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Branford Green

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The area that is now the green was willed to the Society of Branford by Deacon John Taintor in 1699 "to build a publick meeting house upon." In 1701 the second meeting house was erected on the "common" in front of the present town hall. This church replaced the original meeting house, built in 1644, which stood in the southwest corner of the Center Cemetery on Montowese Street, formerly called Towne Street. By 1744 a larger church was needed and a two-story edifice was built facing South Main Street. This structure was removed in 1843 when the present Congregational brick church was erected.

Although Episcopalians were established in the community by 1750 (when they were allowed to use the meeting house on December 25th) the present Episcopal church was not organized until 1784. The first Episcopal church was built two years later, a little northeast of the present building which replaced it in 1852.

The Baptist Church was organized in 1838 and their church building was built two years later on the portion of the green called Whipping Post Hill where the stocks and pillory once stood.

As well as serving as the religious center, the green also served as the civic, educational and social center of the community as reflected by some of the additional buildings still standing on the green. The Branford Town Hall was built in 1860 (The porch and pillars were added about 1920 and a rear addition in 1968). In addition to providing a place for civic functions, the hall was used for fairs and dances, and the Branford Savings Bank started business in it in 1891.

The Town's first high school, the Academy (1820) is the oldest structure on the Green. It originally stood on the present site of the Town Hall, and was moved to the rear of the Congregational Church in 1860. The Order of Masons started meeting there in 1826 and acquired the building in 1866, but it continued to be used for school purposes for many years after. In 1971, it was given to the Town and the Academy on the Green Commission raised the funds to move it to its present location at the corner of Montowese and South Main Streets. Structures associated with earlier living practices such as Sabbath Day houses, horse sheds, and a horse trough have long been removed. A bandstand and a World War Two memorial that also stood on the green are no longer there.

A major change in the use of the green occurred in the 1890s when citizens were fined for allowing their cows to graze there, although it was a few years before the practice was discontinued. It is during this period the green was regraded, grass was planted, and sidewalks and curbs were installed. A baseball field located in front of the Town Hall was also removed.

Almost 100 years later, in 1988-89, efforts to improve the downtown area included a streetscape designed by the landscape architectural office of Arthur Selbert Design Associates with amenities for the green including benches, pedestrian lights, street lights, rubbish containers, a bus shelter, a public phone, and a drinking fountain; all Victorian reproductions.

The Branford Green has been the civic and religious center of the community since it was established in 1699. It is unusual in that the civic and religious buildings were not removed from it to create a park which was generally the practice during the 19th century.



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