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Wadawanuck Square

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Stonington was settled by a group of colonists from Plymouth, Massachusetts, in 1649. First named Souther Towne in 1658, it was renamed Stonington in 1666. The name is descriptive, as the stony soil in the area made farming unprofitable.

Stonington Borough quickly became known as a maritime center, building and outfitting whaling and sealing ships and sending out fleets of cod-fishermen. One of the first whaling franchises ever granted in America was issued in Stonington in 1647.

In 1842 Stonington was established as a customhouse district, with the customhouse being active until 1913. From 1837 to 1904, Stonington Borough was the western terminus for the New York, Providence, and Boston Railroad. Travelers going from Boston to New York connected at Stonington and picked up a steamship that carried them on to New York. Stonington Borough today retains its 19th century character and ambience.

Wadawanuck Square, originally part of an 11-acre pasture, was bought by Capt. Thomas Robinson from Elihu Chesebrough in 1770. Robinson divided the property into smaller lots, selling one lot each to Jonathan and Peter Crary and one lot to his son-in-law, Benjamin Smith, a hatter. An 1827 map shows the lot divided in two by a stone wall running north to south down the center. The western portion of the lot shows two buildings and the eastern portion four buildings. In 1835 the property was purchased by agents for the railroad, and by 1837 the Wadawanuck Hotel was built on the site.

By 1837 Stonington had become an important terminus for travelers. The Wadawanuck Hotel was built to service these travelers. Built by Benjamin Palmer, the building was a duplicate of Tuckwutten House in Providence, Rhode Island, built for the same purpose. An 1868 Beers map shows a very large hotel occupying the spot on which the library now stands. A horseshoe-shaped driveway extends from High Street to the doorway, again much like the present situation. A fountain is shown between the street and the hotel.

The hotel was torn down in 1893 by Frank G. Silvia and Sons. Lumber from the hotel was used to repair 30 houses that the Silvia family owned n Stonington Borough.

In 1898 the land was given to the borough by heirs of Samuel F. Denison, on the condition that a public library be established on the grounds. Erskine M. Phelps of Chicago and Samuel D. Babcock of New York, descendants of the original settlers, each gave $8,000 to be used for construction of a library, on the condition that town residents raise $4,000. The money was soon raised and the library was completed in 1900. Clinton & Russell of New York City were the architects. A 1955 addition was designed by John E. Dodge, a Stonington architect.

Today Wadawanuck Square is a focal point of Stonington Borough, continuing to provide relief and refreshment to residents.

In addition to providing much-needed open space in the dense borough, Wadawanuck Square is a vital link to the town's past.



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