James Farm Road Bridge, Merritt Parkway Fairfield County, Connecticut. Photo: C. Wigren, Connecticut Trust for Historic Preservation, 1990
The Merritt Parkway is of national significance as
an outstanding and largely intact example of the early
twentieth-century parkways created as an outgrowth of the City
Beautiful Movement. It was the first divided-lane, limited-access
road in Connecticut. The Merritt is significant in the history of
transportation because it culminated a generation of experiments in
combining the talents of engineers, landscape architects, and
architects to create parkways that served recreational purposes and
gave aesthetic pleasure while providing safe transportation. In it,
all the best features developed in its predecessors were put
together to create the quintessential parkway. Ironically, just
after the defeat of Germany in World War II, American parkway
ideals that gave priority to recreational motoring (and had been
brought to a widely acknowledged degree of perfection in the
recently completed Merritt) succumbed to a demand for high-speed
travel over highways in which utilitarian priorities were derived
from the German autobahn.
The Merritt Parkway was built to relieve congestion
along the Boston Post Road (U.S. Route 1) in Connecticut. It also
became an important link in a network of parkways and highways
built to carry traffic around New York City. Since it provided a
quick and pleasant way to travel from New York to relatively open
countryside, it encouraged the creation of some of the most
affluent American suburban communities of the mid-twentieth
century, and has become a major artery. The Merritt has attracted
far greater volumes of traffic than its planners predicted. This
has been true since the day the first stretch was opened in
The bridges across the Merritt Parkway are
architecturally significant and are justly celebrated for the
quality and variety of their design. They include excellent
examples of Art Deco and Moderne styles, as well as fine exercises
in historical revival styles representative of American tastes of
the 1930s. They bear witness to the great skill and inventiveness
of their architect, George L. Dunkelberger.
Taken as a whole, Merrit is a significant work of
naturalistic landscape architecture. The planners of the Merritt's
landscape, A. Earl Wood and Weld Thayer Chase, gave priority to
fitting the roadways into their naturalistic surroundings, to
healing the wounds of construction, and to complementing the
bridges. The admiration of thousands of travelers during the past
fifty years is testimony to their success.
Included in project documentation are 13 pages of
text, a reproduction of an article from the New Canaan Historical
Society publication, and 14 photographs with descriptions.
Originally submitted by: Christopher Shays, Representative (4th District).
The Local Legacies project provides a "snapshot" of American Culture as it was expressed in spring of 2000. Consequently, it is not being updated with new or revised information with the exception of "Related Website" links.