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Memorial Green

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Cromwell was part of Middletown until 1851 although the initial settlement in present-day Cromwell occurred in 1651 along the bank of the Connecticut River. Called "Upper Houses," it established its own ecclesiastical society, the Second, North or Upper Society, in 1703. The first meetinghouse was constructed just outside the boundaries of the present common in 1715. It is likely that a village school preceded it. In fact, the green was the site of a succession of public and private schools during the 18th and early-19th centuries. Another meetinghouse was constructed in 1735-1737, this time on the present green opposite the site of the present Academy. The meetinghouse was so close to Main Street (or "on" Main Street, according to some accounts) that it was moved five rods to the west in 1813.

Behind it and the school was a broad, flat meadow used as the military parade ground. Today it is still an open expanse used as a community recreation field.

Although the green was the site of the institutional buildings, the area around it remained relatively undeveloped until the early-19th century when the Middlesex Turnpike (Main Street) and the Middletown-Berlin Turnpike (West Street) were constructed in 1802 and 1808 respectively. They met at the green and as a result diverted traffic away from the port area where the original settlement occurred and stimulated development along Main Street at a time when maritime activities were beginning to decline. As a result, in the 1820s, Main Street, particularly the area around the church, became the institutional and commercial center as well as the location of residences belonging to many of the town's prominent citizens.

Several stores were built on Main Street, one of them across from the green. By 1831, two stage coaches stopped each day at the town center. In 1833, the Baptist church relocated its building from today's Gold Star Memorial Green to its present site on the northwest corner of Memorial Green. One year later, the Congregational Church vacated the green when its present church was built north of it on Main Street. Across Main Street from the green that same year it erected the Academy where it stands today. It was used initially as a private school, then as a public school and later as the Belden Public Library.

The green by this time had taken on its present day shape and was called "Lower Green" (as opposed to the "Upper Green," the one north at the base of Prospect Hill) or "Church Green" (because of its association with the meetinghouse). In 1904, the Society of Middletown Upper Houses planted 28 trees. Only two were remaining by November 13, 1921 when the green was renamed "Memorial Green" in a ceremony honoring World War One veterans. At that event, six maple trees were planted in memory of the six soldiers from Cromwell who had died during the war. These trees have faired better than those planted earlier. Today they provide shade along West Street and are marked with the names of the men they commemorate. In 1925, a handsome World War One memorial designed by Karl F. Skoog was placed on the green.

Memorial Green was the site of the first and second meetinghouses around which the town developed in the 19th and 20th centuries after West and Main Streets were upgraded to turnpikes. Today the green is a welcomed open space at a busy intersection and provides an important commemorative function for the people of Cromwell.



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