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Academy Hill Common

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In the spring of 1639 settlers led by Reverend Adam Blakeman came from Wethersfield and built their first meeting house at present day Mac's Harbor in Stratford. Their two-acre homelots extended along Front (Elm) and Main Streets to the hill at the northern end of the settlement. A ten foot wooden palisade enclosed the western and northern sides of the village, and a watchhouse, where members of Sergeant Nichols's train band searched for Indians, wolves, and Dutchmen, gave the hill its first name.

The second meetinghouse was built on Watchhouse Hill in 1680, in the southeast corner, at the crest of the hill. Watchhouse Hill now became Meeting House Hill. Connecticut's first Episcopal parish was founded in Stratford in 1707 and in 1723 and again in 1743, the Church of England was granted property at the base of the hill for a church site and burying ground. In 1745, the green was formally established when it was deeded to the town.

In 1805 the Stratford Academy was constructed on the summit of the hill where the meetinghouse had stood. It remained there until 1881 when it was moved. A map from 1824 indicates that another school was located on the corner of Academy Hill and Main Street next to the Episcopal Church. On the same map, hay scales are located near the burying ground.

A painting of Academy Hill in 1940 shows the Episcopal church through an alee of trees with the Academy in the background and the red brick New South School to the south of the church. The green is bare and crisscrossed with roads. The only vegetation is a row of tall trees in front of the Academy. In a bird's eye map of the area in 1882, the Academy is gone. Trees are planted along the edge of Academy Hill (street) and the Episcopal burying ground. What appears to be a wide path extends across the green from east to west on the north side of the church.

Today a Civil War monument placed on the summit of the hill in 1889 replaces the Academy and the churches before it. The hill remains an open green field with trees planted randomly around the edges.

On the summit of the green on Academy Hill overlooking Stratford stood the second Congregational Church followed by the Stratford Academy and most recently the Soldiers and Sailors Monument, representative of the evolution in use of this green and many greens throughout the state. It is characterized by its rolling terrain and open expanse which have changed little since it was cleared in the 17th century.



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