Services We Provide

Genealogy Research

Antique photo of a Ridgefield family

Ridgefield has been the home of many people from its founding in 1708. These families, collectively, have left thousands of descendants, some of whom stayed in town, some moved to the surrounding communities, and others “went west.” An important part of the Ridgefield Historical Society’s mission is to answer the requests of current descendants to learn more about their Ridgefield ancestors.

A reference library in the historical society’s headquarters at the 1714 Scott House includes books on the history of Ridgefield, cemetery records, and an ever growing collection of family accounts.

The Ridgefield Historical Society provides, for a fee, a research service which mines the records of the society, the town, and local churches. For more information or to start your search, please feel free to contact us. The fee is $20 per hour for members and $25 per hour for non-members. Please consider becoming a member!

If you have ancestors from Ridgefield and would like to donate a copy of your family history, please contact us during office hours (Tuesday through Thursday from 1 to 5 pm).

 

Historic House Plaque Program

Historic house plaqueThe Historical Society began its Historic House Plaque Program in 2005 in order to mark historic homes in Ridgefield. The handmade plaques come in two sizes and feature the town seal along with text and circa date of the building. The plaques are weatherproof and are hand painted and lettered. They provide visible historic identification and information for the more than 600 listed properties in the Architectural Historic Resources Inventory.

If you are interested in purchasing a plaque for your home or other historic structure, please email us with your contact information and we will get in touch with you.

 

Historic Preservation

The Society supports preservation and reuse of historic buildings and homes. To learn more about Ridgefield’s rich architectural heritage, a copy of the Ridgefield Historic Architectural Survey, which was conducted in 1979, is available in our reference library. The Survey lists over 500 structures in Ridgefield with information about architecture and historical significance. Some other resources available to Ridgefield residents include:

The Village Districts Act of the Connecticut General Statutes

The Village Districts Act, passed by the Connecticut General Assembly in 1998, is an aggressive tool to help municipalities protect and preserve their community character and historic development patterns. The law allows towns to designate village districts as a way of protecting sections of towns that have distinctive character, landscape and historic structures. Within these areas, the town zoning commission may adopt regulations governing such matters as the design and placement of buildings and maintenance of public views. These regulations also “encourage conversion and preservation of existing buildings and sites in a manner that maintains the historic, natural and community character of the district.” They provide “that proposed buildings or modifications to existing buildings be harmoniously related their surroundings, to the terrain and to the use, scale and architecture of existing buildings in the vicinity that have a functional or visual relationship to the proposed building or modification.” The scale, proportions, massing, size, proportion and roof treatments should be compatible with the area and the “removal or disruption of historic traditional or significant structures or architectural elements shall be minimized.” In addition to design, the arrangement and orientation of any proposed new construction should be compatible with the immediate neighborhood. All applications for substantial reconstruction and new construction shall be subject to review and comment by an architect or architectural firm contracted by the commission. The bill applies to rural, urban and suburban communities, which can exhibit ‘village’ characteristics.

Listed below are five steps towns should follow in the process of designating Village Districts:

  1. Educate the residents and support for the designation of each area as a Village District.
  2. Inventory the structures and landscape and settings of each district, and identify problems.
  3. Establish standards of design unique to each area and in common to all, including public landscaping, sidewalks, lighting, street furniture, pedestrian, and bike and vehicle circulation.
  4. Set up timing and funding schedules and adopt the needed zoning regulations.
  5. Monitor progress and effects of the local zoning and revise as needed.

A general overview of Connecticut’s historic preservation programs

In this section we review the different programs available for listing as an historic property, the type of protection each provides and the restrictions they carry. Designating a property as architecturally and historically significant can encourage preservation, promote public awareness, and protect a sense of place and character within our communities.

National Historic Landmark
National Historic Landmark is the highest level of designation available. Properties given this foremost form of recognition are deemed significant to all Americans because of their exceptional values or qualities, which help illustrate or interpret the heritage of the United States. The National Historic Landmark program identifies, designates, recognizes and protects buildings, structures, sites and objects of national significance.

National Register of Historic Places

The National Register of Historic Places is the nation’s official list of historic buildings and sites worthy of preservation. Listing on the Register indicates that a property is significant because of its architecture or its association with important persons, events or cultural events. Listing does not restrict what a property owner may do with the property unless the owner is using federal assistance.

State Register of Historic Places

The State Register of Historic Places is the official listing of those sites important to the historical development of Connecticut. Listing on the State Register does not restrict the rights of the private property owner and offers limited protection

Statewide Historic Resource Inventory

The Statewide Historic Resource Inventory identifies and evaluates historic, architectural, archaeological, cultural and industrial resources. The surveys which serve as the basis for most other designations is also a useful tool for municipal officials, local planners, preservationist, property owners and researchers in helping them make sound preservation and development decisions. There are no restrictions associated with the Historic Resources Inventory.

Local Historic Districts/Properties

Local Historic Districts/Properties offers the most protection for significant architectural buildings in the State of Connecticut. The State General Statutes allow municipalities to establish historic districts and historic properties for which exterior architectural changes are reviewed by a local preservation commission. This allows towns, which have Local Historic Districts/Properties to ensure that alterations, additions, or demolitions are in keeping and consistent with the special character of the designated area.

Visit Ridgefield’s Historic District Commission website for more information.

Scenic Road Designation

Rural and scenic roads are a valuable and essential part of Connecticut’s notable landscape. Designating roads, both state and local, has proven to be an effective method in preserving and protecting these vital by-ways from alterations that would alter and diminish their appearance including widening, rerouting, destruction of stonewalls and the removal of mature trees.

For more information on the designation of roads, visit CT DOT’s page on Scenic Roads.

The Historic American Building Survey and the Historic American Engineering Record

The Historic American Building Survey (HABS) and the Historic American Engineering Record (HAER) identify and document important architectural, engineering and industrial sites throughout the United States including Connecticut. Organized and managed by the Federal Government, each building or property recorded features a complete set of measured drawings, large-format photographs and a written history.

To search and view HABS, HAER, and HALS, visit their collections page at the US Library of Congress website.

The Historic American Landscapes Survey

The Historic American Landscapes Survey (HALS), like HABS and HAER, is a record of significant American landscapes documented by the Federal Government. This archive of landscapes was created to help us better understand our rich ethnic and cultural heritage.

To search and view HABS, HAER, and HALS, visit their collections page at the US Library of Congress website.

Archaeology

Archaeological sites are the physical remains of previous human activity. Wherever people have lived or worked the land and water may contain evidence of their lives. These sites contain valuable information about the material culture and lives of the people who occupied the land before us and these clues and important artifacts are often invisible from the surface. It is important to document and analyze sites to learn about our community’s heritage.

 

Archives and Collections

The purpose of the Ridgefield Historical Society archives collection is to preserve and make available published and unpublished materials, illustrating the history of our town. Through this ongoing work, we hope to document and promote an awareness and appreciation for the history of the town, the land, the people, their livelihoods and their organizations and activities.

Explore our Collections

 

Gift Shop

Stop by the Scott House to purchase books, historic maps and prints, and other Ridgefield-themed gifts. Many of the books we sell are by local authors and historians.

We are always happy to ship your purchases to you or your loved one!

Visit our Gift Shop   10% discount for members!

 

Newsletter

The Scott House Journal is the newsletter of the Society. It is published biannually.

Explore the newsletter archives