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Pick from the Collection: 1930s Directional Sign

In March 2023, the "Old Ridgefield" Facebook Page featured a post on Ridgefield's Directional Signs from the 1930s. The post indicated that a single sign still remained — on site at the Ridgefield Historical Society and in need of repair. Bill Dornfeld heard about the sign and came to the rescue.

Directional signs in Ridgefield today are fairly conventional — white type on a green metal sign offering clear guidance, mileage (sometimes), and the promise of adventure further afield. Or at least an arrow pointing in the right direction.

Less than a century ago, however, such signs were quite a bit more ornamental. This excerpt below from Jack Sanders’ Then and Now column which appeared on his ‘Old Ridgefield’ Facebook page on March 21, 2023, offers a little more detail.

“ …. Aside from the lovely trees, the old image [at top] also offers us a look at what an artful, tasteful and yet practical sign can look like. That black-strapped white sign on a white post on the right side of the picture was one of a group of such signs that, we suspect, were installed around the time of the Connecticut Tercentenary in 1935. We have yet to determine the source of the signs, but as far as we can tell, they were a Ridgefield-only project, financed by either the town government or some organization such as the Ridgefield Garden Club or the Lions Club.

They were installed mostly near intersections and, under a bold headline “1708 Ridgefield,” told where each road would lead. Among the other signs we can recall were ones at Main and Danbury Road, by Joe’s Store; at the library corner of Main and Prospect Streets; and at Main and Branchville Road. (The Ridgefield Historical Society has the last one, at left, with a broken “pineapple” at the top that it hopes to repair.)

I believe another stood in front of the Community Center, and others at North Salem and Ridgebury Road, in Ridgebury center, and at the old “circle” where Danbury Road met Route 7. Some may have described historic places or events that took place nearby.

Many of the signs were still standing in the 1970s, but none seems to have survived to today … Wouldn’t it be nice if the town resurrected those 1930s signs?

Indeed, it would. But in the meantime, we can thank long-time Ridgefield resident, Bill Dornfeld, at left, for repairing and restoring that last remaining sign from 1930s. Following Sanders’ Facebook post, Rob Orr, a Historical Society volunteer encouraged Dornfeld, a skilled woodworker, to take on the project.

The sign, which had been patiently awaiting attention at the Historical Society for some time, has since been refreshed to its former form. The decorative wood on the top of the sign was replaced; the “pineapple” — now deemed to be an acorn — is back in place and a new base for the acorn, proportional to that of the original sign, was built and added.

Thank you to Bill for sharing your expertise in the name of history. Now all it needs is a touch up of paint!

If you’re curious, you may see the 1930s Directional Sign at the Ridgefield Historical Society, 4 Sunset Lane, Tuesdays – Thursdays, 1:00 – 5:00pm.


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