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Bridgewater, Connecticut

Town of Bridgewater
Official seal of Bridgewater, Connecticut
Seal
Location in Litchfield County, Connecticut
Location in Litchfield County, Connecticut
Coordinates: 41°31′33″N 73°21′39″W / 41.52583°N 73.36083°W / 41.52583; -73.36083Coordinates: 41°31′33″N 73°21′39″W / 41.52583°N 73.36083°W / 41.52583; -73.36083
Country  United States
U.S. state  Connecticut
County Litchfield
NECTA Danbury
Region Western CT
Incorporated 1856
Government
 • Type Selectman-town meeting
Area
 • Total 17.31 sq mi (44.82 km2)
 • Land 16.39 sq mi (42.46 km2)
 • Water 0.91 sq mi (2.36 km2)
Elevation
715 ft (218 m)
Population
 (2010)
 • Total 1,727
 • Density 105/sq mi (40.7/km2)
Time zone UTC−5 (Eastern)
 • Summer (DST) UTC−4 (Eastern)
ZIP code
06752
Area code(s) 860
FIPS code 09-08210
GNIS feature ID 0213397
Website bridgewater-ct.gov

Bridgewater is a town in Litchfield County, Connecticut, United States. The population was 1,727 at the 2010 census, down from 1,824 at the 2000 census.

Bridgewater is well known as being a weekend getaway for wealthy New Yorkers, due to its scenic wooded areas, location on the banks of Lake Lillinonah and close proximity to New York City. Bridgewater was the only remaining dry town in Connecticut until voters approved the sale of alcohol in a 2014 referendum, by a 660-246 vote.

Geography

According to the United States Census Bureau, the town has a total area of 17.3 square miles (45 km2), of which, 16.2 square miles (42 km2) of it is land and 1.0 square mile (2.6 km2) of it (5.97%) is water. Bridgewater is located on the east bank of the Housatonic River.

Demographics

Historical population
Census Pop.
1850 815
1860 1,048 28.6%
1870 877 −16.3%
1880 708 −19.3%
1890 617 −12.9%
1900 649 5.2%
1910 600 −7.6%
1920 481 −19.8%
1930 432 −10.2%
1940 537 24.3%
1950 639 19.0%
1960 898 40.5%
1970 1,277 42.2%
1980 1,563 22.4%
1990 1,654 5.8%
2000 1,824 10.3%
2010 1,727 −5.3%
2014 (est.) 1,675 −3.0%
U.S. Decennial Census
See also: List of Connecticut locations by per capita income

As of the census of 2000, there were 1,824 people, 703 households, and 525 families residing in the town. The population density was 112.4 people per square mile (43.4/km2). There were 779 housing units at an average density of 48.0 per square mile (18.5/km2). The racial makeup of the town was 97.53% White, 0.93% African American, 0.05% Native American, 0.71% Asian, 0.11% from other races, and 0.66% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 0.49% of the population.

There were 703 households, out of which 29.4% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 67.4% were married couples living together, 5.5% had a female householder with no husband present, and 25.2% were non-families. 21.1% of all households were made up of individuals, and 8.1% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.55 and the average family size was 2.96.

In the town, the population was spread out, with 22.1% under the age of 18, 4.9% from 18 to 24, 23.8% from 25 to 44, 35.9% from 45 to 64, and 13.3% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 45 years. For every 100 females, there were 98.0 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 95.5 males.

The median income for a household in the town was $80,420, and the median income for a family was $94,720. Males had a median income of $61,750 versus $40,455 for females. The per capita income for the town was $42,505. About 2.3% of families and 4.1% of the population were below the poverty line, including 4.8% of those under age 18 and 0.8% of those age 65 or over.

Voter registration and party enrollment as of October 27, 2020
Party Active voters Inactive voters Total voters Percentage
Republican 431 10 441 30.95%
Democratic 451 3 454 31.86%
Unaffiliated 502 6 508 35.65%
Minor Parties 22 0 22 1.54%
Total 1,406 19 1,425 100%
Presidential Election Results
Year Democratic Republican Third Parties
2020 54.1% 667 44.5% 549 1.4% 17
2016 45.6% 518 50.1% 571 4.3% 50
2012 44.4% 472 54.5% 580 1.1% 12
2008 49.9% 587 49.3% 580 0.8% 9
2004 44.4% 521 53.5% 628 2.1% 25
2000 45.3% 508 48.6% 545 6.1% 69
1996 42.5% 439 44.6% 461 12.9% 132
1992 36.2% 411 39.5% 448 24.3% 276
1988 40.2% 425 59.1% 624 0.7% 7
1984 33.3% 328 66.4% 655 0.3% 3
1980 31.4% 285 52.5% 477 16.1% 146
1976 41.3% 325 58.2% 458 0.5% 3
1972 32.9% 248 64.8% 488 2.3% 17
1968 34.6% 229 62.7% 415 2.7% 18
1964 62.4% 378 37.6% 228 0.00% 0
1960 29.6% 166 70.4% 394 0.00% 0
1956 22.8% 102 77.2% 345 0.00% 0

Transportation

Bridgwater is served by two state highways: Route 67 running east-west in the northern part of town, and Route 133 running north-south.

The Burnham Library

William Dixon Burnham 001
William Dixon Burnham ca. 1919
Burnham Library 030
The Burnham Library, May 11, 2012

In 1904, the Bridgewater Library Association was established, succeeding previous lending libraries operated by individuals in town. In 1909 room for library purposes was set aside in recently built town hall. A bequest from William Dixon Burnham, a native who made his fortune in shipping, allowed a Greek Revival style building to be erected from 1925 to 1926, using Mine Hill granite from nearby Roxbury. The dedication took place on August 26, 1926.

By the early 1960s, the library's two floors were finally becoming cramped. With the death of town resident Van Wyck Brooks, a biographer and critic, a "Van Wyck Brooks Memorial Fund was set up to raise money for a library wing in his name. The effort, however, flopped, despite support from such celebrities as Pearl Buck and Archibald MacLeish. Just enough money was raised for a bust of the author and a display of some of his memorabilia. His desk, books, and other items can be found on display in the library's biography section. The fund-raising committee disbanded in 1972, but a year later, a surprising source of funding became known.

Charles E. Piggott, a hermit, misanthrope, and miser living in a Los Angeles slum, died in 1973. As a bulldozer operator razed the shack that had been Piggott's home, the operator happened to notice something shiny. It was a bottle with Piggott's holographic will inside.

Despite having no connection whatsoever with Bridgewater, Piggott left the Fund $300,000 – money from careful investments over the years. The state of California contested the will and the library hired a lawyer, at considerable cost, to defend the bequest. Eventually, the lawyer won the case and the library got $210,000.

By 1980, the Van Wyck Brooks Memorial Wing was dedicated, doubling the size of the library.

Burton Bernstein, a longtime town resident, looked into why Piggott would leave money to the library, then wrote an article on the bequest, which appeared in the December 18, 1978, issue of The New Yorker. Piggott, as it turned out, had been a voracious reader on any number of subjects and loved public libraries (which are, after all, free). Bernstein believes that Piggott came across Van Wyck Brooks’ The Flowering of New England, which describes the hermit, Henry David Thoreau. Piggott may have compared himself to Thoreau, or saw wisdom in some of Thoreau's ideas as presented by Brooks. Perhaps this quote stuck in his mind: "The mass of men led lives of quiet desperation… Did they not know that the wisest had always lived, with respect to comforts and luxuries, a life more simple and meager than the poor?… Poverty had given him all this wealth."

Piggott heard of the Van Wyck Brooks Memorial Fund, recognized the name, and, Bernstein believes, decided to contribute.

Education

Regional School District 12 is the area school district. Residents are served by REACH Preschool in Washington, Burnham Elementary School in Bridgewater, and Shepaug Valley School (secondary school) in Washington.

The Burnham Library

William Dixon Burnham 001
William Dixon Burnham ca. 1919
Burnham Library 030
The Burnham Library, May 11, 2012

In 1904, the Bridgewater Library Association was established, succeeding previous lending libraries operated by individuals in town. In 1909 room for library purposes was set aside in recently built town hall. A bequest from William Dixon Burnham, a native who made his fortune in shipping, allowed a Greek Revival style building to be erected from 1925 to 1926, using Mine Hill granite from nearby Roxbury. The dedication took place on August 26, 1926.

By the early 1960s, the library's two floors were finally becoming cramped. With the death of town resident Van Wyck Brooks, a biographer and critic, a "Van Wyck Brooks Memorial Fund was set up to raise money for a library wing in his name. The effort, however, flopped, despite support from such celebrities as Pearl Buck and Archibald MacLeish. Just enough money was raised for a bust of the author and a display of some of his memorabilia. His desk, books, and other items can be found on display in the library's biography section. The fund-raising committee disbanded in 1972, but a year later, a surprising source of funding became known.

Charles E. Piggott, a hermit, misanthrope, and miser living in a Los Angeles slum, died in 1973. As a bulldozer operator razed the shack that had been Piggott's home, the operator happened to notice something shiny. It was a bottle with Piggott's holographic will inside.

Despite having no connection whatsoever with Bridgewater, Piggott left the fund $300,000 – money from careful investments over the years. The state of California contested the will and the library hired a lawyer, at considerable cost, to defend the bequest. Eventually, the lawyer won the case and the library got $210,000.

By 1980, the Van Wyck Brooks Memorial Wing was dedicated, doubling the size of the library.

Burton Bernstein, a longtime town resident, looked into why Piggott would leave money to the library, then wrote an article on the bequest, which appeared in the December 18, 1978, issue of The New Yorker. Piggott, as it turned out, had been a voracious reader on any number of subjects and loved public libraries (which are, after all, free). Bernstein believes that Piggott came across Van Wyck Brooks' The Flowering of New England, which describes the hermit Henry David Thoreau. Piggott may have compared himself to Thoreau, or saw wisdom in some of Thoreau's ideas as presented by Brooks. Perhaps this quote stuck in his mind: "The mass of men led lives of quiet desperation… Did they not know that the wisest had always lived, with respect to comforts and luxuries, a life more simple and meager than the poor?… Poverty had given him all this wealth."

Piggott heard of the Van Wyck Brooks Memorial Fund, recognized the name, and, Bernstein believes, decided to contribute.

Notable people

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