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Greenfield Hill Green

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In 1725, fifty-five families living in the northwest part of Fairfield petitioned the General Assembly to form a separate parish. The land had originally been bought from Native Americans some 50 years before for 20 yards of cloth. Originally called Northwest Parish, its name was changed in 1927 to Greenfield Parish. The first minister was John Goodsell, a nineteen-year old member of the Yale class of 1724. He delivered his first sermon in a diminutive structure that was built in 1725 and also used as a schoolhouse. It was probably situated on the present triangular-shaped lot to the east of the church that has been referred to as "school green" and "academy green." The hill is known as Academy Hill, the name based upon the subsequent schools built nearby.

The present church was built in 1855 in the Romanesque style. In the 1940s, it was changed to its present Colonial Revival style by architect Cameron Clark. The church still has a commanding view of the surrounding landscape. Barber reported that in 1836 one could see the spires of 17 churches from its steeple, including two on Long Island. (During the Revolution, the steeple was used to observe the movement of British boats crossing the Sound.)

The Verna League (Greenfield's version of the Village Improvement Society) reported in 1897 that the green surrounding the Academy had long been an "eyesore..., full of holes and rocks...(and) very precipitous on two sides." In order to ameliorate the problem, excavation and grading of the hill was undertaken, financed from both public and private sources. The area was seeded, and cobblestone gutters were supplied. In 1898 and 1899, landscape gardener Beatrix Jones provided overall landscape designs for both the school green and the triangulated green in front of the church for the Village Improvement Society. According to existing original drawings, planting beds for 48 different types of plants were located around the Academy, and regularly spaced trees were called for along either side of Bronson Road along the green in front of the church.

Perhaps more dogwoods grace the Greenfield Hill Green than any other green in the state. Tradition has it that the first white dogwoods were planted some time after 1795 and the first pink dogwoods, grown from grafts imported from Japan, were planted in 1895. Whether this is hyperbole or the truth, the dogwoods made a stunning impression on Mrs. Eleanor Roosevelt, who visited Greenfield Hill in 1938. She was quoted as saying that "the ancient church-crowned hilltop, with its vistas of pink and white dogwoods was one of the most beautiful communities she had ever seen.

The green is located within both National Register and Local Historic Districts. Those residences facing the green and along Bronson Road leading to it are particularly well-preserved examples of buildings constructed during the 18th and early-19th centuries that are further described in the nomination forms. To the south of the green on Bronson Road is a cemetery, said to have been an Indian burial ground, containing the graves of the soldiers of the French and Indian Wars, the Revolution, the War of 1812, and the Civil War. The green and its streetscape poised on the hill surrounded by dogwoods is a classic New England image.

The Greenfield Hill Green dates back to the founding of the community and has remained the location of the Greenfield Hill Congregational Church. It was formally landscaped in the 1890s by a professional landscape gardener under the auspices of the Village Improvement Society and remains the centerpiece of the well-preserved 18th and eatly-19th century neighborhood.

In 1726 the Parish voted to erect a new meetinghouse. Its location is open to question but it has been described as "lying and being near the meeting-house." A present marker locates it across the street (west) of the southern tip of this triangle. Boundaries of the green were probably loosely defined at this time and most likely a remnant of a large common pasture. Minutes from a meeting in 1726 refer to the area around the meetinghouse being used as pasture for sheep. In 1760, the location of the present church is referred to as the "place of parade."

Barber did an etching of Greenfield Hill c. 1836 from what appears to be the intersection of Old Meeting House Lane and Bronson Road with the hipped-roofed academy to the left and the church to the right. Bronson Road runs between them and the church is oriented to the east, not the south as it presently stands.



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