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Danbury, Connecticut
City
Official seal of Danbury, Connecticut
Seal
Nickname(s): The Hat City
Location in Fairfield County and the state of Connecticut.
Location in Fairfield County and the state of Connecticut.
Country United States
State Connecticut
County Fairfield
NECTA Danbury
Region Housatonic Valley
Incorporated (town) 1702
Incorporated (city) 1889
Consolidated 1965
Area
 • City 44.3 sq mi (114.7 km2)
 • Land 42.1 sq mi (109.1 km2)
 • Water 2.2 sq mi (5.7 km2)
 • Urban 123.6 sq mi (320.1 km2)
Elevation 397 ft (121 m)
Population (2015 est.)
 • City 84,657
 • Density 1,911.0/sq mi (738.1/km2)
Time zone Eastern (UTC-5)
 • Summer (DST) Eastern (UTC-4)
ZIP code 06810, 06811, 06813
Area code(s) 203; also future 475
FIPS code 09-18430
GNIS feature ID 0206580
Website www.danbury-ct.gov

Danbury is a city in northern Fairfield County, Connecticut, United States, approximately 70 miles from New York City. Danbury's population at the 2010 census was 80,893. Danbury is the fourth most populous city in Fairfield County, and seventh among Connecticut cities. The city is located within the New York metropolitan area.

The city is named for Danbury, England, the place of origin of many of its early settlers. It is nicknamed the Hat City because of its prominent history in the hat industry. The mineral danburite is named for Danbury.

Danbury is home to Danbury Hospital, Western Connecticut State University, Danbury Fair Mall and Danbury Municipal Airport.

History

See also: Main Street Historic District (Danbury, Connecticut)

Danbury was settled by colonists in 1685, when eight families moved from what are now Norwalk and Stamford, Connecticut. The Danbury area was then called Pahquioque by its namesake, the Pahquioque Native Americans. One of the original settlers was Samuel Benedict, who bought land from the Paquioques in 1685, along with his brother James Benedict, James Beebe, and Judah Gregory. Also called Paquiack ("open plain" or "cleared land") by local Native Americans, the settlers chose the name Swampfield for their town, but in October 1687, the general court decreed the name Danbury. The general court appointed a committee to lay out the boundaries of the new town. A survey was made in 1693, and a formal town patent was granted in 1702.

During the American Revolution, Danbury was an important military supply depot for the Continental Army. On April 26, 1777, the British, under Major General William Tryon, burned and looted the city. The central motto on the seal of the City of Danbury is Restituimus (Latin for "We have restored"), a reference to the destruction caused by the Loyalist army troops. The American General David Wooster was mortally wounded at the Battle of Ridgefield by the same British forces which had attacked Danbury. He is buried in Danbury's Wooster Cemetery; the private Wooster School in Danbury also was named in his honor.

In 1802, President Thomas Jefferson wrote a letter to the Danbury Baptist Association, a group expressing fear of persecution by the Congregationalists of that town, in which he used the expression "Separation of Church and State". It is the first known instance of the expression in American legal or political writing. The letter is on display at the Unitarian-Universalist Congregation of Danbury.

The first Danbury Fair was held in 1821. In 1869, it became a yearly event; the last edition was in 1981. The fairgrounds were cleared to make room for the Danbury Fair Mall, which opened in autumn 1986.

TerribleDisasterAtDanburyHarpers1869
Kohanza Reservoir disaster, January 31, 1869
SceneOfTheDisasterAtDanburyConnecticut
"Scene of the Disaster at Danbury", January 31, 1869

In 1835, the Connecticut Legislature granted a rail charter to the Fairfield County Railroad, which saw no construction as investment was slow. In 1850, the organization's plans were scaled back, and renamed the Danbury and Norwalk Railroad. Work moved quickly on the 23 mi (37 km) railroad line. In 1852, it, the first railroad line in Danbury, opened, with two trains making the 75-minute trip to Norwalk.

The central part of Danbury was incorporated as a borough in 1822. The borough was reincorporated as the city of Danbury on April 19, 1889. The city and town were consolidated on January 1, 1965.

The dam impounding the Kohanza Reservoir, one of many reservoirs built to provide water to the hat factories, broke on January 31, 1869. The ensuing flood of icy water killed 11 people within 30 minutes, and caused major damage to homes and farms.

Oglala Sioux tribesman Albert Afraid of Hawk died on June 29, 1900 in Danbury during a tour with Buffalo Bill's Wild West Show at age 21. His interment was at Wooster Cemetery. Afraid of Hawk's remains were discovered by Robert Young, an employee of Wooster one hundred and twelve years later. His remains, covered in a bison skin, were relocated to Saint Mark's Episcopal Cemetery near Manderson, S.D. for reburial by tribal descendants.

A 60-acre (24 ha) tract near the Fairgrounds, known as Tucker's Field, was purchased by local pilots in 1928 and leased to the town. This became an airport, which is now Danbury Municipal Airport (ICAO: KDXR).

Connecticut's largest lake, Candlewood Lake (of which the extreme southern part is in Danbury), was created as a hydroelectric power facility in 1928 by building a dam where Wood Creek and the Rocky River meet near the Housatonic River in New Milford.

On August 18-19, 1955, the Still River, which normally meandered slowly through downtown Danbury, overflowed its banks when Hurricane Diane hit the area, dropping 6 inches of rain on the city. This was in addition to the 9 inches that fell from Hurricane Connie five days earlier. The water flooded stores, factories and homes along the river from North Street to Beaver Brook, causing $3 million in damages. Stores downtown on White Street between Main and Maple were especially hard hit. On October 13-16, another 12 inches of rain fell on Danbury, causing the worst flooding in the City’s history. This time, the Still River damaged all bridges across it, effectively cutting the city in half for several days. Flooding was more widespread than in August, and the same downtown areas hit in August were devastated once again. The resulting damage was valued at $6 million, and two people lost their lives. The City determined the river in the downtown area had to be tamed. $4.5 million in federal and state funding were acquired as part of a greater urban renewal project to straighten, deepen, widen, and enclose the river in a concrete channel through the downtown. At the same time, roads were relocated and rebuilt, 123 major buildings were razed and 104 families were relocated. This began various efforts by the City through 1975 towards urban renewal, using another $22 million of federal funding. However, these efforts failed to reinvigorate the central business district.

On February 13, 1970, brothers James and John Pardue detonated time bombs (injuring 26 people) at the police station, Union Savings Bank and in their getaway car to cover their escape from robbing the bank at gunpoint, the culmination of a two-year crime spree that included four bank robberies and five murders.

The flawed primary mirror of the Hubble Space Telescope was ground and polished in Danbury by Perkin-Elmer's Danbury Optical System unit from 1979 to 1981. It was mistakenly ground to the wrong shape due to the use of a miscalibrated testing device. The mistake was not discovered until after the telescope was in orbit and began to be used. The effects of the flaw were corrected during the telescope's first servicing mission in 1993.

In the August 1988 issue of Money magazine, Danbury topped the magazine's list of the best U.S. cities to live in, mostly due to low crime, good schools, and location.

PostcardCentralBizSectDanburyCT1907
Downtown Main Street scene, ca. 1907

Hatmaking in Danbury

In 1780, what is traditionally considered to be the first hat shop in Danbury was established by Zadoc Benedict (although hat making existed in Danbury before the Revolution); it had 3 employees, and made 18 hats weekly. By 1800, Danbury was producing 20,000 hats annually, more than anywhere else in the U.S. Due to the fur felt hat coming back into style for men and increasing mechanization in the 1850s, by 1859 hat production in Danbury had risen to 1.5 million annually. By 1887, thirty factories were producing 5 million hats per year. Around this time, fur processing was separated from hat manufacturing when the P. Robinson Fur Cutting Company (1884) on Oil Mill Road and the White Brothers' factory began operation.

By 1880, workers had unionized, beginning decades of labor unrest. Lockouts and strikes plagued the industry, affecting the economy of the entire town. In 1893, nineteen manufacturers locked out 4000 union hatters. In 1902, the American Federation of Labor union called for a nationwide boycott of a Danbury non-union hat manufacturer, Dietrich Loewe. The manufacturer sued the union under the Sherman Antitrust Act for unlawfully restraining trade. The U.S. Supreme Court, in 1908, held that the union was liable for damages. This also is known as the Danbury Hatters' case. In the '30's and '40's there were a number of violent incidents during several strikes, mostly involving scab workers.

Beginning in 1892, the industry was revolutionized when the large hat factories began to shift to manufacturing unfinished hat bodies only, and supplying them to smaller hat shops for finishing. So while Danbury produced 24% of America's hats in 1904, the city supplied the industry with 75% of its hat bodies. The turn of the century was the heyday of the hatting industry in Danbury, when it became known as the "Hat City" and the "Hatting Capitol of the World". Its motto was "Danbury Crowns Them All". But by the 1920s, the hat industry was in decline, and by 1923, only six manufacturers were left in Danbury. After WWII, returning GI's went hatless, a trend that accelerated through the 1950s, dooming the city's hat industry. The city's last major hat factory, owned by Stetson, closed in 1964. The last hat was made in Danbury in 1987 when a small factory owned by Stetson closed.

World War II

During the Second World War, Danbury's federal prison was one of many sites used for the incarceration of conscientious objectors. One in six inmates in the United States' federal prisons was a conscientious objector, and prisons like Danbury found themselves suddenly filled with large numbers of highly educated men skilled in social activism. Due to the activism of inmates within the prison, and local laborers protesting in solidarity with the conscientious objectors, Danbury became one of the nation's first prisons to desegregate its inmates.

Historic pictures

Geography

According to the United States Census Bureau, Danbury has a total area of 44.3 square miles (115 km2), of which 42.1 square miles (109 km2) is land and 2.2 square miles (5.7 km2), or 4.94%, is water. The City is located in the foothills of the Berkshire Mountains on low-lying land just south of Candlewood Lake (the City includes the southern parts of the lake). Danbury borders Ridgefield to the southwest, Redding to the south, Bethel to the southeast, Brookfield to the northeast, New Fairfield to the north, and Southeast, New York to the west. The City's terrain includes rolling hills and not-very-tall mountains to the west and northwest called the Western Highland. Ground elevations in the City range from 378 feet to 1,050 feet above sea level.

A geologic fault known as Cameron's Line runs through Danbury.

The Still River flows generally from west to east through Danbury.

Neighborhoods

  • City Center
  • Federal Road
  • Shelter Rock
  • North Street/ Hayestown
  • South Street
  • Candlewood
  • Germantown
  • Great Plain & Stadley Rough
  • Aunt Hack
  • Wooster Heights
  • Pembroke
  • Long Ridge
  • Miry Brook
  • Mill Plain
  • Clapboard Ridge
  • King Street

Pollution

The hat making fur removal process is known to be the source of serious pollution by mercury nitrate dumped into the Still River during the time of hat production in the late 19th century, which then flowed into the Housatonic River and Long Island Sound.

Climate

Danbury has a humid continental climate (Köppen Dfa), with four distinct seasons, resembling Hartford more than coastal Connecticut or New York City. Summers are hot and humid, while winters are cold with significant snowfall. The monthly daily average temperature ranges from 26.8 °F (−2.9 °C) in January to 73.9 °F (23.3 °C) in July; on average, temperatures reaching 90 or 0 °F (32 or −18 °C) occur on 18 and 3.1 days of the year, respectively. The average annual precipitation is approximately 52.1 inches (1,320 mm), which is distributed fairly evenly throughout the year; snow averages 50 inches (127 cm) per season, although this total may vary considerably from year to year. Extremes in temperature range from 106 °F (41 °C) on July 22, 1926 and July 15, 1995 (the highest temperature recorded in Connecticut) down to −18 °F (−28 °C) on February 9, 1934.

Climate data for Danbury, Connecticut (1981–2010 normals, extremes 1937–present)
Month Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec Year
Record high °F (°C) 71
(21.7)
77
(25)
92
(33.3)
95
(35)
97
(36.1)
105
(40.6)
106
(41.1)
104
(40)
100
(37.8)
91
(32.8)
82
(27.8)
80
(26.7)
106
(41.1)
Average high °F (°C) 35.3
(1.83)
39.6
(4.22)
48.5
(9.17)
61.3
(16.28)
72.1
(22.28)
80.7
(27.06)
85.0
(29.44)
82.6
(28.11)
74.6
(23.67)
62.8
(17.11)
51.4
(10.78)
40.2
(4.56)
61.2
(16.22)
Average low °F (°C) 18.3
(-7.61)
21.1
(-6.06)
27.7
(-2.39)
37.9
(3.28)
47.8
(8.78)
57.8
(14.33)
62.8
(17.11)
61.3
(16.28)
52.7
(11.5)
41.2
(5.11)
33.1
(0.61)
24.0
(-4.44)
40.5
(4.72)
Record low °F (°C) −18
(-27.8)
−16
(-26.7)
−9
(-22.8)
14
(-10)
25
(-3.9)
35
(1.7)
38
(3.3)
37
(2.8)
23
(-5)
16
(-8.9)
0
(-17.8)
−11
(-23.9)
−18
(-27.8)
Precipitation inches (mm) 3.77
(95.8)
3.32
(84.3)
4.53
(115.1)
4.13
(104.9)
4.09
(103.9)
4.96
(126)
4.75
(120.7)
4.37
(111)
4.88
(124)
4.72
(119.9)
4.29
(109)
4.33
(110)
52.13
(1,324.1)
Snowfall inches (cm) 14.9
(37.8)
13.1
(33.3)
9.7
(24.6)
1.6
(4.1)
0
(0)
0
(0)
0
(0)
0
(0)
0
(0)
0
(0)
1.2
(3)
9.7
(24.6)
50.2
(127.5)
Avg. precipitation days (≥ 0.01-inch) 11.5 9.8 11.8 11.4 12.1 11.9 10.3 9.3 9.0 9.2 10.0 11.5 127.8
Avg. snowy days (≥ 0.1-inch) 7.9 5.4 4.2 .9 0 0 0 0 0 .1 1.0 5.0 24.5
Source: NOAA

Demographics

See also: List of Connecticut locations by per capita income
Historical population of Danbury
Year Pop. ±%
1756 1,527 —    
1790 3,031 +98.5%
1800 3,180 +4.9%
1810 3,606 +13.4%
1820 3,873 +7.4%
1830 4,311 +11.3%
1840 4,504 +4.5%
1850 5,964 +32.4%
1860 7,234 +21.3%
1870 8,753 +21.0%
1880 11,666 +33.3%
1890 19,473 +66.9%
1900 19,474 +0.0%
1910 23,502 +20.7%
1920 22,325 −5.0%
1930 26,955 +20.7%
1940 27,921 +3.6%
1950 30,337 +8.7%
1960 39,382 +29.8%
1970 50,781 +28.9%
1980 60,470 +19.1%
1990 65,585 +8.5%
2000 74,848 +14.1%
2010 80,893 +8.1%
2015 84,657 +4.7%
U.S. Decennial Census
2015 Estimate
Population by Decade 1790–2010
State of Connecticut
Source:
U.S. Decennial Census

It is estimated that the population of Danbury as of 2015 is 84,657. As of the census of 2010, there were 80,893 people and 29,046 households in the City, with 2.73 persons per household. 44.1% of the population spoke a language other than English at home. The population density was 1,921.4 people per square mile. There were 31,154 housing units at an average density of 740.0 per square mile. The racial makeup of the city was 68.2% White, 25.0% Hispanic or Latino, 7.2% African American, 0.40% Native American, 6.8% Asian, less than 0.10% Pacific Islander, 7.6% from other races, and 4.5% from two or more races. 32% of the population was foreign born.

6.7% of the population was under the age of 5, and 21.1% was under the age of 18. 11.1% of the population was 65 years of age or older. 50.9% of the population was female.

The per capita income for the City was $31,411. 11.1% of the population was below the poverty line. The median gross monthly rent was $1,269.

In 2015 the median income for a household in the City was approximately $66,676.

Voter registration and party enrollment as of November 1, 2016
Party Active voters Inactive voters Total voters Percentage
Democratic 12,818 390 13,208 32.07%
Republican 8,004 174 8,178 19.86%
Unaffiliated 18,458 679 19,137 46.46%
style="background-color:Template:Concerned Citizens Party/meta/color;" width=10px | Minor parties 641 22 663 1.61%
Total 39,921 1,265 41,186 100%

When ZIP codes were introduced in 1963, the 06810 code was given to all of Danbury; it was shared with a then-still-rural New Fairfield to its north. In 1984, the 06810 Zip Code was cut back to areas of Danbury south of Interstate 84. A new 06811 ZIP code was created for areas north of Interstate 84. New Fairfield received its own code, 06812.

Economy

In 2016 Danbury's workforce was approximately 79,400 workers. 12,200 (15.4%) of them worked in goods producing industries. 67,200 (84.6%) of them worked in service providing industries which includes: trade, transportation and utilities (17,300), professional and business services (9,400), leisure and hospitality (7,300), government (10,200) and all other (23,000). In Nov. 2016, the unemployment rate for the Danbury Labor Market Area was 3.0%, compared to 3.7% for the State and 4.6% nationally.

The top employers in the City in 2016 were:

# Employer # of Employees
1 Western Ct Health Network 2,283
2 Boehringer-Ingelheim 1,800
3 Danbury Public Schools 1,686
4 Cartus 1,349
5 GE Commercial Finance 688
6 UTC Aerospace Systems 660
7 Pitney Bowes 650
8 Western Connecticut State University 626
9 City of Danbury 551
10 Praxair 406

Sites of interest

Hiking trails

  • Bear Mountain Reservation
  • The Old Quarry Nature Center has two short educational trails on 39 acres (16 ha)
  • Tarrywile Mansion and Park has 21 miles (34 km) of trails and several ponds on 722 acres (292 ha), as well as a Victorian mansion and gardens. The Ives Trail runs through the park.
  • The Ives Trail is a 20-mile stretch of trail that runs from Bennett's Pond in Ridgefield through Danbury to Redding. The Charles Ives House and Hearthstone Castle are located along this trail.

Parks

  • Bear Mountain Park
  • Blind Brook Park
  • Candlewood Town Park
  • Elmwood Park
  • Farrington Woods
  • Hatters Park
  • Highland Playground
  • Joseph Sauer Memorial Park
  • Kennedy Park
  • Lake Kenosia Park
  • Old Quarry Nature Center
  • Richter Park
  • Rogers Park
  • Rogers Park Playground
  • Stephen A. Kaplanis Field
  • Still River Greenway
  • Tarrywile Park
  • Tom West Park

Museums

  • Danbury Museum and Historical Society
  • Danbury Railway Museum

Other

  • The Danbury Fair Mall was built on the old fairgrounds in 1986.
  • Danbury is also home to an Army Reserve Special Operations unit, the 411th Civil Affairs Battalion.
  • Danbury Hospital is a 456-bed hospital, serving patients in Fairfield County, Connecticut and Putnam County, New York. The hospital is the home of the new Praxair Regional Heart and Vascular center, providing state of the art cardiovascular care to this growing region including open heart surgery and coronary angioplasty.
  • Richter Park Golf Course is Danbury's municipal golf course and hosts numerous tournaments such as the annual Danbury Amateur and American Junior Golf Association majors. It has won a variety of awards, including being a "Top 10 Connecticut Course" and the "#2 Best Public Course in the NY Metropolitan Area".
  • Danbury Ice Arena

National Register of Historic Places

Name Location Date added to NRHP
Ball and Roller Bearing Company 20–22 Maple Ave. September 25, 1989
Charles Ives House 7 Mountainville Ave. May 26, 1976
Hearthstone 18 Brushy Hill Rd. December 31, 1987
John Rider House 43 Main St. added December 23, 1977
Locust Avenue School Locust Ave. June 30, 1985
Main Street Historic District Boughton, Elm, Ives, Keeler, Main, West and White Sts. December 29, 1983
Meeker's Hardware 86–90 White St. July 9, 1983
Octagon House 21 Spring St. June 7, 1973
P. Robinson Fur Cutting Company Oil Mill Rd. December 30, 1982
Tarrywile Southern Blvd. & Mountain Rd. February 6, 1988
Union Station (Danbury Railway Museum) White St. and Patriot Dr. October 25, 1986
Richter House (Richter Memorial Park) 100 Aunt Hack Road September 17, 2010

Sports

Ice Hockey

The United Hockey League (UHL) expanded to Danbury in 2004. The Danbury Trashers played their first season at the Danbury Ice Arena in October 2004. Among those on the roster included Brent Gretzky (brother of hockey legend Wayne Gretzky) and Scott Stirling (son of former New York Islanders coach Steve Stirling). Scott's older brother, Todd, coached the Trashers in the 2004–05 season.

On December 27, 2009, Danbury was named the first city to officially have a new team in the newly formed Federal Hockey League (FHL). The team was named the Danbury Whalers, bringing back the name "Whalers" to Connecticut for the first time since 1997 when Hartford Whalers of the WHA/NHL moved to North Carolina and became the Carolina Hurricanes. At the end of the 2014–15 season, the Danbury Ice Arena evicted the Danbury Whalers. The Whalers were announced as moving to neighboring Brewster, New York, and called the Stateline Whalers.

However, a new FHL Danbury team called the Danbury Titans was approved for the 2015–16 season, owned by local car dealership owner Bruce Bennett. As part of the approval of the new Danbury team, he took over the Stateline/Danbury market and created the Brewster Bulldogs instead of the Whalers (the Bulldogs folded after one season).

Other sports

The Danbury Westerners, a member of the New England Collegiate Baseball League, play their home games at Rogers Park in Danbury.

AC Connecticut is a soccer team based in the Danbury suburb of Newtown. The team plays in the Northeast Division of the USL Premier Development League (PDL), the fourth tier of the American soccer pyramid.

Danbury High School carries a strong athletic tradition in wrestling, boys and girls track and field, boys cross country, baseball, tennis, basketball, and football. The wrestling, boys cross country, and boys track teams have all numerous state titles and New England championships. All three programs are considered to be nationally ranked annually.

Western Connecticut State University is a member of the NCAA Division III, the Eastern College Athletic Conference, and the Little East Conference. The university fields teams in baseball, basketball, lacrosse, football, soccer, softball, swimming, tennis, and volleyball. WestConn also fields several nationally competitive club sports on campus including Men's Rugby, Women's Rugby, Dance Team, Cheerleading, and Men's Hockey.

The Danbury Hatters Cricket Club formed in 2001 and has been playing cricket in Southern Connecticut along with other cities such as Norwalk, Stamford, Bridgeport, New Haven, Waterbury and West Haven.

The Western Connecticut Militia is a semi-professional football team that joined the New England Football League in 2011. The team plays its home games in Danbury at both Danbury High School and Immaculate High School.

In pop culture

  • Parts of the films Rachel, Rachel and The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants 2 were filmed in Danbury.
  • In the movie Blow, the character George Jung serves his 26-month sentence in the Danbury federal prison.
  • Alfred Hitchcock filmed scenes from Strangers on a Train, including his cameo with a double bass, at Union Station (now the Danbury Railway Museum).
  • In the Seinfeld episode The Baby Shower, Elaine explains that her roommate contracted Lyme disease when "She did some outdoor version of Hair in Danbury Connecticut".
  • David Letterman stores his extensive collection of cars in a warehouse in Danbury adjacent to the airport.

Danbury, Connecticut Facts for Kids. Kiddle Encyclopedia.