Ridgefield illustrated: Visitors’ map showcases town’s assets

The Ridgefield Visitors’ Map, spearheaded by Books on the Common owner Ellen Burns, features artist Bart Arnold’s drawings of town landmarks and locations. — Macklin Reid photo

A map with pictures is worth a thousand babbled directions. Even when “past the light, then there’s a bunch of big white houses” is enthusiastically ornamented with pointing, arm waving and reassuring nods.

The spires of St. Stephen’s, St. Mary’s and Jesse Lee rise over the village, with familiar sites — from the famed fountain and Keeler Tavern north to the library and Prospector Theater, bookending a mini-Main Street — faithfully depicted, if not exactly “to scale.”

It’s the new Ridgefield Visitors’ Map — or “Map & Guide, Ridgefield, Connecticut.”

The pictorial map, now starting to be available around town, shows not just Main Street and the village but the farther reaches of Ridgefield: Branchville with its train station, school and Weir Farm in the south; Ridgebury with its golf course and churches, St. Elizabeth Seton and Ridgebury Congregational, in the north; in the west, Congregation Shir Shalom, St. Mary’s and its school, Ridgefield Academy and the Peter Parley Schoolhouse, Chabad Jewish Center and West Lane Inn; and along Ridgefield’s eastern edge, Martin Park, The Hickories Farm and, of course, Route 7 and the train tracks.

All the schools are there, along with town hall and the police department, as well as cultural destinations like the Playhouse, Theater Barn, Guild of Artists, ACT of Connecticut, and — “best friends,” not to be forgotten — the Bark Park.

“Artistic and whimsical details — sheep at The Hickories, people walking on the Rail Trail and little dogs and the Bark Park,” make the map fun, said Ellen Burns.

Consider her the map’s midwife, chief cook and proofreader. Burns undertook the map project after years of giving directions and answering visitors’ questions at Books on The Common, her store at Ridgefield’s highest profile corner — Main Street with Bailey Avenue and Catoonah Street, right by town hall.

Inspired by a pictorial map she’d seen of Lenox, Mass., Burns located its creator — artist Bart Arnold — and launched the project last April. She toured the town with him, taking photos of landmarks and giving him a sense of the place.

Now, it’s done.

“Ridgefield has become such an arts and culture destination I felt we merited this kind of a map for visitors to use while they’re here, and then take home for future visits,” Burns said.

“I’m really happy with the way it came out.”

The maps should be available at public institutions and stores all over town.

“I’m going to distribute quantities to all the arts, cultural and history organizations that contributed to the map and have their representations placed on the map,” Burns said. “They’re all identified on the map, along with all the schools and houses of worship.

“Businesses aren’t on the map, but they are listed  — with street address. website, phone number and map coordinates.,” she said. “…I tried to have it sort of permanent.”

Fifty town businesses are in listings on the back of the map, organized into five categories: shopping, restaurants and cafes, hotel/inn; personal services, and Ridgefield Media.

Town’s tale

A narrative — familiar to many Ridgefielders, but new to most visitors — offers background on the town and leads into the cultural, history and arts listings:

“Ridgefield, Connecticut is rich in early American history. Purchased from the Ramapoo Indians in 1708, the town became the scene of the Battle of Ridgefield, with patriots led by General Benedict Arnold, then valued as a national hero.

“For more than two centuries, Ridgefield was an agrarian community. But in the late 1800s, artists and writers (including six Pulitzer Prize winners and one Nobel laureate) as well as leaders of finance and industry began to discover its natural beauty and small-town appeal.

Ridgefield also offered a home to immigrants from Ireland, Italy and Germany, and, finally, to today’s families, seeking ample outdoor recreation, rich culture, excellent schools, and New England charm.

“Today, Ridgefield is a town of nearly 25,000 people, highlighted by a picturesque Main Street, interesting shops, outstanding restaurants and a superb collection of museums, theaters, and other cultural attractions…”

Raising the funds

Burns fund-raised about $14,000 for the project, but ended up getting 7,500 foldable maps for free distribution and another 100 “flat” maps suitable for framing to be sold.

“I’m selling those at the store for $10 each, and all proceeds go to the town account the ECDC (Economic and Community Development Commission) set up for me for the visitors’ map,” Burns said.

Printing costs came in below estimate.

“So, there’s about $8,000 left in the account for future corrections and reprintings.”

The winning bidder on the printing was Ridgefield resident Paul Cherico’s company Graphic Management Partners of Port Chester, N.Y. Cherico had seen an initial article on the map, then still in the planning stages, in The Ridgefield Press in August, and he contacted Burns.

“He was very, very quick with the turn-around and and very enthusiastic about the project,” Burns said.

Contributors

In addition to Burns and artist Bart Arnold, a major contribution came from retired Scotts Ridge Middle School English teacher Barb Jennes, who did the graphics.

“Barb Jennes was a huge help,” Burns said.

There are photos — ranging from the restored train station, to Main Street’s town clock to the inevitable fountain — laid out among the listings. These were contributed by Lois Brennan, Chris Burke, Jeff Butchen, Debbie Rabinowitz and Michele Williams Photographer, as well as Burns herself.

“I had an embarrassment of riches in great photos of Ridgefield,” Burns said.

Major sponsors — business organizations, town government, businesses, landlords — are recognized with logos on the back: the Chamber of Commerce; Downtown Ridgefield and inRidgefield business’ associations; the Town of Ridgefield and the Economic and Community Development Commission; Addessi Jewelers, Books on the Common, Donnelly Trust, Ridgefield Apartments, Urstadt Biddle Properties and Willett Companies.

The map advises visitors, or potential visitors: “For more information visit: DestinationRidgefield.com, inRidgefield.com, RidgefieldDevelopment.com.”

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