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Thompson Hill Common (a.k.a. The Green)

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Thompson Hill was originally part of Killingly. Settlement of the area began in about 1700 but it was not until 1730 that a separate parish was approved by the General Assembly. Hezekiah Sabin, who had built a tavern on what is presently the Thompson Hill Common, donated "a square acre" for the "meetinghouse lot." The meetinghouse was erected circa 1728 on the common nearly opposite the library.

In order to accommodate the growing congregation, it was decided to enlarge the building in 1769. It was also voted to paint it like the Pomfret meetinghouse. The exterior of that building was orange; the windows, girts, cornerboards, and weatherboards were painted white; and the doors and bottomboards were brown.

The common was improved in the 1770s with the encouragement of Benjamin Wilkinson who had purchased a tavern near the common and therefore had a stake in its condition. Brush was cut, the old tree stumps were removed and the pound repaired.

Its present boundaries were probably established around the turn of the 19th century when the Boston Hartford Turnpike (now Route 193) was constructed in 1797 and the Providence-Springfield Turnpike (The Quaddick Road portion of Route 200) in 1803. As a result, Thompson became a crossroad trading center as exemplified by the construction of the Vernon Stiles Inn in about 1806 and an addition around 1820 to accommodate the "New York Hat and Cap Store."

In 1815 a storm severely damaged the meetinghouse and destroyed a steeple that was added on in 1798. As a result, a second meetinghouse was constructed, still on the common but to the northwest of the first one. Designed by Ithiel Town, it too reflected the burgeoning nature of the crossroads community. The congregation continued to grow which required the construction of a third and present church in 1856. It was erected east of the common and across from the Inn on the site of a house that was moved to make room for the church. In 1842, the separation of church and state was acknowledged by the construction of the Old Town Hall at the opposite end of the green from the new church.

Thompson's fortunes changed in the 1850s when the railroad bypassed Thompson Hill and ran through the eastern part of town taking with it the bustling activity and the resulting business that was transacted at the juncture of the two turnpikes. Thompson Hill remained the nominal town center for some time but it was never to regain the prosperity it experienced in the first half of the 19th century.

However, those who live in Thompson Hill benefit from the precipitous economic decline. They are able to enjoy an architecturally significant, intact 19th century town center. The community has long appreciated the historic and cultural value of the green and its surrounding buildings. In 1874, the Village Improvement Society of Thompson was created to help improve the character of the town center. The organization still exists. It sponsors annual events such as "clean-up days" for the common; caroling at Christmas with mulled wine afterwards at the Vernon Stiles Inn; the lighting of a Christmas Tree on the Common until Twelfth Night; and an Easter egg hunt. In 1987 it raised funds to help restore the steeple of the Congregational Church that was destroyed by fire.

That same year, the Planning and Zoning Commission approved a request to close Bates Road (Avenue) between Routes 200 and 193 and pave it, turning it into a pedestrian walkway.

In 1989, the Thompson Common Preservation zone was created as a response to an earlier effort to allow commercial use of a residential property. It is the intention of the ordinance to maintain the residential character of the common by limiting subdivisions to two acre plots. It provides an allowance for an owner-occupant to operate a business out of the home.

The Village Improvement Society was joined in 1989 by another civic group concerned about the character of Thompson; the Thompson Preservation Association. In 1990, the new organization was responsible for having Chase Road, the western border of the green, declared a scenic road.

The Thompson Hill Common dates back to the establishment of Thompson Hill. Its surrounding streetscape, comprised of fine examples of residential architecture, is representative of the first half of the 19th century when Thompson Hill was a thriving crossroads community.

 

 
 

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