Greenwich Historical Society celebrates 90 years of service to the Greenwich community at a dinner and dance on October 1 at the Easterly estate on the Greenwich shoreline that will evoke the glamorous Café Society era and legendary El Morocco nightclub.
Special guest and keynote speaker Doris Kearns Goodwin, a Pulitzer-Prize winning author and historian, will address ‘Leadership in Turbulent Times,’ the title of her most recent book which incorporates insights from her five decades of scholarship studying Presidents Abraham Lincoln, Theodore Roosevelt, Franklin Roosevelt and Lyndon Baines Johnson.
“It is an honor and privilege to have one of the world’s foremost historians at our anniversary dinner to address leadership, from the perspectives of presidents who dealt with seemingly insurmountable challenges,” says Greenwich Historical Society Executive Director and CEO Debra Mecky. “The event is among the most important in our history – crucial for continuing the excellence of our programming in our march toward 100 years of service to the community and to tell a fuller story of the town to a broader audience.”
Historic Themes Woven to Mark 90 Years of Service
Grounds of the historic Easterly estate, an architectural masterpiece, will be transformed to resemble El Morocco, once a popular New York nightclub frequented by socialites and movers and shakers in government and business, during the 30s, 40s and 50s – a time of great turmoil with some parallels to today.
The theme ties nicely on several levels with the Historical Society’s anniversary, says Mecky: “El Morocco was founded in 1931, the same year as the Historical Society. While it was most likely a destination for elite Greenwich residents, Greenwich itself was home to more speakeasies and ‘rum holes’ than any other town in Connecticut, according to the Historical Society’s publication Greenwich Before 2000.
“It was also a time when the population of the town was swelling. In 1940, it reached 36,000, from only 12,000 in 1900, and civic philanthropy was on the rise. The splendid new classical Perrot Memorial Library in Old Greenwich was built in 1931 and served as our home before the Historical Society purchased the Bush Holley historic site, home of our expanded museum, library and archives today.”
Greenwich Landmark Will Dazzle with Café Society Touches
Easterly epitomizes the classic Greenwich shorefront estates that began to dot the Long Island Sound at the dawn of the 20th century. Designed in the Beaux Arts style by Charles Alonzo Rich of Lamb & Rich, a preeminent architectural firm, it is one of the few pre-World War ll mansions that has survived as a residence, virtually intact and significant for the rarity of its grand scale and the quality of its design. Active in Greenwich, Rich also designed homes for local philanthropists Nathaniel Witherell and Elizabeth Milbank and for the original Greenwich Library, in addition to buildings at prestigious universities.
Guests at Easterly will be transported to a time beginning in the 1930s, with the repeal of Prohibition, until the decline of Café Society in the 1950s, when rich and famous American and European society, royalty, movie stars and politicians mingled at the El Morocco Club, dining and dancing to the tunes of Cole Porter and Gershwin in a room adorned with the club’s trademark blue zebra-striped banquettes, crescent blue moon and white palm trees.
According to 90th anniversary event chairs Holly Cassin, Barbara MacDonald, Anne Ogilvy and Heather Sargent, Easterly is the ideal venue to capture the period when night clubs reigned and high glamour was de rigueur: “It will be an evening of nostalgia for a time when El Morocco was at the height of chic, and people dressed to the nines and danced to dawn with abandon. Our guests will toast the anniversary with champagne and dance to the tunes of the legendary Bob Hardwick Sound Orchestra, one of the leading bands in the country, whose dazzling artistry and versatile repertoire spans big band, swing and pop/rock. What better way to celebrate the Historical Society’s march to 100!”
The celebration with Doris Kearns Goodwin is the premiere event of this year’s Discover Greenwich celebration commemorating the Historical Society’s 90th anniversary with a series of programs that promote a sense of place, dialogue and meaningful connections across the community. Funds raised from the dinner are instrumental in supporting the Historical Society’s education programs, exhibitions and stewardship of the Bush Holley House.
The 90th Anniversary host committee includes Barbara and Ray Dalio, Isabel and Peter Malkin, Josie Merck Stevenson, Davidde and Ron Strackbein, Debbie and Russ Reynolds, and Hugh B. Vanderbilt, Jr.
Space at the Easterly estate is limited. For more information and to purchase tickets, visit: https://greenwichhistory.org/90th-anniversary/