Ridgefield is a town in Fairfield County, Connecticut, United States. Situated in the foothills of the Berkshire Mountains, the 300-year-old community had a population of 24,638 at the 2010 census. The town center, which was formerly a borough, is defined by the U.S. Census Bureau as a census-designated place.
Ridgefield was first settled by English colonists from Norwalk and Milford in 1708, when a group of settlers purchased land from Chief Catoonah (also known as Chief Katonah) of the Ramapo tribe. The town was incorporated under a royal charter issued in 1709. The most notable 18th century event was the Battle of Ridgefield on April 27, 1777. This American Revolutionary War skirmish involved a small colonial militia force (state militia and some Continental Army soldiers), led by, among others, General David Wooster, who died in the engagement, and Benedict Arnold, whose horse was shot from under him. They faced a larger British force that had landed at Norwalk and was returning from a raid on the colonial supply depot in Danbury. The battle was a tactical victory for the British but a strategic one for the Colonials because the British would never again conduct inland operations in Connecticut, despite western Connecticut's strategic importance in securing the Hudson River Valley. Today, the dead from both sides are buried together in a small cemetery on Main Street on the right of the entrance to Casagmo condominiums: "...foes in arms, brothers in death..." The Keeler Tavern, a local inn and museum, features a British cannonball still lodged in the side of the building. There are many other landmarks from the Revolutionary War in the town, with most along Main Street.
In the summer of 1781, the French army under the Comte de Rochambeau marched through Connecticut, encamping in the Ridgebury section of town, where the first Catholic mass in Ridgefield was offered. (The town of Lebanon is where the first Catholic mass was offered in the state.)
For much of its three centuries, Ridgefield was a farming community. Among the important families in the 19th century were the Rockwells and Lounsburys, which intermarried. They produced two Connecticut governors, George Lounsbury and Phineas Lounsbury. The Ridgefield Veterans Memorial Community Center on Main Street, also called the Lounsbury House, was built by Gov. Phineas Chapman Lounsbury around 1896 as his primary residence. The Lounsbury Farm near the Florida section of Ridgefield is one of the only remaining operational farms in Ridgefield.
In the late 19th century, spurred by the new railroad connection to its lofty village and the fact that nearby countryside reaches above sea level, Ridgefield began to be discovered by wealthy New York City residents, who assembled large estates and built huge "summer cottages" throughout the higher sections of town. Among the more noteworthy estates were Col. Louis D. Conley's "Outpost Farm", which at one point totalled nearly , some of which is now Bennett's Pond State Park; Seth Low Pierrepont's "Twixthills", more than , much of which is now Pierrepont State Park; Frederic E. Lewis's "Upagenstit", that became Grey Court College in the 1940s, but is now mostly subdivisions; and Col. Edward M. Knox's "Downesbury Manor", whose included a 45-room mansion that Mark Twain often visited.
In 1946, Ridgefield was one of the locations considered for the United Nations secretariat building, but was not chosen due to its relative inaccessibility.
On the National Register of Historic Places
Part of the town center is a historic district listed on the National Register of Historic Places (NRHP) as Ridgefield Center Historic District. The district was added to the Register in 1984 and includes representations of mid-19th century revival, Late Victorian, and Colonial revival architectural styles. Noted architect Cass Gilbert purchased historic Keeler Tavern within the district and renovated it for his use as a summer home. Roughly bounded by Pound Street, Fairview Avenue, Prospect Ridge, and Whipstick Roads, the district was added on October 7, 1984. In addition to the town center historic district, there are a number of individual properties and at least one other historic district in the town that are NRHP-listed: