Darien first in the nation

With Memorial Day coming up, the Monuments and Ceremonies Commission has compiled some facts about Darien history to help residents focus on the special day set aside for remembring U.S. soldiers who died while in military service.

According to the commission, Fitch's Home for Soldiers, which was located on Noroton Avenue, for many years served as the first and only home for soldiers in the U.S.

It was built using personal funds by Benjamin Fitch, one year after the battle of Gettysburg.

Facilities for orphans were included as the number of disabled soldiers declined, and room became available for the many children of the veterans.

Due to the influx of children, the home then became the newest and most up-to-date school in town, and the State Legislature incorporated it as Darien's School District Five.

It was a prominent part of Darien for the next half century and served as a home, hospital and refuge for needy veterans of all wars.

Blue-uniformed Civil War veterans were still a presence in town well into the 20th century. The headstones of hundreds of these veterans are visible in the State Veterans' Cemetery across from the Darien Police Station.

Darien also has two Civil War Medal of Honor awardees buried in town. David Scofield is in the Slawson Cemetery and Oscar Peck, awarded the Medal of Honor at 14 years of age, rests in the State Veterans' Cemetery.

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Karl Frederick Lang, a sculptor who was born in Germany and lived in Darien, created the Veterans Memorial Flagpole Monument in the veterans' cemetery.

The monument is an unusual grouping of several soldiers supporting the flagpole. The soldiers represent the Civil War, Spanish American War and World War I.

Lang polished his skills while he worked with Gutzon Borglum for five years at Mount Rushmore, before he created additional sculptural visualization of our veterans in monuments that are now in New Haven and Torrington.

The Lang Veteran Memorial Monument is now commemorating its 75th year, along with the 150th anniversary of the Civil War.

Due to the initiative of theDarien Police Department, led by Chief Duane Lovello, funds were raised to refurbish several areas leading to and surrounding the monument.

Through the efforts of landscape architect Lesley MacAuley Kroll, as well as many volunteers, the town now has a beautifully landscaped site, properly prepared for the re-dedication of the Veteran Memorial Monument on Memorial Day.

Further information on the Fitch Home and Darien's role in the Civil War is available by visiting the exhibit "Darien's Boys In Blue" at the Darien Historical Society. The exhibit was assembled by society historian Ken Reiss.