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Litchfield Town Green

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Litchfield was incorporated in 1719 by the Colonial Assembly on land purchased in 1716 from the Tunxis Indians for fifteen pounds. In 1720, the town was laid out taking advantage of the hilly terrain by placing the central crossroads on a flat ridge. The common rights-of-way were generous - up to 330 feet - and are today North, South, East and West Streets. The center of the rights-of-way were used as pastures with narrow lanes at the outer edge. The development of the Litchfield Town Green over time is well documented in "Overview for Action," a preservation plan for the Litchfield Green prepared by Vision, Inc., a nonprofit planning organization. The following summary is taken from the plan.

In 1723 the meetinghouse was constructed at the center of the main crossroads where the Beecher Memorial in East Park is now located. The green is described as "an unfenced, unkempt and amorphous zone crisscrossed by muddy tracks which converge on the meeting house." Other civic buildings soon joined the meetinghouse on the green, including the first schoolhouse (1732) and the country courthouse when Litchfield became the county seat in 1751.

Between 1780 and 1820, the green developed more definite boundaries. The pasture along the rights-of--way disappeared and the green became a long oval in shape, reminiscent of its present shape. Trees were planted, and it was used as a military training ground. Eventually it was fenced to protect the trees and accommodate its use as a parade ground.

Between 1820 and 1827 the green became important as an open space when the buildings were removed across the street from the green. Evolution into a park began in 1836 when it was designated as a "park" and private funds were raised to grade it, and also to enclose East and West Parks in a post and rail fence. In 1858 more private funds were found to create a circular lawn between the two oval-shaped parks, and its was similarly improved. During the Civil War, the green was used as the center for recruitment and later the place where soldiers were welcomed home.

The quarter century following the Civil War was a period of rapid growth reflected both in the changes to the green and the streetscape. The third Congregational Church was replaced by yet another church. The first of many monuments was placed on the green and in 1875 the Village Improvement Society introduced further improvements to the green and the town.

By the beginning of the 20th century, East and West Parks were "wooded groves of elm, ash, maple and oak trees." In 1907, Center Park was transformed into "Shrubbery Park." Shrubs and conifers were planted, benches were added, and it became a square rather than a circular shape.

By 1930, the fences were removed, most of the shrubs in Center Park were gone and many monuments had been placed on the green, taking on many of the characteristics we see today.

The green has remained the focal point of the town and the center of civic and religious activity since it was laid out and the meetinghouse was constructed. While it has changed dramatically over time, its evolution from a common right of way where livestock pastured to its present park-like appearance is apparent in its long and narrow shape.



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