The division of the town in 1922, separating Orange from West Haven, proved to be the culmination of events long underway. As early as 1848, residents considered the division, citing that West Haven was a city and Orange was a farming town. West Haven grew rapidly after the Civil War and the division of urban and rural was very apparent. With this effort, Orange would maintain its simple, frugal government while West Haven wanted modern amenities and improvements with higher taxes obviously.
In 1873, the legislature established the borough of West Haven, sometimes referred to as the Parish, within the Town of Orange, with a separate government, taxed separately. These tax books can be seen at the OHS Research Center. In 1903, a special town meeting gathered to consider the question of dividing the two, but a negative report was filed and the referendum was defeated by both districts. The question arose again in 1910 with the General Assembly passing a tentative charter creating the city of Orange, but this too was defeated.
By 1914 a special town meeting considered whether to create a separate town of the Orange Center School District which had been established in 1909, but West Haven opposed this idea. Finally in 1921, a Special Act of the legislature divided Orange and West Haven, geographically reducing the Town of Orange. Construction of new or improved transportation systems and the rapid growth of nearby urban centers led to a growing trend towards suburbanization in Orange, a movement that would eventually remake the town in the post World War II era.
One of the most celebrated real estate efforts was carried out on Clark land with the Healy-O’Sullivan-Shaughnessy enclave with the partnership of William Healy, a Derby attorney, William Shaughnessy, a contractor from Bridgeport, and Patrick O’Sullivan an attorney and politician. In 1922, the three men purchased a substantial plot of land at the southwest corner of Orange Center Road and Derby Turnpike from Dwight Clark, known as Clark’s Corner. In the next three years they erected three imposing, suburban residences set well back from Orange Center Road.
William Healey’s home at 940 Orange Center, 942 Patrick O’Sullivan’s home and William Shaughnessy’s at 952 made up a neighborhood and Dwight Clark built his home at 946 in 1930. It was to be exclusive with rules for incoming neighbors, the houses being of a certain structure with a cost of $18,000. In addition there was to be no illegal or immoral activities. I wonder how they kept track of that.
The end of World War II with the addition of important transportation projects unleashed an explosion for the demand of housing. New suburban subdivisions were filled with modest Cape Cods, Colonials and Ranch houses that sprouted like wildflowers in the fields and woods of Orange. The neighborhoods that showed a slow progress in the 1920s and 30s experienced additional growth on the remaining, unsold lots.
Racebrook Estates was one of the earliest, large suburban subdivisions laid out in the 20th century occupying a piece of land just north of Route 34, along the Trolley route from New Haven and Derby. The earliest map of this area was in 1916. There are about 24 houses dating from that period. This endeavor was the work of J.W. Holloway of New York City with an initial intent to appeal to buyers of moderate means with certain restrictions. The following were in place for these homes: minimum construction budget of $1500, design and construction approved by the developer, at least two lots per dwelling, no flat roofs, no fences except ornamental iron fences were permitted. The roads in this area are Alling, College, Hadley, Ohman, Sheffield, Taft, and Woodruff.
The A.D. Clark subdivision encompasses the Buttonball Road area dating back to 1934 continuing until 1950 with Clark being the developer of this attractive collection of homes including those on Old Hickory and Orchard Road. The homes in this subdivision are capes, colonials and ranches.
Colonial Acres was mapped out in 1951 encompassing Center Road Circle, Racebrook Terrace and Pine Crest Road, with capes, a few colonials and a distinctive English Tudor design.
Harry B. Cook is a well-known builder, considered to be one of the finer construction companies in Orange’s history. His parcels consisted of lands at Chestnut Ridge in the northeastern part of town with buildings built between the 1930s and 1950s. These homes appear to be mostly ranch style and two colonials.
Fairlea Farms was the largest dairy farm in Orange for the first half of the 20th century. Printing executive, Wilson H. Lee from New Haven purchased the Nettleton Farm with the intention of having a place to live in the suburbs. This parcel spread across 600 acres including Orange Center, Old Tavern, Post Road and Peck Lane areas. Mr. Lee putting himself in the real estate business subdivided the acreage which now includes, Fairlea Road, Arnold Lane, Drummond Road, Wilson Road, Lincoln Road, Demarest Drive (named for his son-in-law), Knight Lane, Sarah Circle and others. These areas were available after the farm had run its course as a viable dairy farm.
Fairview Acres is yet another Harry Cook & Son development with the area being mapped out in the 1940s. This area encompasses Great Oak, Juniper, Lakeview, and part of South Indian Hill Road.
Green Hill Acres was registered to Bernard Lohne in 1948 on property north of Route 34 and east of Orange Center Road. Green Hill and Walnut hill comprised the subdivision.
Hitchcock Court is about the smallest of the subdivisions named for the farm in the area. Located off Orange Center Road, this little street was registered in 1949 by the Harold Humphrey’s Company.
Indian Hill Estates is true to its name with substantial construction in an area north of Route 34. A few homes were built as early at 1909. Harry Cook was the driving force behind much of the real estate activity there. Situated in the northeastern part of Orange, near the Maltby Lakes, on the border of West Haven, the hill is well named for its connection to the natives that lived in that area namely Aunt Icy, a Schaghticoke Native American. She was born in 1800 and died in 1902 having lived in the area for most of her lifetime. The trolley route from New Haven to Derby passed along the southern edge of the site with Beechwood, Hillcrest, Indian Hill and Shagbark being significant roads in this vast area.
Paramount Park has an interesting name making the 90-acre farm from Donato Viggiano into 500 building lots north of the Boston Post Road. Bounded on the west by Racebrook Road, these homes were initially capes and cottages boasting Lindy Street, Sybil Street, Norman Street, Neenan Road, Smith Farm Road and Whitewood Road. These lots were modest in size with a 40’ street frontage.
Tyler City, last but not least, because this subdivision was destined to be a town within the Town of Orange. Envisioned by two entrepreneurs, Samuel Halliwell and Philander Ferry set out to make a new metropolis running along the newly built New Haven and Derby Railroad in 1871. The railroad ran by the two shops in New Haven owned by the pair and they often rode the rails marveling at the area that could be developed and so it was. Two thousand lots were set out, each 50’ x 150’ which was once the Bradley farm and part of the Russell farm as well. To say that it was a boondoggle is probably the kindest we can say because the only thing that came out of Tyler City was the name of the streets. Named for railroad big wigs, we have Marble, Quintard, Halliwell, Ferry, Bradley Road which is now Racebrook Road and Russell Ave. Four roads that never were continued are Atwater, Butler, Sperry and Harrison.
Can you find your neighborhood?