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Woodstock Common

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Running short of land, the Massachusetts town of Roxbury petitioned the General Assembly in 1683 for a seven mile square tract of land known then as Wappaquasset and today as Woodstock. The petition was granted in 1684. The area was initially settled by "13 pioneers" in April of 1686 who planted corn, thereby claiming ownership. In August of 1686 the original settlers were joined by others and the town plan was laid out and lots were drawn. Common land and a lot for the town to use for schools and a meeting house was established on Plaine Hill (today known as Woodstock Hill) to the east of the "main road" (Route 163) where Woodstock Common is today. Records indicate that the meetinghouse was ready for use in 1694. These settlers were members of some of the most respected families of Roxbury and, predictably, named the settlement New Roxbury. It was named Woodstock in 1689 but did not become a Connecticut town until 1759.

In 1717, mention was made of need for a larger meetinghouse because of the increase in population. For two years, there was discussion over its location and in 1719 it was decided to "set the same on the west side at the Burying Place or as nigh the same as can be with convenience." The present and third Congregational Church was constructed on that same site in 1821.

The common today is smaller than originally laid out. According to Bayles, over the years the town slowly deeded parts of it away, primarily to provide needed services. In 1782, Asa Bishop was deeded a portion on which to build a house that would also serve as a public tavern. Woodstock Academy is also on land that originally was part of the common.

The common became a focus of local concern in 1849 when a committee to report encroachments on the green was established. This concern may have been initiated by a fence that was built by Gurden Lyman near a shop that he owned that stood near the green. He was asked to remove it in 1843 because it encroached on the green.

Henry C. Bowen, a New York City publisher and a summer resident in Woodstock who built Roseland Cottage, was known locally for his philanthropy. He planted trees on the green in 1853 and later made additional suggestions for its improvement. In 1867 at a town meeting he was granted care of the common. A map of Woodstock drawn in 1865 shows the boundaries of the green very much as they are today. Trees are indicated around the perimeter of the westernmost and northernmost triangles and throughout the easternmost triangle.

Between 1870 and 1895, Bowen financed extravagant Fourth of July celebrations on the green featuring fireworks and speakers. Concerts are now held there during summer months.

The Woodstock Green is the original center of Woodstock around which the town was planned. It is still the visual focus of the community and the site of the Congregational Church, Woodstock Academy and many fine residences dating from the 18th and 19th centuries. It remains very much as it appeared in the last half of the 19th century.



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