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Bridgewater Town Green

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Originally called the Neck, the town known today as Bridgewater was settled as part of New Milford beginning in the 1730s. In 1772 the settlers began petitioning the Ecclesiastical Society of New Milford for winter privileges which would free them from paying the portion of the taxes that they would use to hire their own minister during the winter months. It was not until 1803 that Bridgewater was allowed to establish its own Ecclesiastical Society.

A committee was created in 1805 and again in 1806 to determine the location of the new meetinghouse. In January, 1807, according to Orcutt, it was finally decided to place it south of Cranberry Pond on land belonging to James W. and Sally Smith. (Cranberry Pond is now a meadow about .5 miles north of the meetinghouse. The pond is no longer there). The building of the meetinghouse commenced that year but it was probably not until the spring of 1808 that it was used for service. Orcutt also reports that the committee decided in December of 1807 to see about purchasing additional property south (in front) of the meetinghouse from the Smiths for "better accommodation of said society."

The green is located across Clapboard Road to the south of the church. The general assumption locally is that the genesis of the green is not as part of the church grounds but as "left over" land associated with Route 133 that was incorporated into the town plan when Bridgewater became a town in 1856. The long and narrow shape of the green would support that theory. A 19th-century map of Bridgewater shows the green as a cutout in the road extending further north that it now does past the Congregational Church. This would also tend to support the theory that the present green is "left over" land from the highway.

Bridgewater began a serious town improvement program in the 1870s. In the spring of 1876, the Bridgewater Public Improvement Association was created to plant ornamental trees in Bridgewater's "Central Park." Elm and maple trees were also planted. The next year, the town graded Main Street and put in new stone sluices. In 1880, Edwin Evitts was hired to impound the cattle, horses and hogs found wandering in the newly improved area. In June 1881, a bandstand was erected on the green for band concerts.

The green has suffered over the years from encroachment. It is very doubtful that the 600 people who were reported gathered on the green in 1906 to celebrate "Old Home Day" would all fit on the green today.

The narrow sliver of a green provides the focal point for the 19th-century community. It has been the focal point at least since the mid-19th century and perhaps since the community was established. Around it are located important religious and institutional buildings and the only general store.



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