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The rural Connecticut town of his boyhood that would haunt Charles Ives’s memories and musical vision was not a romantic invention; it really did exist. But by the 1870s it existed alongside a grittier and unsettling place, one that would be the shadowy counterpoint to the yearning nostalgia he carried with him throughout his life. The two Danburys are plainly visible in a “bird’s-eye view” print of the town made in 1875, the year after Charles Ives was born (figure 2.1). There is the idyllic New England farm village, elms arching over quiet streets lined with tidy white-clapboard houses, the Congregational meetinghouse in the center of town with its high steeple towering over all, the fine new red-brick schoolhouse the next street over, and, just a few blocks beyond, the fields and orchards stretching off toward the winding sylvan paths of Wooster Cemetery, where the Civil War dead lay buried; the unspoiled rolling hills beyond seem to stretch forever out to the horizon. The house at 210 Main Street where Ives was born, a Dutch colonial dating back to 1790, is there in the print, right next to the Congregational church, with a barn out back and a long yard leading up the hill behind. A photograph of the Ives homestead from around this time captures a bucolic scene that could have been taken at one of those reconstructed, tourist-pleasing fantasies of life in simpler times like Colonial Williamsburg or Sturbridge Village: two magnificent elms form a vaulted frame over a shady front lawn and walk that lead from the street up to the home’s vine-covered doorway. Closer to the road, another echo of the colonial village where work and home were never far apart, is the tiny one-room office—it actually looks like little more than a garden tool shed—that chapter 2 Down East Yankee Town Budiansky - Mad Music.indb 17 1/23/2014 5:13:37 PM Budiansky - Mad Music.indb 18 1/23/2014 5:13:37 PM Library of Congress Budiansky - Mad Music.indb 19 1/23/2014 5:13:38 PM 20 • mad music served as the first building of the Danbury Savings Bank, founded by Ives’s grandfather. This was the Danbury filled with music and innocence that Ives always remembered: a place populated with Yankee Protestant yeomen who met one another as equals at town meeting and on the street, a place of circus parades and camp meetings, a place where rough-hewn farmers sang the hymns in church off key but from the heart; where his father’s brass band led the march to the cemetery each year to honor the war dead, playing the one dirgelike tune it could come up with for the occasion; where the fiddlers at the barn dances swigged from the hard cider barrel all evening but were never really the worse for it; where horses regularly ran away on Main Street and brought excitement but never mayhem; where the crowds around the baseball sandlot shouted to kill the umpire but never came to blows; where even the burned shins and fingers blown off each Fourth of July somehow seemed to be just part of the innocent high spirits of the national holiday, celebrated on summer days that filled a boy’s mind with anticipation the whole year through. The other Danbury is there, too: a rising industrial city whose grim mill buildings were clustered along the winding arc of the tiny Still River, belching smoke and emptying streams of waste filled with the mercury and chemical dyes of the hatting industry into a noisome creek already reeking from the town’s untreated sewage; the short commercial stretch of White Street that was said to contain two dozen saloons and the most notorious pool sharks in the state; the new Catholic church at the other end of Main Street, built to serve the growing Irish and Italian immigrant populations; the sprawling and ill-planned railroad depot that slashed through the north end of town, not coincidentally benefiting the cannier of the town’s business leaders, Ives’s grandfather George W. Ives among them, who owned property there. This was a Danbury of growing social and moral dislocation, which would see bitter strikes by the hatters’ figure 2.1 (previous pages) • The Danbury of Charles Ives’s boyhood: (a) the Ives homestead on Main Street; (b) the First Congregational Church; (c) the second building of the Ives...


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