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Ives is thriving once again in Danbury! Thanks to the incredible generosity of Savings Bank of Danbury, the Charles Ives Birthplace is re-opening for tours in June!
We're excited for you to visit and learn more about Danbury's Pulitzer Prize-winning composer, maverick, and the father of American classical music.
“To be Ivesian means first of all to be yourself; to keep your own counsel. It therefore means to be critical, as Ives was among his own least forgiving critics. To be Ivesian is to be an enthusiast and a humanist, to look for the social value in things, to recognize flaws and failures without letting them cloud what is good and true. To be Ivesian is not to play safe; it is to look always for the big picture and not to submit to categories, such as ‘scholarly’ or ‘popular.’ To be Ivesian is to see music and life as one story.”
(Jan Swafford, Charles Ives, A Life wIth Music)
The Charles Ives Birthplace is available to tour on Friday and Saturday. All tours must be pre-booked via Eventbrite; there are NO walk-in tours. Click below to schedule your visit.
As part of the Danbury Museum's 80th anniversary celebration, tours of the Ives Birthplace will be free to all through April 1, 2023.
Please note that ALL Ives Birthplace tours begin at the home itself.
We ask that visitors do not knock or try to open the house doors on non-tour days as there is a tenant in part of the house. Please respect their privacy.
5 Mountainville Avenue, Danbury, Connecticut 06810, United States
“In the old Ives house, in the middle of Danbury, Connecticut, in 1874, among the warren of rooms smelling of beeswax and fruit, these sounds were familiar: the intimate patter of rain, the measureless pealing of thunder; the jingle of sleighs in the winter, the chirr of spring peepers from streams and ponds; the clatter and clop of buggies down dusty Main Street, and the deeper rolling rumble of wagons on their way to shops and factories; from the Congregational church next door, the muffled sounds of choir and organ and the great bronze booming of the bell, and all day Sunday the sound of distant bells like intimations of a presence beyond the horizon of the moment, of this life . . .
at holidays the brass bands marching past, the rattle and cump of fireworks, the clang of the firebell; in summer the cries of icemen and boys selling newspapers; inside the house the groaning floors, the antiphonal voices of a big family’s comings and goings; and every day the bright rising and falling of music, cornet or piano or violin or bands or little orchestras, playing in the parlor of outside in the shed or in the barn, playing quicksteps and hymns and Beethoven and Stephen Foster.”
(Jan Swafford, Charles Ives: A Life with Music.
Born in 1764, Isaac Ives (great-grandfather of Charles Ives) was a graduate of Yale College where he studied law. He came to Danbury in the 1790s and married Jerusha Benedict, daughter of Zadoc Benedict, in 1792.
Isaac had several failed business ventures until he entered the hatting business via the family of his second wife, Sarah Amelia White. Returning to Danbury in 1829, Isaac Ives purchased this house from Thomas Tucker. The homestead was repaired, painted, and enlarged.
George White Ives, grandfather of Charles Ives, was born in New York City in 1798, but spent most of his childhood with his maternal grandparents in Danbury. George married Sarah Hotchkiss Wilcox in 1831.
A very prominent citizen of Danbury, George was deacon of the First Church, incorporator of the Danbury Gas Company in 1857; he organized the Savings Bank of Danbury in 1849 and was its first treasurer, helped to plan Wooster Cemetery in the 1850s, and was treasurer of the Danbury & Norwalk Railroad Company.
George Ives, Danbury’s town bandmaster and a well-trained musician himself, was perhaps the young Charles’s strongest influencer; among George’s favorite composers were Bach and Stephen Foster, and their music would become his son’s inheritance.
Charles Edward Ives was born in Danbury on October 20, 1874, the first son of Mary (Mollie) Parmelee and George Edward Ives. The influences on Charles’s early musical life varied widely; from European concert music and American parlor music, to ragtime, other vernacular and sacred music, and even his father’s keen interest in sound.
Charles Ives graduation photo. The composer graduated from Yale in 1898.
Charles Edward Ives was born in Danbury on October 20, 1874, the first son of Mary “Mollie” Parmelee and George Edward Ives. As a young man, the influences on his early musical life varied widely; from European concert music and American parlor music, to ragtime, other vernacular and sacred music, and even his father's keen interest in sounds.
Ives wearing his ubiquitous fedora, ca 1940s.
“The fabric of existence weaves itself whole. You cannot set an art off in the corner and hope for it to have vitality, reality, and substance . . . It comes directly out of the heart of experience of life and thinking about life and living life. Succinctly, music is life." —Charles Ives
Harmony Twichell, daughter of Reverend Joseph and Julia Twichell, was born in Hartford in 1876. An accomplished woman, Harmony graduated from Miss Porter's School in Farmington, CT, and after studying painting for a time, she decided to go into nursing, attending a nursing program in Hartford. Her first professional job took her to Chicago. After initially meeting Charles Ives (a friend of her brother's from Yale) in the Adirondacks in 1896, they would see each other infrequently until she met him again in 1905.
They began to see each other in New York City (where the Ives & Myrick Insurance Co was located) when Harmony moved there to take a job with the Henry Street Settlement. In the autumn of 1907 they announced plans to marry and on June 9, 1908, Charles E Ives and Harmony Twichell were married by her father in a ceremony in Hartford.
Charles and Harmony seemed to balance each other incredibly well. Harmony was possessed with a calm, sensible nature, whereas Charles could be excitable and eccentric.
Throughout their life together, and with their adopted daughter Edith, there was great devotion and respect between the couple. Her staunch belief in his talents and his music was of great importance to Charles.
"One thing I am certain of is that, if I have done anything good in music, it was, first, because of my father, and second, because of my wife."
(Charles E Ives Memos,
Edited by John Kirkpatrick.)