Fairfield flashback: Bronson Windmill weathers the winds of change
EDITOR'S NOTE: Fairfield, established in 1639, is one of Connecticut's oldest communities. From its settlement by English colonists on "four squares" of land that Native Americans called Uncoway to the vibrant town of 60,000 residents that it is today, Fairfield's history is a chronicle of compelling events and colorful characters.
The Bronson Windmill at 3015 Bronson Road is the last windmill still standing in Fairfield. There were once many more, providing water for Fairfield's farms and families.
The windmill "is the last in Fairfield of many former majestic windmills which once were a familiar sight on the horizon and an important source of water," according to the Historic Properties Survey conducted by the Fairfield Museum and the town of Fairfield in 1988.
Listed on the National Register of Historic Places, the windmill was built in 1893-94. The Bronson Windmill is 80 feet tall, and its octagonal shape is topped by a wind vane. Inside the windmill there is a water tank and underground cistern.
The windmill was built
by Frederic Bronson on his Verna Farm, thought to be one of the most beautiful Greenfield Hill estates. Bronson's father, also named Frederic, inherited the estate in 1838 from his own father, Isaac Bronson, who bought it from its original owner, Timothy Dwight.
Many improvements were made to the estate through the years by the Bronsons, one of Fairfield's most influential families at the time. The younger Frederic Bronson was one of the men who established the Fairfield Beach Co., opening a private club at the beach, according to historian Thomas Farnham. Bronson also became one of the principals of the Fairfield Beach Improvement Co., which proposed a plan to expand the club's beach area along the shoreline. But that plan was foiled in 1895, when Fairfield residents defeated it at a town meeting, fearing that private ownership would prevent the public from any use of the beach.
Bronson became involved in town matters again in 1893 during a controversial debate about where a new trolley line should be routed. Bronson campaigned for the trolley to travel along the Post Road to Southport to avoid traveling past the houses of wealthy residents on Main Street, now called the Old Post Road. Others, however, wanted the trolley to proceed down Main Street instead. Bronson's side lost, despite extensive campaigning by the more elite citizens of the town.
Bronson's politics may be forgotten, but his windmill still stands. The Bronson estate is now the site of Fairfield Country Day School, which gave the windmill to the town in 1971, according to the Historic Buildings of Connecticut website. The structure was damaged after a storm in 1996, and repaired by the Fairfield Historical Society.
"This windmill is an excellent example of its type and is unique ... in terms of its integrity," the Library of Congress noted in the agency's online database of historic places.
The windmill, which remained in operation into the 1930s, now has a new role. It is leased by Sprint. The telecommunications firm restored the windmill and installed a cellphone tower in its interior.