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Colchester Town Green

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Colchester was incorporated in 1698 and formed an Ecclesiastical Society in 1703. Its first meetinghouse was constructed in 1706 about a mile north of the present center. The area today that includes the green was owned by Joseph Wright who deeded it to his son Captain Dudley Wright. In 1767, Captain Wright constructed a house (known today as the Hayward House) facing Hayward Avenue toward the northern end of the green. At that time, only the New London Road (present Main Street) existed so the dwelling stood some distance back from the street. A store owned by Wright stood on the highway frontage just opposite the meetinghouse. In 1793, Wright divided the property between his two children. His son, Azariah, took title to the southern parcel where the store stood. Lydia, his daughter, was given the other parcel that also included the family residence.

Shortly after, in 1803, Bacon Academy was constructed across from what is now the southwest corner of the green. In 1805 the Colchester and Norwich Turnpike was constructed, its terminus the Bacon Academy. Thus, the southern boundary of the green was created. Then Dr. Watrous, a civic leader and Lydia Wright's husband, convinced the town to lay out present Hayward Avenue and the green was completely bounded by roads. At that time, it was totally unimproved. There were no trees, paths crossed it at random and cows pastured on whatever grass existed. The southern portion was low and marshy and in the winter was used for skating. An illustration of the green provided by Barber in 1836 confirms this. It is seen as an open expanse with Bacon Academy on the west and the church on the east, both dominating the landscape. Trees are planted behind the buildings; nothing is in front of them.

In 1821, the Academy, through Dr. Watrous, purchased the lot owned by Azariah Wright, thereby keeping the property out of the hands of someone interested in developing it. The family store was sold to John Turner who had previously been leasing it and he removed from the site. Lydia's portion of the present green was sold to Dr. Frederick Morgan who blocked the Borough's attempt to upgrade the property and turn it into a park. It remained unimproved until Nathaniel Hayward purchased the lot from Dr. Morgan and in 1850 deeded it to the Borough with the stipulation that it would levy a tax to raise $1,000 to pay for grading it and fencing it in.

Hayward lived in the Captain Dudley Wright House and built the Hayward Rubber Company factory behind it (to the east). The factory was responsible for Colchester's booming economy until 1893 when it was purchased by the U.S. Rubber Company and moved from town. (Hayward is credited with the research that ultimately led to the vulcanization of rubber.)

The Colchester Green was the focal point of the center of town long before it officially became the town green in 1850 when a portion of it was deeded to the town by a prominent citizen. It is surrounded by a charming mix of structures dating primarily from the 19th century that relate to it historically, visually and structurally.

 

 
 

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