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Norwichtown Green

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Norwichtown was settled in 1660 by about 30 men from Saybrook. They comprised the majority of the Saybrook church and as a result, were already organized as an ecclesiastical body. The "Town Plot" was laid out along the Yantic River. Irregular-shaped home lots containing several acres each were clustered around a central open space known as "Meeting House Plaine." Each person had a tract of pasture land, either included in the home lot or situated as close as possible. The green was set aside as a military training ground, a gathering place, and site for the public buildings.

Sometime before 1669, a meetinghouse was erected on the green "toward the south side with the open common around it, and a steep pitch to the river." In 1673, the town contracted John Elderkin to construct the second meetinghouse. It was built for strategic purposes on Meeting House Rocks overlooking the Town Plot to the north. In 1721, the third meetinghouse was also built on the hill, but only after the frame had already been erected on the green. In 1751, the fourth church was constructed again within the settlement, this time across from the northwest corner of the green. The fifth and present church was built near the same site after the fourth one was destroyed by fire in 1801.

The green apparently was larger than it is today. As early as 1684, a portion of the open space was deeded to Captain James Fitch. The first house was built by John Mason, one of the proprietors. Others soon followed. Gradually, as the economy became more diversified, it was reflected in the type of buildings around and on the green. Caulking describes the scene: "The County Jail stood on the north side of the hill; the Court House was in the open area; the Post Office not far from the meetinghouse; two printing offices were within a stone's throw to the west and taverns, schools and shops alternating with private dwellings around the border." In 1798, the Court House was removed to the site occupied earlier by the Mason home.

An engraving by Barber in 1836 shows the green at the intersection of Town and East Town Street. Shown are the present Congregational Church, the Court House and Union Hotel. The green appears to be an unimproved open expanse. Picket fences are in front of the houses, and between the fences and street that borders the green are hitching posts. Postcards with photographs of the green taken sometime around the turn of the century show the green with trees planted around the border, much as it exists today.

The Norwichtown Green and the buildings around it are important survivals from the original settlement and early development of the first town center. The green remains relatively unchanged from the later half of the 19th century. Its streetscape is comprised of many significant 18th century buildings.



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