Presidential Visits Past and Present

The nation's chief executives have stopped in Fairfield County a time or two.

Maybe George Washington didn’t sleep here but like many commuters he did pass through. And that counts for something.

Presidents don’t come to Fairfield County often, but when they do it gets woven into the record. But there have been a few, from President George H.W. Bush’s birth to President Bill Clinton’s stop in Stamford. So as the nation marks its 40th official Presidents’ Day, Patch takes a look at past presidential visits.

The first president to visit the region was none other than the Father of our Country — George Washington. Washington visited a mill in Stratford on Oct. 17, 1789. At the time, Trumbull was part of Stratford, said Trumbull historian Tom Pieragostini.

"At Stratford they are establishing a manufactory of Duck, and have lately turned out about 400 bolts,” Washington wrote in his journal.

“I believe George Washington was referring to a visit he made to one of the mills that were located on the Pequonnock River in present-day Trumbull,” Pieragostini said. “Duck or canvas, was an extremely important product and was used for sails and shelters. George Washington made the trip, in my opinion, to see in what capacity the young country could manufacture military goods.”

 A couple other Georges also spent considerable time in the county.

George H.W. Bush, the 41st President and son of Connecticut Senator Prescott Bush, spent his childhood in Greenwich. A stone marks the spot. Bush also matriculated at Yale University in New Haven.

 And though George W. Bush grew up in Texas, he too attended Yale University.

In 2004, Bush, now the 43rd president attended a fundraiser at the Greenwich Hyatt Regency. There he worked the room to raise money for the Connecticut Republican Party.

Though he wasn’t president yet, one of the nation’s most famous Republicans had a most brief interlude in the state before becoming president.

On Sept. 11, 1848, then congressman Abraham Lincoln reportedly landed at Norwich after traveling via steam ship from New York City. He was en route to attend a rally in Massachusetts for presidential candidate Zachary Taylor. He returned to Connecticut in 1859.

Then came General Ulysses S. Grant.

According to a 1909 article in the New York Herald, Grant stayed briefly in Stamford.

In a piece titled, "General Grant as I knew Him," Ferdinand Ward wrote:

“One time when I was expecting a party of my friends at my country home in Stamford, Conn., General Grant came up early in the afternoon. We were to have a quiet little game of poker, of which the General was inordinately fond, in the evening, and he came early that we might take a drive behind a fast team. One of the horses, by the way, was one of a $10,000 team, which had been presented to the General by Mr. Murphy.”

Perhaps one of the most spontaneous moments occurred on Aug. 18, 1936, according to the Ridgefield Historical Society. Driving down Wilton Road West, Francis J. Bassett stopped for a car parked near the middle of the road.

 “Will you get over?” Basset asked the driver, according to the Ridgefield Historical Society. Upon a closer look he realized the driver’s identity.

 “Oh, please excuse me, Mrs. Roosevelt,” Mr. Bassett exclaimed. “That’s all right, young man,” replied Eleanor Roosevelt, wife of the president, according to the society.

Richard Nixon visited Stamford Oct. 12, 1970 to dedicate the Italian Center.

It wasn’t the only presidential visit to the Stamford Italian Center. In 1980 Ronald Reagan visited the center during his campaign.

Stamford also hosted President Bill Clinton in May 1996 when he attended a Connecticut Democrats fundraiser at the Stamford Marriott. Clinton also spoke at the Rich Forum.

In 2009, President Barack Obama met with Bruce T. Moore, Sr., of Eastern Land Management, Inc. in Stamford before attending a fundraiser for U.S. Sen. Christopher Dodd.

And then last fall, while the nation was embroiled in a heated mid-term election, Obama twice visited The Nutmeg State. He went to Stamford and Greenwich in September and then just days before the Nov. 2 election he addressed a crowd in Bridgeport.


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