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East Haven Green

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The records do not give a precise date for the establishment of the East Haven Green. The town was first settled at Morris Cove in 1644, as a part of New Haven. Another settlement soon appeared near the southern end of the Great Pond (now known as Lake Saltonstall). The General Court authorized the establishment of a parish there in 1679, but the church failed. A second attempt was authorized in 1704, and succeeded. A meetinghouse was built in 1708 or 1709, next to the schoolhouse, and apparently on the green.

The early boundaries of the green are unclear, but it was certainly larger than it is now, particularly to the east and west. Some of the original green also seems to have become part of the town cemetery on the south. The northern boundary seems to have changed the least. Main Street, which runs along the north side of the green, was a part of the Boston Post Road (eventually U.S. Route 1) until it was bypassed after World War II.

A second meetinghouse was built on the northwest corner of the green in 1718-1719, but in 1772-1774 the third (and present) meetinghouse was erected several blocks to the west. A schoolhouse stood on the green until 1862, but the focus of East Haven's civic and commercial life shifted with the meetinghouse, leaving the neighborhood around the green residential.

Beginning in the 1860s, the green gradually took on its present parklike character. In 1860 the town voted to study the cost of improvements. Actual improvements -- grading and enclosure -- were voted and apparently made in 1869. In 1870 the town prohibited ballplaying on the green, erected a fence and began planting elms. Improvements continued into the early 20th century, including more tree-planting and the erection of monuments commemorating 20th-century wars. More recent improvements include a new bandstand and benches, more trees, and other ornamental plantings. The enlargement of Hemingway Avenue, a major artery leading to the southern part of East Haven, has brought commercial development to the west side of the green, where offices and banks occupy two old houses and three new buildings.

Though the East Haven green has changed over the years, it has retained the civic, parklike character it took on in the middle of the nineteenth century. The bandstand, while modern, is an historic type, and in fact replaces an earlier one. Monuments commemorated East Haveners who took part in the country's wars, and the town cemetery, along with several early houses, witness to East Haven's own history. The green seems fairly well maintained, though some of the plantings are not really appropriate, and the proliferation of monuments, if unchecked, could over power its parklike appearance.

The bypassing of Main Street by the Saltonstall Parkway helped to preserve the green's residential character for many years. Despite recent commercial incursions along the western side, the area around the green for the most part still retains its residential character. Several of the houses along Main Street facing the green are in poor condition, however, and could become candidates for further commercial development.

 

 
 

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