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Let the Fieldwork Begin! Architectural Historians Hit the Roads of Ridgefield

From April 24 – 26, the team from Chronicle Heritage will be on the roads of Ridgefield photographing and documenting residences and structures for a current Architectural Survey of the Town. The weather (picture perfect) is also on board.

April 23, 2023: Last autumn, the Town of Ridgefield and the Ridgefield Historical Society were awarded two complementary survey and planning grants from the Connecticut State Historical Preservation Office
SHPO (pronounced Ship- ō), to support an updated Architectural Survey of Ridgefield.

The Survey, officially referred to as an Historic Resources Inventory (HRI), includes detailed records and
images of buildings, sites, structures and/or objects over 50 years old, as well as ‘younger’ structures
with notable architectural significance. The last Ridgefield HRI was conducted in 1979, and updated in
1983, so it’s certainly time to add additional properties.

The new HRI will serve as a valuable tool in capturing, sharing, and preserving the integral character and
identity of Ridgefield by providing easy access to detailed information on Ridgefield’s historic and
architecturally significant properties.

Fieldwork Begins Monday, April 24th

Following the Award announcement last fall, the Historical Society and Town engaged heritage management and consulting firm, Chronicle Heritage, whose staff have been busy at work. This week, they are taking to the roads of Ridgefield, with Senior Architectural Historian, Melissa Steeley (at left) in the lead.

We took a moment to speak with Melissa regarding the project.

What work has been done on the grant thus far? What is up next?
Our objectives at the start of the project were to: add 300 new historic buildings to Ridgefield’s existing
inventory of about 600 buildings and compose a document that would give an outline of the Town’s
history and relate it to the built environment. Thus far, we have mapped the town’s existing inventory (no mapping was available previously), selected new buildings to inventory, and completed a lot of research on the Town’s history.

How were the 300 properties on the survey selected (from the ‘universe’ of qualified properties)?
To start, we overlaid the maps we created of the previously inventoried properties onto town maps so
that we knew which properties to exclude from this project. We then overlaid historic maps and aerials
to find locations where buildings were mapped that did NOT fall within the boundary of an inventoried
property. Those areas were prioritized for the survey.

I also completed a “windshield survey” (observing from a vehicle to assess the situation) back in the winter and made notes of areas that I thought had historic buildings with good integrity. After pulling all of that together, I spent a lot of time cross-referencing tax parcel records, Google Street views, and historic maps and mapping every property that I wanted to survey. This is a pared-down explanation of my methods, but I don’t want to bore you all with the nitty-gritty.

If you are a homeowner of a home that is being surveyed, do you need to do anything?
No, you don’t have to do a thing! We take all our pictures from the public right-of-way and won’t bother
you. Of course, if you see us out there taking photographs and would like to give us access or have any
information to share about your house or business, that would be great.

[Additional Note: In instances where the Chronicle Heritage team cannot adequately view the residence
or structure from the public right-of-way, they will knock on the door of the residence, seeking permission to view and photograph the external structure from your property. The team will be carrying a letter of introduction from First Selectman Rudy Marconi verifying their identity.]

How can you find out if your home is included in the Survey?
Right now, we are working off a draft list. It typically changes a bit as the project goes along and certain
buildings are added or excluded. If you would like to know if your property is on the current draft list,
you can write to [email protected]— understanding, of course, that it may change.
When the Inventory is complete, it will be available through the Ridgefield Historical Society.

Stay tuned for further updates as the Ridgefield Historic Resources Inventory project continues.


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