Keeler Notes: Back to the future

He was America’s leading sculptor. They were titans of commerce. She survived the sinking of the Lusitania.

As this year’s Cannonball Gala returns to the Cass Gilbert Garden House, guests may feel the presence of these unseen companions from the Gilded Age.

Before it became the Gilberts’ summer retreat, Keeler Tavern had been a family home, stagecoach stop, inn, and post office. Around 1915, the architect added a Southern-style, brick-walled garden and picturesque garden house, where he and wife Julia were hosts for countless celebrations.

It might take the form with an evening of 100 glittering guests entertained with music from piano or harp. Or a reception for every Ridgefield soldier and his family as doughboys left to fight World War I. During the Roaring 20’s, guests might sample liquor from the 600 bottles that Cass had prudently put aside before Prohibition. Recent years have brought countless wedding parties, with couples joined in a memorable setting.

Guests at the Sept. 16 gala may be especially struck by the spectacular garden, or the European-style architecture of the party pavilion itself. Perhaps they will even sense the spirits of party-goers who have preceded them. In any case, they will add to a legacy of garden house celebrations that now extends for more than 100 years. For gala ticket information and details visit