|MARCH 8, 2008 --
Agriculture played a central role in rural life. In 1867 a group of seven men founded the Order of Patrons of Husbandry, more commonly known as the Grange, intending that the new organization "would bring the farmers of the country together in a fraternity which would bind them as closely as the Masonic fraternity binds its people for the mutual benefit and interests of the men who till the soil." The Grange spread through the country, establishing state, county and local chapters and championing such improvements to rural life and agriculture as rural free delivery, good roads, and community farming.
The Greenfield Hill Grange #133 was established in 1893 in an agricultural area of the town of Fairfield whose primary crop was flax. The group erected a building in 1897 and enlarged it in 1931, enlarging the stage and adding a kitchen and a wraparound porch. These facilities, along with beaded wainscot and pressed-metal sheathing inside, made it one of the most elaborate Grange buildings in New England.
Over the years, the Greenfield Hill Grange became one of Connecticut's largest and most active, and its building witnessed Grange fairs, dinners, and theatrical productions. The organization's fair reached its acme in the 1950s; more than 2,000 attended the 1956 fair, with its competitive exhibits of vegetables, food, flowers, dressmaking and animals.
However, as agriculture dwindled the Grange's populist rural values were less and less in synch with the community's increasingly suburban population. Membership has declined, and now the organization is negotiating to transfer the property to the Greenfield Hill Village Improvement Society - yet another vestige of 19th-century community associationism.