Spring Grove Cemetery, Darien

Connecticut’s first cemetery for veterans was one of several in the state decorated as part of the Wreaths Across America project.

The national project, which started in 1992 with the laying of 5,000 donated wreaths in Arlington National Cemetery, includes 46 cemeteries and war memorials in Connecticut.

The veterans’ section in Darien’s Spring Grove Cemetery was established after the Civil War along with the Fitch Home for Veterans and Their Orphans. The home was the first such facility for veterans when it opened in 1864, and was financed by wealthy businessman Benjamin Fitch (who helped sponsor a Civil War regiment and promised to care for volunteers).

The cemetery is the final resting place for 2,184 veterans.

A four-sided monument, dedicated in 1936, stands at the base of a flagpole. The sculpture, by Karl Lang, features figures representing veterans from the Civil War, the Spanish-American War and World War I.

The landscaping fabric surrounding the flagpole is part of a restoration and replanting effort launched earlier this year.

Funds Sought to Restore Darien Memorial Site

The Darien police and a local VFW post are raising money to restore the 1936 memorial flagpole honoring veterans in Spring Grove Cemetery.

The memorial flagpole, which we visited a little over a year ago, was designed by sculptor Karl Lang, who was also responsible for the Timothy Ahern memorial statue in New Haven.

According to coverage in the Darien Times, the groups hope to replace the plants in the traffic circle surrounding the flagpole’s base. The base has figures symbolizing veterans of the Civil War, the Spanish-American War and World War I, and organizers hope to replace the plantings by Memorial Day.

Spring Grove Cemetery served as Connecticut’s veterans’ cemetery when the state’s first veteran’s home, the Fitch Home for Veterans and Their Orphans, operated in Darien. The Fitch facility served veterans between 1864 and 1940, when the state veterans’ home moved to Rocky Hill.

Spring Grove is the final resting place for 2,184 veterans.

The Darien VFW post can be contacted at http://www.darienvfw.org/

Veterans’ Memorial Flagpole, Darien

Veterans’ Memorial Flagpole, DarienA four-sided sculpture at the base of a flagpole in the center of the Veterans’ Cemetery next to Darien’s Spring Grove Cemetery honors 2,184 veterans from Connecticut and several other states.

Many of the veterans buried in the cemetery lived at the nearby Fitch Home for Veterans and Their Orphans, which was the first such facility for veterans when it opened in 1864.

The monument, dedicated in 1936, features four figures representing veterans from the Civil War, the Spanish-American War and World War I. On the west face of the monument, a Civil War soldier is standing with his right arm supported by a rifle. On the east face, a sailor represents veterans of the Spanish-American War. On the south face,  a stylized Doughboy figure is standing with his right arm held above his head (the significance of this gesture escapes us). On the  north face, there is a muscular figure whose meaning also eludes us. As the Connecticut Historical Society description of the monument phrases it, “The symbolism of the fourth figure is not clear.”

Veterans’ Memorial Flagpole, DarienThe sculptor, Karl Lang, was a local resident who also contributed to the carvings at Mount Rushmore. 

The flagpole sits at the center of a small traffic island and is surrounded by four evergreen bushes. The flagpole also sits at the center of 11 rows of headstones that radiate from the center in eight sections, creating a square pattern that is best appreciated in an aerial view such as this one.  

The Fitch Home for Veterans and Their Orphans was founded in 1864 by Benjamin Fitch, a Darien native and dry goods magnate who was one of the nation’s first millionaires by the start of the Civil War. Fitch helped to organize a regiment, and promised to care for any veterans who were wounded in action. In 1864, Fitch donated five acres and $100,000 (an estimated $1.4 million in 2009 dollars) and built a hospital, chapel, library, residence hall and administrative buildings. A year later, the facility expanded to house children who were orphaned by the war. 

Veterans’ Memorial Flagpole, Darien

In 1888, the facility was taken over by the state of Connecticut. The veterans’ home expanded a number of times between then and 1940, when the state moved the facility to a new home in Rocky Hill. 

The former chapel building was moved across Norton Avenue in 1950, and is used today by the local VFW post as well as for community and social events. The cemetery was closed to new veteran internments in 1964.

 

 

 

 

 

Veterans’ Memorial Flagpole, Darien

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Veterans' Cemetery, Darien

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sources:

History of CT Veterans’ Home

Connecticut Historical Society: Civil War Monuments of Connecticut