… and the Suffragettes took the occasion to promote their cause:
THE RIDGEWAY LANDSCAPE – BEFORE WORLD WAR II
“Long before the conception of a shopping center, the land where Ridgeway Center is located was filled with people coming and going…only with different activity. Children played, people picnicked, and at least one day a year, Stamford residents gathered between Summer, Bedford and Sixth Street. The great Ringling Brothers Circus came to town complete with three rings, two stages and dining tents set apart on Summer Street south of Sixth Street.
“The circus wagons were loaded downtown on Jefferson Street and came north on Bedford to enter the future Ridgeway land across from Urban and Chester Streets. In those days, Sixth Street was a private dirt road leading into the property of Joseph Rusticy*, who opened his road and land to the people of Stamford during Circus time. Don Russell, noted for his column in The Advocate and as a morning man for Radio Station WSTC, is the son of Joseph Rusticy and recalls the excitement as the wagons cane lumbering up Bedford Street. They always knew when it was going to happen because three red stakes had been driven into the ground for locating the three rings.
“According to Don, the Circus Parade always started at Ridgeway, went south on Bedford, through downtown and north on Summer. The streets were lined with vendors and people watching the horsedrawn wagons, cages and calliope. There were wild animals, clowns, acrobats, the fat lady, the man on stilts, midgets, trapeze artists, bareback riders, elephants…and everything that intrigued a population without television or much live visual entertainment. Don reminisces about his Boy Scout troup [sic] setting up concessions to fund their activities, and some of the boys getting jobs with the circus, among them Frank Fuller, Lou Jackson, Bruce and Ralph Ward, Frank Schenk, Pat Nilan and others. The last three ring circus rolled into town before World War II began. After the big circus fire in Hartford the big tents became a liability and gradually faded out.
“Ridgeway land was bought by Alphons Bach and the gleam in Mr. Bach's eye about building a shopping place outside downtown began to form. In 1947, Ridgeway Center became the second shopping center to be built in the United States, And Stamford continued to come to Ridgeway for a different kind of activity…midtown shopping.”
Editor's note: the name should read ‘Rustici’
A check back with Don Russell elicited the following: “The circuses, when they came to town, set up their tents where Ridgeway now exists. They also set up the cook tents and eating tents on the west side of Summer Street between Second and Third Streets. The parade route was from the circus lot (as we called it) around the center of town, and when it passed the Old Town Hall, it made its way over to Summer Street, via Broad, and back up to the lot. Even in the ancient days, when the performances were done on the land that is now Scalzi Park, before it was a city park, they followed that route. But after the Ferris family sold what became Woodside Park to the town, the Ferris's rented the lot where Ridgeway is to all circuses. The only connection between Theodore Ferris—who everyone thought was an old curmudgeon—but he wasn't, and who was an old bachelor, and the circuses was purely business. He owned the land and that's where they wanted to be. The Ridgeway location was exactly where it now is: from Sixth Street north to about where the northernmost stores are, and between Summer and Bedford Streets. The circuses rented that land for the one-day performances starting in the mid-twenties.”
All knowledge we have about the parade are our photos, and this brief note in The Daily Advocate of the same day:
|this may be the coach that broke down|
Sells-Floto Circus Train, 1912
Ringling Brothers Train, 1934
Sells-Floto Circus Train, 1936
Photos © Stamford Historical Society