Merritt Parkway 75 years in the books and on the road

Seventy-five years of scenic travel along the Merritt Parkway was celebrated with a ceremony full of speeches, retro cars and preservation awards on Friday, Sept. 25.

The ceremony shined light on all of the hard work that has taken place on the parkway over the years and it’s initial purpose of cutting down traffic on the Boston Post Road, even though it can still get congested with traffic on a given day.

James Redeker, DOT Commissioner, delivered the keynote speech for this event and said although he hasn’t been in the department long enough to have an influence on the parkway he was honored to speak in commemoration of 75 years of successful travel.

“When we spend our money on the right things, like the Merritt Parkway and we dedicate ourselves to continuing to preserve the essential character of the roadway and make this way forever. If we do that everywhere and dedicate ourselves to that, frankly investments in transportation will follow,” said Redeker who has been the DOT’s Commissioner for the past 6 years. “Because this kind of a system is what we want, not just on the Merritt, but on every road and on every transit.”

Merritt Parkway Conservancy Chairman Peter Malkin presented the Partnership in Preservation Award for the restoration of the 6 service areas, including the volunteer architects who helped retain the character of the historic brick service centers.

Malkin named Redeker an honorary member of the Conservancy board and presented him with one of the Preservation Awards.

“Since Jim (Redeker) has come on board there has been a new spirit of cooperation and we are working together…” said Malkin. “We are not always the easiest people for the DOT to deal with, but we know what we want and we know what we believe history demands.”

Malkin also presented an award to Paul Landino, Herb Newman who is a member of the Board, David Scott Parker who are all members of the Board of Conservancy.

Landino said in his acceptance speech that the renovations on the parkway have been a long time coming and  a combination of “progress and history” and trying to blend them in a way that works for everyone.

Henry “Buzz” Merritt, the 88-year-old nephew of Schuyler Merritt, the congressman from Stamford for whom the parkway is named, made a surprise speech where he shared an anecdote of driving with his parents along the newly opened road. He described the memory as “a family outing of distinction,” that included him getting to steer the car while sitting on his father’s lap and a roadside picnic following the drive.

The Merritt Parkway Museum was also open to the public for tours after the ceremony wrapped up. The parkway is a National Scenic Byway and is listed in the National Register of Historic Places.