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Urban Archeologist: Casting Call for Icy Part

Greg finds some Hollywood history with a local connection.

It was a cold day in 1973 when a storm surprised the town of New Canaan, CT. It actually may not have been that cold, at first. However, by the next day the town was an impassable ice and snow covered mess and the property loss would total $15 million or more.  What has this got to do with Urban Archeology?

My itinerary a few weeks ago took me through Ridgefield to New Canaan. There were several estate sales on this path and though I often find the term “estate sale” to be loosely defined, if five are listed then one will hopefully be good.

One sale turned out to be worth the effort, although we got there too late to enjoy a wider selection, it was still fun to explore. This was a large home built possibly in the 1950s and every hallway contained more rooms than we expected, though it was not a mansion.

The only standout item was an old train set that I couldn’t see haggling down from the $500 price tag when all I wanted was the accompanying catalog from 1952 (darn). Feeling like we would have to move on to the next sale I took a last look on the dining room table. Among the glassware and crystal vases was another kind of crystal wrapped in a cellophane bag. The handwriting on the bag said “ice storm.” (See image) I had a hunch about this.

I had seen “The Ice Storm,” a well-acted, well-written, heavy drama from 1997 starring Kevin Kline and Sigourney Weaver. Directed by Ang Lee, it is a period piece surrounding the lives of two Connecticut families, and was shot on location in New Canaan. The storm itself plays a pivotal role in the final scenes. The New Canaan railroad station is made to look as though it has been coated in a sheet of thick ice as a main character arrives from New York.

The owner of the home must have visited the set after the production wrapped and collected some of the faux icicles created by the special FX team. I have seen production companies take over towns (or parts of them) and it is common for residents to want a memento. A note with the icicles explains where they came from. Though they feel like rubber, they look as cold as they were designed.  

The novel, written by Rick Moody, was set in the period when the original storm took place while he was growing up in Connecticut. Forty years later that storm becomes a chapter in my perpetual hunt for old odd and forgotten pieces of days past.

Speaking of Hollywood, what would you do if you wanted to read about Olivia De Havilland and the latest scanty panty scandal? You’d take a Quick look!

Greg Van Antwerp is a Brookfield resident and blogger, who can be found on the weekends in search of a good “dig” or a good story.  You can read more about his adventures by visiting his blog.

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