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Riegel-Emory family papers

MS024 (RS31636)

Description

The Riegel-Emory Family papers contain architectural drawings, manuscript materials, and ephemera related to the history of Riegel Point, the family estate in Fairfield, Connecticut, and the two families who made it their home.

Source: Hopkins, Geri and Lauren Miller. Riegel Family Photograph Collection finding aid.

Details

Collection Name
Riegel-Emory family papers
Collection Code
MS024
Collection Type
Manuscripts
Description Level
Collection
GUSN
187812
Reference Code
MS024

Historical/Biographical Note

Benjamin Riegel (1878-1941) was born in Riegelsville, New Jersey, son of Benjamin and Harriet (DeWitt) Riegel. He graduated from Riegel Academy in 1894 and went to Lehigh University to study mechanical engineering. He graduated in 1899, and went into the family business, the Riegel Paper Corporation, established by his father. He married Leila Edmonston, of Washington, D. C., in 1901, and moved to Manhattan. In 1906 he created Riegel Textile through investments in a Ware Shoals, South Carolina, cotton mill, and, being a hands-on businessman, lived part of the year in Ware Shoals, where he built a model town for his employees. In 1911, when their daughter Katherine was born, the proud parents built a community center and named it Katherine Hall.

It was most likely Benjamin Riegel's business acquaintances, like C. B. Sturges of Kenzie's Point East, and other businessmen, who suggested Fairfield as a location for a country estate. Many were already involved in plans to develop Sasco Hill as an upscale area or Fairfield starting with a golf club. Riegel did indeed become one of the founders of the Fairfield Country Club, and its first secretary.

Benjamin Riegel, besides being a businessman, was also an amateur photographer, and most, if not all, of the historic black and white photographs were created by him before his death in 1941.

Source: Hopkins, Geri and Lauren Miller. Riegel Family Photograph Collection finding aid.

Record details

Originator
Riegel, Benjamin, 1878-1941 (Photographer)
Material Type
manuscripts (document genre)
Places
Fairfield (Fairfield county, Connecticut)

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Comments

"families who made it their home" #

AvatarPosted by Benjamin David Steele on October 30, 2016
There were actually more than "two families that made it their home."

My great grandfather, Charles Salvester Steele, was the estate superintendent and head gardener for around 40 years, the last half of his life. It was more of a home to him than any other place he had ever lived. He probably spent more time on that estate than almost anyone, other than maybe Katherine Riegel Emory who was fond of the place into her old age.

He lived on the estate with his wife and son, my grandfather. They first resided on the top level of the old barn and later shared the original house near the road with the Butler and his wife. My grandfather grew up on the estate and played with Katherine as a child. As an adult, Mr. Riegel gave him a management position down at the Trion mill.

My father and his siblings used to visit the estate as children, back in the late 1940s and into the 1950s. Shortly before my great grandfather's death in 1958, he was made to leave the estate. My father was able to visit the estate one last time a while back when Katherine was still alive. She remembered him and that the families that lived there used to refer to it as "The Place".

By the way, according to my father, my great grandfather was present when Benjamin DeWitt Riegel died. His iron lung required electricity. During a storm, the power was knocked out. They sent for my great grandfather who tried to hook the machine to a car engine, but it was too late as Mr. Riegel had already suffocated to death.

My point is that the estate was a home to many people. It wasn't just an estate. Some of the help also lived there for decades. It originally had been a gentleman's farm and a small farm was maintained there while my family lived there. They grew their own food that was used to feed everyone who lived on the estate. My father recalls his grandmother retrieving the eggs from the chicken coops every morning. I might add that, like Mr. Riegel, my great grandmother also died on the estate.

The help probably knew more about that estate than did most members of the Reigel and Emory families. There is knowledge and stories that you won't find in any official records about the estate or the families that owned it.