About Town: 10 famous people

It’s the season of Top 10s. Who would you say are the 10 most famous people to have lived in Ridgefield?

The answer to a question like that is very subjective, difficult to determine and always subject to debate and disagreement. However, here are 10 notable Ridgefielders — all now dead — who were widely known during their lifetimes and, in some cases, became more famous after they died. They are in alphabetical order.

Cass Gilbert (1859-1934) was a world-famous architect who designed the U.S. Supreme Court building, the Woolworth Building (the tallest building in the world from 1913 to 1930), and many other important buildings. He lived in what’s now Keeler Tavern Museum.

Clare Boothe Luce (1903-1987) was a novelist, playwright, screenwriter, U.S. congresswoman, and U.S. ambassador. She and her husband, Time/Life publisher Henry Luce, lived on Great Hill Road in the 1940s, 50s and early 60s.

Eugene O’Neill (1888-1953) was probably America’s greatest playwright; he won a Nobel Prize and four Pulitzers for his work. He had a home on North Salem Road in the 1920s where he wrote “Desire Under the Elms” and several other plays.

Alice Paul (1885-1977) was a leader in the woman suffrage movement and author of the Equal Rights Amendment who had a home for many years on Branchville Road. She is one of the few people, male or female, to be pictured on both a U.S. postage stamp and a U.S. coin. And she’s about to appear on the new $10 bill.

Frederic Remington (1861-1909) was an American artist of the West whose paintings and sculptures today fetch millions of dollars at auctions. He lived on Barry Avenue six months before dying unexpectedly of appendicitis.

Cornelius Ryan (1920-1974) was a historian/journalist whose acclaimed trilogy of World War II  included “The Longest Day,” which was made into a star-studded movie by Darryl F. Zanuck.

Maurice Sendak (1928-2012) was an illustrator and author of children’s books, the most famous of which was “Where the Wild Things Are.” He lived on Chestnut Hill Road for 40 years.

Norman Thomas (1884-1968) was a pacifist ex-minister who ran for president six times on the Socialist Party ticket. He had homes on Limestone Road and West Mountain.

Robert Vaughn (1932-2016) was an Emmy-winning actor who was famous for his role in The Man from UNCLE on television but also made dozens of movies, including The Magnificent Seven and The Young Philadelphians, for which he received an Oscar nomination. He lived on Old West Mountain Road and later on Salem View Drive.

Alden Weir (1852-1919) was an American Impressionist artist whose work is in major museums around the world and whose home on Nod Hill Road is now part of the National Park Service. 

Other candidates for the list included actor/comedian Godfrey Cambridge, children’s book author Richard Scarry, publisher E.P. Dutton, magazine publisher Henry Luce, actor Cyril Ritchard, billionaire businessman Charles Bluhdorn, football star Elmer Q. Oliphant, artist Charles Sheeler, and columnist Westbrook Pegler. — J.S.

(Editor’s Note: This is the last About Town column. The author, Press archivist Jack Sanders, was Press editor from 1968 to 2014. He will continue to make occasional contributions to The Press. For those interested in Ridgefield history, he maintains a Facebook page, Old Ridgefield, which has more than 3,000 followers.)