Why 'Florida' in Ridgefield?

Why are there two roads in town named after “Florida”?

Florida  is a mystery among Ridgefield’s old place names. The first mention in land records occurs in an 1827 deed for three acres “at a place called Florida,” and later it became the name of a school district whose schoolhouse was at the corner of Florida and Florida Hill Roads.

In his History of Ridgefield (1927), George L. Rockwell said he’d tried unsuccessfully for 40 years to figure out the name.

However, here are some possibilities:

  • The United States in the early 1800’s was shaped such that the north-to-south distance was greater than the east-to west-distance. So was Ridgefield, even more so then than today; at that time the town extended all the way from Wilton to New Fairfield. Florida District was situated in the southeast corner of Ridgefield (Florida school district originally included Branchville), just as the territory of Florida was in the southeast corner of the U.S. Some imaginative person may have found a name-worthy similarity there.
  • Florida was ceded by the Spanish to the U.S. in 1819. It’s possible someone thought this event significant and named the school district to commemorate it.
  • There is an area in New Canaan called “Michigan,” supposedly because two early New Canaanites moved to that state and later inherited some property in their old Connecticut neighborhood. That land came to be called the “Michigan Lots” and later the whole area around them became simply “Michigan.” Maybe a similar episode happened here.
  •  The word “Florida” is derived from words meaning “flowers,” and can mean “flowered” or “flowery.” An unusual abundance of wildflowers, such as Mountain Laurel, might have prompted someone with knowledge of Spanish to coin this name for the locality.
  • “Florida,” says George R. Stewart in his American Place Names, was “one of the exotics which were favored in the post-Revolutionary period” for place names in Massachusetts and other states. Thus, it may simply have been a “fad” name applied to this area so that it – like Farmingville, Ridgebury, Flat Rock, Scotland etc. – would have an appellation of its own.
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