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Windham Green

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The first settlement in Windham, then known as Hither Place, was probably in 1688. Settlement occurred rather quickly thereafter to the extent that a grist mill was in operation in 1691 a and sawmill in 1692. In 1693 it was incorporated. According to Bayles, a temporary meetinghouse was initially constructed and it was not until 1700 that the present day Windham Green was formally established as the site for the meetinghouse. On January 30th of that year, Mr. Whiting and Ensign Crane purchased "the front part of William Backus' home lot at the southeast corner." They, in turn, deeded it over to the town for a "meeting-house plat or common." A meetinghouse was erected on the site in 1703.

A painting of the green in about 1827 shows a cluster of buildings at the confluence of what appears to be little more than paths in a grassy field. A few young trees have been planted in and about a circle defined by the paths which presumably is the area today covered by the present day green.

A few of the buildings in the background face upon the green, helping to define its boundaries and to distinguish it as an important space, but its casual appearance is very different from the more formal space of the Windham Green today.

The more substantial buildings in the painting are taverns which would be in keeping with Windham's role as the county seat (which it was until 1819, at which time it was transferred to Brooklyn). The legal traffic stimulated the building of inns and stores which made Windham a prosperous business and administrative center by 1750.

After 1820, Windham began to decline because of the transfer of the county seat and the rise of Willimantic as an industrial power. However, a photograph of a gathering on the green in the last decade of the 19th century shows the green as a much livelier and more formal space than the earlier painting. The green in the photograph is still a grassy open space, but it had been reduced and its shape is more defined by the surrounding buildings and the road that encircles it. The trees have matured, providing it with a graceful canopy. The green today retains the essential characteristics conveyed in the photograph, although the road encircling it is more substantial and trees are fewer.

The Windham Green is the site of the Windham's first meetinghouse and was the civic and religious center of Windham until the mid-1800s. Today it is the focus of the Windham Center National Register Historic District and a gracious historic residential neighborhood.

 

 
 

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