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The Merritt Parkway - Connecticut's National Historic Road

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Background

Controversy and Scandal

The Merritt Parkway Opens

About this Exhibit

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Opening CeremoniesInvitation to the Opening of the Merritt Parkway - photo image

Although the Connecticut weather forecast for Wednesday, June 29, 1938 suggested cloudy and possibly rainy skies, the day turned out quite nicely, with sunshine and moderate temperatures.

This was good news for the hundreds of spectators who planned to watch the opening ceremonies for the first 17.5 miles of the Merritt Parkway. Members of the Merritt Parkway Commission had planned the ceremonies, which were to begin in Norwalk, and invitations had been sent to those participating in the event.

Amid excitement and anticipation, the Merritt Parkway officially opened at about 2:45 in the afternoon. Governor Wilbur L. Cross, assisted by Norwalk’s mayor, Frank T. Stack, used a pair of golden scissors to cut a white ribbon over a portion of the Parkway. In a speech accompanying the ribbon-cutting ceremony, Cross remarked “This is the beginning of a great parkway system in our State and where it will end no one can predict, but I feel certain that eventually it will cover the entire state.”

Among the hundreds of local, state, and federal officials who attended the opening ceremonies were former Congressman Schuyler Merritt, after whom the Parkway was named, Attorney General Homer S. Cummings, Public Works Commissioner Robert A. Hurley, State Highway Commissioner William J. Cox, and former State Highway Commissioner John A. MacDonald. The US Representative for Fairfield County, Alfred N. Phillips Jr., was greatly insulted that MacDonald had been invited, and in a telegram to Governor Cross, he heatedly declined to attend the event.

After the ceremony in Norwalk, nearly 100 cars lined up to drive onto the Merritt Parkway. Governor Cross, who rode in the first automobile with Schuyler Merritt, Robert A. Hurley, John A. MacDonald, William J. Cox, and Executive Secretary Phillip Hewes, led the procession. Following in separate cars were members of the Governor’s staff, members of the Merritt Parkway Commission, Schuyler Merritt’s family, members of the Fairfield County Planning Association, and numerous local, state, and federal officials. The ribbon-cutting ceremonies were repeated at the town lines of New Canaan, Stamford, Greenwich, and the New York state line, where the party was met by representatives from New York. The following day, an article in the Stamford Advocate applauded the “Simple, Impressive ceremonies,” and announced that the first section of the much anticipated Merritt Parkway was now open!