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Northfield Green

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Northfield, a community in the town of Litchfield, was settled in the middle of the eighteenth century by people coming from New Haven. Unusual for a Connecticut community, an Episcopal church was the first organized. The congregation erected a building in 1793, on the site of the present green. The next year, the Congregational Society was established. The Congregationalists built their meetinghouse between 1795 and 1803, about a quarter mile north of the present green; the present Congregational church was built in 1867.

In 1866 the Episcopalians built a new church, and the old church site became Northfield's green. There is still some question about whether the green actually belongs to the town or to the church. The community immediately erected a Civil War memorial, said to be one of the country's first. The brownstone monument was bought from Marbledale stonecutter Nelson Bolles, except for the urn, which was carved by Julius Glover, for $426.28, and erected in September 1866. (A little late -- it had been ordered for July 4.)

Northfield has always been surrounded by farms, but in the nineteenth century, there were manufacturing concerns as well. A wide variety of products were produced, including spinning wheels, clocks, tinware, nails, bricks, cider brandy, flutes, wagons, carriages, clothespins, knitting machines, and cutlery. By 1928, only the cutlery factory, called the Northfield Knife Co., remained, and it closed by 1925. Several small houses on Main Street going eastward from the green were built for its workers. In the later twentieth century, sub-and exurban development had reached the Northfield area, though only two houses have been built facing the green since World War II.

Though the Northfield Green was not established until 1866, it embodies all the characteristics expected of a village green: a slightly irregular shape dictated by the intersection of pre-existing roads, shade trees, a Civil War monument, and big houses surrounding it. The green itself is well maintained and fairly uncluttered, though the common tendency to over-ornamentation is beginning to show itself. The changes of the last 120 years have left little mark on it -- industry has come and gone, and a new road carries modern traffic away from the green. Only two houses have been built facing it since World War II, and they are unobtrusive. Its character reflects twentieth-century notions of a New England green: peaceful, green, and neat.

 

 
 

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