In and around and beneath Fairfield Hills.

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Fairfield Building

Like Charles Dickens’s Court of Chancery in “Bleak House,” there are some places haunted by a taint of corruption, death and mystery so strong it reeks, no matter how much they’re sprayed with Lysol and presented to the public as prime real estate.

A figurative fog surrounds them, obscuring what might be going on within, above, and, in the worst case scenario, beneath.

Newtown, Connecticut’s Fairfield Hills is one of these. Obviously, “beneath” in the foregoing sentence refers to the tunnels of which, by now, nearly everyone is aware, unless you’ve been living in a bunker yourself for the past decade.

Opened in 1931 as a psychiatric facility and shut down in 1995, Fairfield Hills had more than 60 years to accumulate its ghost stories, weird coincidences and creaky reputation that no amount of public relations oiling has been able to silence.

At least one recent untimely and mysterious death is associated with Fairfield Hills; that of Matthew Hunt. Hunt died at the age of 18 on February 4, 2004, the same year Newtown bought the complex  from the state of Connecticut. He died ostensibly in his sleep for no apparent cause, during a time when he and his girlfriend, Sable Stevens, were working on a photo-journalistic web project. The subject was Fairfield Hills, of course. You can read more about Matthew’s work and his sad demise here.

It’s not the purpose of this post to chase down and vet every bit of Fairfield Hills lore. Other bloggers,  photo-journalists, videographers,  college students and web sites  (and Wikipedia) have already done a splendid job of that. There’s even an official site, with a sales mission, it seems.

The ghost hunters and film makers have taken their lucrative whack at the facility. And, fascinating though it is, Fairfield Hills’s association with Barack Obama’s social security number has already been plumbed and brilliantly exposed by “Barry Soetoro” via Memory Hole Blog here.  And by Dr. Eowyn’s peerlessly fastidious examination here. No need to scour an already shiny pot.

This post is about areas on or near or beneath the Fairfield grounds that could do with a bit of ventilation.

We may as well begin with the tunnels.

The tunnels. They were reportedly sealed by the Town of Newtown in 2009, the same year that certain residents of Newtown were receiving free homes  – a coincidence, perhaps, but an interesting one. During Fairfield Hills’s heyday, the tunnels were used to transport equipment, live patients (and corpses), especially during the harsh winter months, but after the facility closed, the tunnels  became the target of vandals and curiosity seekers. Newtown posted guards around the facility to keep them out. Failing that, it must have seemed easier just to ‘seal the tomb,’ as it were.

The other reason to seal the tunnels is because they were needed for utility lines, according to this old report by NBC.

So is it possible to determine where the tunnels once coursed (or still do, depending on whom you believe)? Testimony from those in the know would be preferable, but Cinderella isn’t anxious to follow in Matthew Hunt’s footsteps. We decided to see if we could find telltale signs of tunnels using a method by another tunnel investigator: “Ben Redacted.”

You can find Ben’s website here, which explores the extraordinary tunnels beneath Denton, Texas. You can see from his name that he’s anxious to obscure his identity, and he has copyrighted his site, so I won’t copy his prolific imagery here; rather, I will direct my dear readers to his links. [Update: Since this post was released, many of the links have been broken.]

Ben begins by telling us there was a huge, multi-tier military installation “beneath the surface of the Denton countryside”:

“This top-secret, three-story military complex has six hundred acres underground, miles of tunnels and hundreds of air shafts. Throughout the county, a network of regularly-spaced and heavily-filtered air shafts once connected the secret underground to the surface above. They drew fresh air in and pushed foul air out.”

Then in the 1960s, the ventilation system for Denton’s tunnels was dismantled: “The fans, the motors and the buildings that housed them were all hauled away,” writes Ben.  And the air shaft openings were sealed and covered up. Very much like what happened at Fairfield Hills.

Ben’s website is essentially an exposure project. He has found the former openings and mapped them in free-hand sketches that Cinderella finds charming. (Hardly anyone does anything free-hand anymore.)

What he found is that the former shafts are marked by cement slabs sometimes disguised by plantings; oftentimes, not. Sometimes, the slabs stand in the way of a perfectly straight road that’s diverted awkwardly around them. Scroll down Ben’s main page here to see the pattern of cement bread crumbs that he has revealed. You can click on each of his maps for a better view.

One example of a disguised slab can be found at this link. Three trees surround a slab, as you can see from Ben’s little drawing, between Bowling Green and Auburn Street in Denton, TX.  And, as Ben tells us, the site has been further disguised with a swing set, picnic table and jungle gym. Anxious to compare it with an actual aerial view, Cinderella found the site on Google maps. Here  it is:

Auburn Street & Bowling Green, Denton, TX{Imagery 2016 © DigitalGlobe, Texas Orthoimagery Program, U.S. Geological Survey,  Map Data © 2016  Google }

You can see that the trees have grown quite a bit since Ben first discovered the slab they shade, and the playground provides good cover for it.

So, are there equivalent slabs at Fairfield Hills? Or, at least, oddly placed topological features? Well, here is one possibility:

Primrose Street Slab{Imagery 2016 © DigitalGlobe, Map Data © 2016  Google }

See the oddly placed rectangle marked by my red arrow? It appears to overlay a large island in the parking lot between 3 Primrose Street and 4 Primrose Street in Fairfield Hills.  The respective addresses are for:

  • Newtown’s municipal government (including the Board of Education), which is housed in the renovated former “Bridgeport House,” open since 2009 (that year again);  and
  • Newtown Youth Academy, a huge sports complex open since Nov. 2008, which you can read more about here.

3 Primrose Lane    Newtown Youth Academy

[Above, l-r: Entrance to Newtown’s town hall at 3 Primrose Street; A small portion of the sprawling Newtown Youth Academy at 4 Primrose Street]

What is this long, rectangular structure doing there? Why is it placed between the only two large Fairfield Hills structures that are actually being used on the campus? There may be a perfectly reasonable explanation, of course, but Cinderella hasn’t found one so far. One can only speculate as to whether this structure overlays a tunnel and, if so, whether it’s still being used. And, if it is being used, what for?

We may ask these questions in vain at this point. But this little virtual exploration of the tunnels hasn’t been entirely in vain. It’s caused our flashlight to veer in the direction of a pivotal year in Newtown history: 2009. That’s the year when:

  • Newtown’s town hall was moved to Fairfield Hills, right across from the already existing and oddly named Newtown Youth Academy
  • The Fairfield Hills tunnels were reportedly sealed
  • Free homes were distributed to various parties associated with the 12-14-12 Sandy Hook event;  AND
  • Peter and Nancy Lanza reportedly agreed to divorce, with their #36 Yogananda Street home in Newtown (since demolished) quit-claimed to Nancy

Interesting. Let’s dig our way out of the tunnels now to take a look at another prime Fairfield Hills real estate item.

The Emergency Operations Center (EOC). There’s one in the Fairfield Hills complex, (aka the William T. Halstead Sr. Building) and it’s directly connected to the Sandy Hook event of 12-14-12 as well as to one Sandy Hook “star hero.” For a complete rundown and a charming photo of the shoebox-like little facility, go here.

From the above link we learn the following:

  • “This [sic] purpose of this center is to provide a location where department and agency heads can meet to manage large scale emergencies from a central location.”
  • The center was fashioned from an existing building on the Fairfield Hills complex during 2011 ~ in ample time to be used for a certain event that occurred the following year. The state of Connecticut, which means taxpayers all over the nutmeg state, paid for it.
  • The center is equipped with everything a public official (FEMA? Homeland Security?) could possibly need to monitor an emergency and/or direct a drill; for instance, videoconferencing equipment, display boards, computers and Newtown’s back-up 911 dispatch center, just in case the one at the police station were ever to meet with misfortune.
  • The building is named after Bill Halstead, who has several interesting titles, including: Fire Chief of the Sandy Hook Fire & Rescue Company on Riverside Drive in Newtown; Emergency Management Director and Fire Chief; AND, since 2012, Faculty Member  of the not-so-illustrious University of Phoenix. He’s also the spouse of Newtown’s Town Clerk, the not-to-be-budged Debbie Aurelia, who made headlines when she refused to allow journalists access to public information (death certificates) following the 12-14-12 event – for a solid six months.

One question that the link on the EOC doesn’t answer is exactly where it’s located at Fairfield Hills. And despite many attempts to pry that information loose from the Newtown Assessor’s Office website, Cinderella wasn’t able to locate it. Why the big secret? We are told on the link that there is another EOC at Sandy Hook’s fire station. No mystery there. Why should the Halstead EOC have an undisclosed address?

We can be certain that those in charge of the 12-14-12 event knew exactly where it was: they ostensibly used it as a second outpost during the reported chaos of the day. See the script  here at 11:40:47.

In sum, the post-9-11 government is embedded in Fairfield Hills – with an address-less FEMA/Homeland Security outpost that may just as well be hiding out in one of its tunnels.

A military presence, too. You have only to drive through the Fairfield Hills campus once to understand why it holds such appeal for the military. It has zero charm, blank brick edifices, expanses of close-cropped lawn and that mean, impenetrable look. And, in fact, the military has flirted and communed with Fairfield on multiple occasions.

As recently as November 2008, the Newtown Bee  reported that a military department known as BRAC was eyeing the campus for use as an Army Reserve Training Center, then estimated to occupy 13 to 18 acres of the site if ventured. (Of note: This was the exact month and year that the oddly named Newtown Youth Academy (NYA) was opened. But, as we all know, NYA is just a sports facility, not a military outpost or training center.)

What is BRAC? It stands for “Base Closure and Realignment Commission,” established in 2005. (See this page  for details.) Why would BRAC have anything to do with establishing a military training center at Fairfield Hills? Exactly which “base” was it planning to close and realign in 2008? Unfortunately, the Bee article (available now only on the Wayback Machine) is truncated, so we might never find out. But remember that acronym “BRAC.” We will return to it later.

Well before 2008, of course, there was a military presence at Fairfield Hills. It’s  been the site of the Newtown Horse Guard (2nd Company) at 4 Wildlife Drive, since 1988, when it was moved there from Bethany.  The barn accommodations in Newtown were refurbished in 2000. The horse guard is largely symbolic and ceremonial, a holdover from the Revolutionary War, harkening back to a time when government officials were escorted by guards on horseback, but it’s still taken quite seriously by Connecticut’s military establishment. See the flap  resulting from a proposed budget cut to the horse guard by Dannel Malloy last year (2015). That cut didn’t happen.

Alongside the horse guard, the Army National Guard had a presence at Fairfield Hills, too, so we are told.

Sir Crooked & the Gang. Now let’s go back to 2002. In Connecticut, Governor Rowland the Crooked and the Waterbury Gang were still in office, which you may or may not remember. It was the best of times for them and a bad time for the rest of us (which you can read about here) – but the worst of times is, of course, right now, under Dannel P. Malloy.

Let’s look at what happened when one of Rowland’s Waterbury appointees, Maj. General William A. Cugno, fell in love with Fairfield Hills – and an inappropriate female person.

He planned to expand the National Guard’s presence at Fairfield Hills with “a military canine unit, new training and administrative facilities and a recruiting center.” (See the NY Times article here and the Newtown Bee article here.) This was just after 9-11, remember, and Cugno’s plans for the dog unit (situated in a dilapidated piggery that former Fairfield psychiatric patients once kept) was in response to that event. He wanted dogs trained to “detect explosives and drugs and perform search-and-rescue operations,” as quoted in the NY Times.  And he had $2MM in federal funding to throw into his plans.

One matter of potential controversy was the armory he planned to install at the foot of Trades Lane, near where Fairfield Hills bumps up against the up-and-coming (in 2003) Reed Intermediate School. Cugno insisted that the armory would be used to prepare guardsmen to respond to chemical or biological attacks, but that no chemicals would be stored there. And everyone quoted in the NY Times article (including Newtown’s Board of Ed Chair and First Selectman at the time) were hunky-dory with it, praising Cugno to the hilt and saying that a military presence near a public school was a real asset.

But, like canned tuna,  human glory has an expiration date. Cugno would retire in ignominy just a few years later, in 2005, after he was found guilty of an extra-marital affair with a subordinate and the favoritism this fostered – a rule-breaker in the military and death to a career. All this,  in the wake of the Rowland administration’s disgrace. Cugno died for real – only six years later – in 2011. It has all the pathos of a Verdi opera – a man with a successful military career brought low by temptation. Was there more to it? Probably. And we’ll likely never know what it was.

Despite Cugno’s robust pre-disgrace plans, his idea of building an armory at Fairfield Hills suddenly ran afoul in 2004 even as the conversion of the piggery into a canine unit was proceeding apace. According to a Dec. 3, 2004 article  in The Newtown Bee:

“CNG [Connecticut National Guard] had been considering refitting the facility to house a “chemical decontamination unit,” where soldiers would receive training in chemical, biological, and radiological warfare, keyed to antiterrorism. Alternately, a military police unit or an engineering unit might have been housed there.

“That site though would not have provided suitable facilities for such an operation, so such plans have been dropped, Lt Col Lukowski said.”

(Lt Col Lukowski was the CNG’s construction and facilities management officer, the same article tells us.)

The facility in question – rejected as unsuitable in 2004 – was a state-owned building across the street from Reed Intermediate School, presumably the same one that Cugno had set his sights on in 2002.

Where is that dang armory? Now comes the real confusion – reported once again in our favorite local rag, The Newtown Bee, in an article dated May 25, 2005.

It seems that around this time,  the newly founded BRAC (remember that? – the Base Closure and Realignment Commission) was recommending to the federal government that “an Armed Forces Reserve Center be created in Newtown.”  In fact BRAC advocated for relocating the reserve centers in neighboring towns to the Newtown site.

But the BRAC document, according to The Bee, said that the move should be contingent on whether “the Army is able to acquire land suitable for the construction of the facilities adjacent to the existing Connecticut Army National Guard Armory in Newtown.”  [My italics]

The problem is, also according to the Bee, there was no such armory in Newtown at the time.

That pesky armory again. In the headline of the article, The Bee emphasized that it didn’t exist  and made pointed references to the fact that similar plans had been rejected previously. A chunk of the controversy from the May 25th, 2005 Bee article follows:

“The reserve center envisioned for Newtown would have the ability to accommodate military units from Army National Guard armories in Naugatuck, New Haven, and Norwalk, according to the BRAC document.

“Locating a military facility in Newtown would enhance military value, improve homeland defense capability, improve training and deployment capability, improve efficiency, and reduce costs, according to BRAC.

“Linda Jeleniewski, a spokeswoman for the US Army Reserve in Devens, Mass, said that the recommended changes are subject to review and approval by the government.

“The BRAC document’s erroneous reference to an existing armory in Newtown will be reviewed, she said.

“Implementation of the recommended changes would be several years in the future, she said. Applicable law would require the changes to be completed by late 2011.”

Ah, 2011.  That was the same year Cugno died. The same year in which the Halstead Building – aka EOC – was reportedly installed at Fairfield Hills. Coincidence? Cinderella doesn’t think so.

We know that BRAC was ogling Fairfield Hills a few years before that, in 2008 (the same year Newtown Youth Academy opened), as a possible site for an Army Reserve Training Center. Such a center would have consumed 13 to 18 acres of Fairfield land, we were told. Obviously, an above-ground version of that center never materialized (unless -ha!-it’s inside the interminable Newtown Youth Academy). But was an armory installed?

According to this map, there’s a “militia armory” in Newtown.

According to this page, which lists all of Connecticut’s armories, an armory is based at the Newtown Horse Guard at Fairfield Hills on Wildlife Drive. More specifically, 4 Wildlife Drive, as specified here.

Just for fun, go to Google maps or Mapquest and search for 4 Wildlife Drive, here. The pushpin will end up somewhere along “Craft Street.” (“What sort of ‘craft’ does this street name refer to?” you might well ask. Wonders just never cease in Newtown.) A little distance beyond that, you’ll see where the Horse Guard is situated on Craft Street.

Take a look around, as I did using the screen shot below. What do you see? I see two cement slabs, which I’ve marked by red arrows. And an interesting little building I’ve also marked. What could they be?

Cement slabs near Horse Guard{Imagery 2016 © DigitalGlobe, USDA Farm Service Agency, Map Data © 2016  Google }

Well, slabs and cute buildings aside, one thing is for certain: there’s an armory somewhere in Newtown, likely at Fairfield Hills. But where? In a building across from the Reed school? In the EOC? In the horse barns/former piggery? In the canine unit? In the tunnels? At (ha ha) Newtown Youth Academy?

Obviously, wherever it is, it was there on a cold December day in 2012 – with many a gun to spare – surrounded by figurative fog.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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4 thoughts on “In and around and beneath Fairfield Hills.

  1. Fascinating! And it was sharp of you to note that 2009 was the same year when many families of the alleged Sandy Hook massacre acquired their homes for $0 on Christmas Day, as well as the Lanzas’ divorce, which would polnt to 2009 as the year when the plot began to formulate.

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