This article based on information from the Greenwich Library Oral History “Twenty-Five Years at the Eastern Greenwich Civic Center.” The history is based on an interview with Charles Henninger on February 9, 1992. Mr. Menninger became the first director of the Greenwich Civic Center (now referred to as the Eastern Greenwich Civic Center) in 1967.
What is now the Eastern Greenwich Civic Center was opened in 1950 by the Electrolux Corporation for employees’ recreation.
However, employees preferred to go home after work instead of staying and using the building, leaving the building largely unused.
When the town questioned what to do with the building, some citizens of the town made their thoughts of the building known.
After vigorous townwide discussion, the acquisition of the Civic Center, plus 20 acres of land from the Electrolux Corporation was approved by the RTM in 1966. A subsequent referendum failed to reverse the action.
The sale price was $432,000.
At the time, some residents described the building as a white elephant and predicted no one would ever use it.
In the early days when Charles Henninger was the director of the Civic Center, there were many youth-oriented events, including teen programs at night, and dances every other weekend. The maximum capacity for the dances was 1,000.
These dances had bands that were popular at the time like Strawberry Alarm Clock or Mothers of Invention. This created a problem because the dances eventually drew kids from other areas like Bridgeport and New York City, creating a problematic situation for Henninger and ultimately the dances to be stopped.
The outside area has been used for many town sports leagues and picnics. Henninger mentions in the oral history that the 20 acres were used often, and that still holds true today.
In response to a statement that the Civic Center was here to stay Henninger said, “We don’t give anybody problems. We’re busy most of the time.”
That statement held true. Though there is hope among many in Greenwich that the Civic Center will be rebuilt. Certainly, prediction that the former Electrolux facility wouldn’t be used was misguided.