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Broad Street Green (aka Milford Green

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Milford was established in 1639 by dissenters from the New Haven Colony in two separate settlements along the two principal watercourses flowing south toward the Sound. Connecting them was a wide east-west corridor that was set aside as common land along with the property on either side of the streams. This road system established during the Colonial period has remained largely intact including the east-west corridor which today is the Broad Street Green bounded by North and South Broad Streets.

The green was used as pasture during the Colonial period and evolved into its present day appearance and function in the 19th century. In 1846 New Haven replaced the wood fence around its green with one of masonry posts and iron rails. In 1853, Milford placed the old New Haven fence around its green. In a photograph taken c. 1860, the white fence with two rails is evident. Behind it are two rows of tall trees, one either side of the green. A photograph taken in 1889 shows the same trees but the fence is gone. About this time the present Civil War Monument on the green was dedicated. In 1990 a gazebo was placed on the green for the Milford Cornet Band. By the end of the century, an electric trolley line was operating in Milford, bringing into town the summer visitors who built seasonal cottages near the shore. Photographs taken during this period depict an actively used green covered with a dense canopy of leaves.

In 1908 the Village Improvement Society was established. Its efforts were concentrated on the River Park district, but it did not ignore the Broad Street Green. In 1910, it placed the Ford Memorial Fountain on the green in memory of Thomas Ford a founding father. The sandstone bowl is supported by a fieldstone base, the stones were taken from the family farm. A lantern was originally placed above the fountain.

The 1838 hurricane uprooted many of the trees on the green. Since 1940, dogwoods, maples and flowering crabapple trees have been planted. The most recent war memorial was dedicated in 1986 to those who fought in Vietnam and Korea. A major effort was made in the 1980s to beautify the green. By the end of 1988, $300,000 had been spent on granite curbing, a sprinkler system, and plantings, but many questioned the effort to beautify the green while the stores around it continued to lose business.

North Street was the commercial and residential center of town through the 19th century although by 1835 South Broad Street was lined with buildings. Maps from 1855 and 1868 indicate that some of these were "stores" but it was not until the late 19th century that commerce began a major shift to Broad Street and to the lower river streets south of the River Park district. This shift was accelerated by the Village Improvement Society prior to World War I when the remaining shops, mills and factories along the river were demolished. As a result, the green became the focal point of commercial activity along South Broad Street and an attractive residential neighborhood along North Broad Street.

This pattern exists today. North Broad Street is lined with many well preserved two-story, mid and late 19th century houses, many converted to residential use, particularly along the eastern end on the green. At the far eastern end is the Taylor Library (1894), an exuberant building of multi-colored sandstone in the Richardsonian Romanesque style. It is presently being used by the Chamber of Commerce.

Along South Broad Street are one and two-story commercial structures from the late 19th and 20th centuries. Many have been altered without any concern for the original fabric and show signs of deterioration. However, the buildings along the eastern part of the green remain situated closely together and maintain a shallow set back and, as a result, form a consistent enclosure for the narrow green strip. The same is not true for some of the buildings along the western edge of the green that were constructed within the last twenty years and are set back on larger lots that also provide parking.

The Broad Street Green dates back to the founding of Milford and as it presently exists, both the green and much of its streetscape represent the community as it existed in the late 19th century. However, some of the earlier structures along South Broad Street have been replaced with non-conforming 20th century structures and as a result, negatively impact the green's integrity.



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