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Winsted Green (East End Park)

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The Winsted Green, located within the Winsted Green Historic District and known today as East End Park, was set aside in the early development of Winsted. Winstead today is a village within the town of Winchester. The earliest settlement in Winchester began in the 17th century near Winchester Center on much higher ground southwest of Winsted.

In the 18th century, settlers began to cluster in the area of Winsted along the Still and Mad Rivers to take advantage of the water power. By 1799 the Winsted settlement had grown to such an extent that the town voted to hold one-third of the town meetings there instead of in Winchester Center. In that year, the Green Woods Turnpike was built through Winchester along the Mad River making it the easiest route through northern Connecticut between Hartford and Albany. Winsted entrepreneurs quickly moved in to take advantage of this primary transportation route and built homes and businesses near by.

The turnpike became Winsted's Main Street (Route 44). The city fathers constructed a new road six rods wide on the west side of Still River (present day North Main Street) that intersected with the turnpike. It was at this intersection that the lot for the meetinghouse was reserved, and work began on it in 1800. It stood approximately where the Civil War monument is now located. In 1802, Winsted bought more land to extend the parade ground and designated that "it should be kept forever as a public parade."

A drawing by Barber in 1836 shows the meetinghouse on the green with nothing between it and Mad River. North Main Street meanders past the front door of the meetinghouse which appears to be on the western portion of the green. The rest of it is an open expanse. The meetinghouse dominates the village.

There is a reference to the green being enlarged in 1845 when the meetinghouse was moved from it. In 1858, it was substantially altered when, according to a local article written almost 75 years later, North Main Street was rerouted to go around the green rather than through it.

In 1955, Mad River lived up to its name and brought a devastating flood to downtown Winsted. Seven people lost their lives and several buildings were destroyed. The green did not suffer permanent damage, but Route 44 was widened in the rebuilding, taking a portion of the green to the south.

Due to its proximity to water power and convenient transportation, Winsted grew rapidly as an industrial town. Factories, commercial establishments and homes grew up along the Mad River and Main Street. In 1803, a tavern was erected next to the green, but very few of these early 19th century structures remain, including the tavern. Most of the buildings around the green are from the mid-19th century and later. After 1870, most of the commercial buildings clustered along the southwest side were replaced by larger commercial structures. Religious and educational institutions continued to locate around the green throughout the 19th and 20th centuries. In 1894 the imposing Gilbert School building was built on the east side where Northwest Connecticut Community College is now housed. The present Congregational Church was erected in 1900 just beyond the north end of the green. The post-World War II synagogue on the other side of the street replaces an earlier religious building. Other post-World War II structures include a gas station, fast food restaurants and a cleaners across Main Street at the south end of the green.

A burying ground, first used around 1800, is located west of Park Place West across from the Green. The landscaped entrance to the burying ground which includes a monument to Winchester's Revolutionary War soldiers is visible from the green but the graves are hidden behind 19th century dwellings built along Park Place.

East End Park is the visual focus of the Winsted Green National Register Historic District and encompasses the area that was originally set aside in the early 19th century for the construction of the first meetinghouse and a parade ground. It has remained the center of religious and educational activity for the Village of Winsted. Today, the green and its streetscape retain much of the 19th century character that developed as Winsted grew into an industrial town.

 

 
 

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