Powder House, Fairfield

A recently restored powder house in Fairfield was built in 1814 to help the town defend itself against possible British invasion during the War of 1812.

The powder house, which stands behind Tomlinson Middle School on Fairfield’s Unquowa Road, is believed to be the only remaining example in Connecticut of numerous such buildings used to store gunpowder and ammunition during the country’s early history.

The bronze plaque next to the powder house’s door was added during a 1924 restoration, and provides information about the 1814 town meeting at which residents approved the powder house construction. During that restoration, a slate roof was added and the site was surrounded by a stone wall.

The local Daughters of the American Revolution chapter was honored by the national organization for a 2009 restoration project that gave the powder house a new wooden roof and door, and a new bench in front of the building.

Opening the powder house’s new wooden door reveals a dark, moist interior inhabited by what appeared to be thousands of camel crickets, frighteningly large insects also known as spider crickets due to their large legs. The crickets provided an effective disincentive against further exploration of the building’s interior.

The vintage postcard bears a 1909 postmark, and shows the powder house before the slate roof and exterior plaque were added. The caption incorrectly attributes the building to 1812.

Honor Roll, Fairfield

Fairfield honors local veterans with a large honor roll display on the town’s historic green.

The honor roll features seven large panels with the names of local residents who served in the nation’s 20th century wars as well as on the ongoing conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Starting at the far left, the Korea war section has 10 columns of names engraved on small aluminum plaques. The World War I section displays seven columns of names.

The three central panels honoring World War II veterans each feature 16 columns of names, while the “Persian Gulf” panel honors residents who served in the 1990 Gulf War, the current fighting in Iraq in Afghanistan, and other conflicts including Lebanon, Grenada, the Dominican Republic, and Panama.

The far right panel included 10 columns of names honoring local Vietnam veterans.

The site is also decorated with flagpoles, shrubbery and two benches.

Directly behind the honor roll monument, a boulder commemorates the 1639 founding of Fairfield and the 1779 burning of the town by British forces during the American Revolution. The boulder was dedicated in 1900 by a local DAR chapter.

Also near the honor roll is a boulder, dedicated in 1979, that honors local Vietnam War veterans.

The honor roll stands in front of Fairfield’s Old Town Hall, sections of which date back to 1794. A 1936 plaque inside the building describes its history and its expansion in 1870.

World War I veterans are also listed on a 1919 Honor Roll just off the Town Hall lobby. Its location in a narrow hallway made photography challenging.

A plaque outside Town Hall commemorates a 1984 campaign appearance by President Ronald Reagan.

Swamp Fight monuments, Fairfield

Swamp Fight Monument, FairfieldTwo monuments in Fairfield commemorate the Great Swamp Fight, during which English settlers defeated Native Americans on July 13, 1637.  

The Swamp Fight was the last major action in a series of battles between the Pequot tribe and English settlers over land and trade in southern New England and Long Island Sound. 

During a massacre in Mystic on May 26, 1637, an estimated 600 Pequots died after settlers and allied Mohegans (who had separated from the Pequots earlier in the century) burned an occupied fort and shot people trying to escape the fire. 

A group of Pequot survivors who had occupied another fort traveled west after the massacre and sought sanctuary in marshlands in today’s Fairfield. The last 100 warriors within that group were defeated on July 13 after 180 noncombatants were allowed to surrender. By September of 1638, a treaty had divided the surviving Pequots among rival tribes and settlers who used them as slaves. 

Swamp Fight Monument, FairfieldThe Swamp Fight Monument, dedicated in 1904 by the Connecticut Society of Colonial Wars, today sits on a small triangle of land along the Post Road, near a Peoples’ United Bank branch and a popular Dunkin’ Donuts outlet. A large stone monument bears the simple inscription on its east face that “the great Swamp Fight here ended the Pequot War.” 

This inscription is much more sedate than some of the historical texts written during the late 19th and early 20th centuries, which tended to describe the Native Americans with less-than-glowing terms. 

The only other marking on the stone lists its dedication date. 

Much of the land where the Swamp Fight took place has been lost to development, including the construction of Interstate 95. Driving along the interstate just past exit 19, you can see marsh plants rising above the small surviving portions of the swamp. 

Researchers from the Mashantucket Pequot Museum plan to survey the Southport area over the next couple of years to try to identify locations or relics from the areas where the battle took place. 

Swamp Fight fountain, SouthportThe Swamp Fight is also commemorated by a fountain, dedicated in 1903 by the Daughters of the American Revolution, that sits at the intersection of Main Street and Harbor road in the Southport section of Fairfield. The fountain, topped by a light fixture, features water-spigot lions on the north and south faces. Since we visited this monument in mid-February, we’re not sure if it has been converted into a planter, as many commemorative fountains from that era have been.

The water trough on the north side of the monument bears the inscription “This fountain commemorates the valor and victory of the colonist forefathers at the Pequot Swamp,” which is a slightly more strident message in praise of the settlers than the matter-of-fact listing found on the other Swamp Fight monument.  

Swamp Fight fountain, SouthportSitting in a T-shaped intersection, the fountain is an example of the middle-of-the-roadway sculpture dreaded by monument bloggers, who generally prefer to take pictures while standing on the safety of a town green. 

 

 

 

 

Swamp Fight fountain, Southport

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Fairfield Museum and History Center