The rich variety of Greenwich

Along Greenwich Avenue. Photograph by Sebastian Flores.

When I was a child, I was fascinated, haunted even, by a Walker Evans photograph that showed a rain-swept Main Street in Saratoga Springs in 1931.

For a long time, I couldn’t figure out why the photo had such a hold on me. And then one day it hit me:  The long, elegant, sloping thoroughfare, with its cars parked smartly at an angle, reminded me of Greenwich Avenue.

For many of us, Greenwich — which we salute in the opening section of this “Exploring the Fahionable” issue — is the place of our childhood and the place of aspirations, the place we know first and the one we hope to know last. A White Plains kid, I shopped on the Avenue, savoring vanilla ice cream cones at the luncheonette at the old Woolworth’s. (Remember that?) Many was the hour that I did my homework at the park off Indian Field Road or took in the musty specimens at the old Bruce Museum.

I would cover that museum in its stately reiteration as senior cultural writer for The Journal News. But it wasn’t until I became the editor-in-chief of WAG magazine that I began to appreciate the Shakespearean “infinite variety” of the town — settled in 1640 by, among others, Elizabeth Fones Winthrop, daughter-in-law of Massachusetts Bay Colony founder John Winthrop, and named for the borough in London by which the world keeps time. 

People may not keep time by Greenwich, Connecticut, but they certainly avail themselves of its many facets, from the bucolic beauty of the backcountry, home of Greenwich Polo Club; to the breezy, beachy vibe of Old Greenwich to the historicity of Cos Cob and its Bush-Holley House, which would play a key role in the development of the American Impressionist movement. And that’s just to name some of Greenwich’s distinctive neighborhoods.

“The landscape alone is so varied,” says Greenwich native and resident Jen Danzi, sales associate at The Tamar Lurie Group at Coldwell Banker in town. “You have the downtown with its restaurants and shops, the beaches, the yacht clubs and country clubs. The schools are marvelous. There’s Tod’s Point for summer sailing. And Greenwich Library has a lending library from which you can borrow not only books but art.”

The idea of a library in which you can borrow artworks says something else about Greenwich:    It is some kind of rich. The largest town on Connecticut’s Gold Coast, Greenwich is home to many hedge fund and financial service companies. Its wealth is crystallized by Greenwich Avenue, the high-powered spine of the town, whose tony boutiques and retail stores — Saks, Hermès and Ralph Lauren, among them — cascade down to an exhilarating waterfront anchored by the interdisciplinary Bruce Museum and the palazzo-like Delamar Greenwich Harbor hotel. 

With big wallets, however, come big hearts. When WAG’s Phil Hall interviewed Greenwich resident and former New York Yankees first baseman Mark Teixeira for our February cover, he made no bones about his high standards for retirement:  Only activities with a charitable purpose need apply. That’s why he’s on the board of the socially conscious, community-minded Greenwich International Film Festival. And August cover guy and New York City Football Club star David Villa — who spends time with his family in Greenwich — also enjoys giving back to the kids of the South Bronx, where the team plays at Yankee Stadium. In the following pages that make up our Greenwich tribute, you’ll read about Judith Leiber accessories creative director Dee Ocleppo Hilfiger, who’s on the board of Autism Speaks and Glam4Good.

But to see Greenwich charity in action, you’ve got to attend one of the big events like the Breast Cancer Alliance’s annual luncheon at the Hyatt Regency Greenwich. To join 1,000 women — and, as we like to say, a few good men — in standing and clapping rhythmically as breast cancer survivors strut their stuff in a runway show organized by Greenwich Avenue retail mainstay Richards is to have a moving experience.

It makes you happy to spend time and money, in Greenwich — even if it no longer has the Woolworth’s vanilla ice cream cones.

For more, visit greenwichct.org.

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