each year. In a way
he was the most paradoxical man I've ever known. As a musician
he was both traditional and experimental. You could describe
his music best by saying there's no simple way to describe
it. That's part of the paradoxical nature he had.
Ives first began to compose, his music was comparatively simple.
Many of his early pieces were influenced greatly by the church,
since he played the organ in church during his grammar school
years. At fourteen he was a salaried organist, the youngest
professional organist in the state.
father was a musical "jack-of-all-trades". He was
even more versatile than his son.
received his earliest muscial training from his father and
later from Horatio Parker at Yale. He attended Yale from 1894-1898.
From this time through his twenties he used both styles, experimental
and traditional, but he hardly ever showed his experiments
to Parker. At that period the simpler traditional style was
more acceptable than the complicated, experimental style.
Ives's music was different from itself all the time. It could
be very simple, or it could be very, very complex. There were
pieces that could be read and played with no effort, they
were the simple. And there were pieces that were so complicated
they are challenging, even today.
know how you can look at a page of music and feel instinctively
if there is somthing real there or not? Well, there's something
real to Ives's music. There's always a core of something very
direct. and no matter how complicated it is, it hangs together
Charles Ives reached the peak of his experimental period,
he did not receive the recognition he deserved. The public
did not like being put to the inconvenience of having to try
hard to understand and play his music. "He knew exactly
how good a composer he was, and he knew exactly how far ahead
of his own time he was. It didn't bother him. Someone once
asked him why he didn't write music that people would like,
and he said 'I can't hear something else.' He anticipated
all the tricks of modern music in the first part of the 20th
century. Even though he was so far ahead of his time he still
deeply admired some of the classical composers- Bach, Beethoven,
and Brahms. He also admired the popular composers of the Civil
War Period. Although he enjoyed their styles, he had ideas
and opinions of his own.
would be impossible to describe his music because it was so
paradoxical. You could never put your finger on it. You could
rarely get a definite answer to a question our of him. He
usually used your question as a springboard to other thoughts.
He was a genius. He was used to improvising and filling in;
he was much more of a musician than anybody realized.
Ives knew that the kind of music he wanted to compose would
have no relation to his own times. Ives knew he would never
be able to support a family on it, so he deliberately financed
his composing through his insurance business. Many people
regard him as an insurance man doing music on the side. However,
he was a composer first and foremost, financing his non-conformist
composing through insurance, and showing the same genius in
both. There was a constant pressure living two lives a once.
Most people who come home from business want to relax. If
a composer finishes a symphony he naturally wants to relax
and perhaps celebrate. When Ives finished a symphony, most
likely late at night, he probably had time for only a little
sleep, before going downtown the next day for business. When
he got home from a day's business he would roll up his shirt
sleeves and start right into composing where he had left off
the previous night.
Ives literally lived a double life. He was an insurance man
by day and a composer by night, on weekends, and during vacations.
Many of his business associates had no idea that he was even
interested in music. His musical friends never saw any trace
of his business life. He kept to himself a great deal, partly
because he treasured the time he wasn't actually engaged in
business, so he could compose. But he was both gregarious
and shy; like his music, Ives himself was a paradox."
Home with the Iveses
Luemily Ryder became a close friend of Charles Ives during
his years in Redding. She and her husband, Bill, lived next
door to Ives on Umpawaug Hill.
he was, shall I say, gentle, first; he was also a rebel and
he could be quite explosive. I think he was a religious person
and I think he was very understanding and considerate of the
downtrodden and the outcast. He was a great person.
Iveses were people who often showed their kindness and generosity.
They were always doing something for other people. One family's
house was burned down and they offered their cottage. Here
the family stayed until a new house could be built.
Iveses often lent their cottage out to poor people from the
city. It was similar to the Fresh-Air Organization (Branchville,
CT) that brings city children into the country for a vacation.
One summer the Iveses lent their cottage to the Osborne family.
the youngest Osborne child, Edith, was very ill. Mrs. Ives
graciously offered to take care of her. Edith gradually improved
in health under Mrs. Ives's care. The Ives grew immensely
fond of her and near the end of Edith's stay they approached
the Osbornes about adopting Edith. After much thought the
loved Charles Ives. He would come out with his cane and shake
it in their facesm or he'd grab a child around the neck with
it and pull him toward him. The children would either be so
scared or so tickled that they'd giggle all over.
Ives was just as loving as her husband. When she came down
to visit you could hear he whistling all the way down the
visited them in NYC many times and after dinner at their house
we would go into the living room. Mr. Ives would stretch out
on the couch. The room was dimly lit to rest his eyes so Mrs.
Ives would sit directly under the light to read the classics.
He liked that so much, just to listen to her read. That's
one of the nicest things I remember about them."
Ryder, herself a pianist and organist, went on to say, "His
music is beautiful. I really love it, even though it would
clash. I know he had all these sounds in his head that he
kept hearing and he would just bring them all together in
a composition. At first people did not accept it. There were
only a few that would play it. Most said it couldn't be played
because it was so difficult. That would make him mad because
he was so sure it could be played..
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