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Picks from the Archive: Rob Orr

In this "Picks from the Archive," Ridgefield Historical Society volunteer, Rob Orr, shares some of the resources he used to learn more about his home and its history.

Ridgefield is a town rich with history. This became very obvious to my wife and me when we were looking to buy a house for our family in 1982 when my employer, Union Carbide Corp, relocated from midtown Manhattan to a newly built world headquarters in Danbury, CT.

We were told that the house we bought on Cooper Hill Road was on land that was once part of Downsbury Manor, a significant estate on 300 acres off Florida Hill Road. That made me want to learn more about Downsbury Manor and its owner, Colonel Edward M. Knox. Over the 39 years we lived in our house, the archives of the Ridgefield Historical Society have provided a wealth of photographic and written information to expand my knowledge.

Below are some photos along with samples of some of the things I learned from the Ridgefield Historical Society’s online archive materials, digital compendiums (such as “Dick’s Dispatch” and “The Ridgefield Encyclopedia”), maps, and reference books:

  • The caretaker for Downsbury Manor lived in a house that was located at the rear of our property. It was torn down prior to the land being developed as part of a new subdivision in 1966.
  • The path of today’s Cooper Hill Road was originally a much narrower carriage drive that was part of the Downsbury property.
  • Colonel Knox had a private railroad station built at the bottom of the carriage drive where it intersected with the railroad spur line that ran into the center of Ridgefield. There Knox would meet guests like his good friend, Mark Twain, who would ride the train from West Redding to Branchville, then up to Cooper Station. Today, what was the former railroad bed is the Rail Trail.

If you want to learn more about Ridgefield, your neighborhood, or maybe even the historic house you live in, the collection of the Ridgefield Historical Society is a great place to start.

The grand estate included a garden accessed by steps that are still part of the landscape today.
Downsbury Manor was located on 300 acres off Florida Hill Road
The estate included this 32-room house and 16 bathrooms
This 1912 map, embellished in 2020, shows where Cooper Station stood.
Cooper Station around 1900: Notice the person bending over at the left, and, at the right, a covered walkway so passengers could reach awaiting carriages without getting wet in the rain.


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