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Trowbridge Square

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Trowbridge Square in New Haven's "Hill" section was tentatively laid out by James Hillhouse in 1800. It was a center common space for a miniature nine squares, a copy of New Haven's original plan. Hillhouse's desire to develop this new area of town fell through, but the square was not built upon.

In the 1830s, this area of town, then called Mt. Pleasant, was acquired by Nathaniel and Simeon Jocelyn. The Jocelyn's were artists, social reformers, crusaders for black rights, and among the largest real estate speculators in New Haven's history. They left the nine square plan in place and designed the layout of this tiny green. They had plans to develop the area, but by 1850 only three houses had been built. (169 Cedar Street survives.) Up until this point in the green's history, it was always called "Spireworth Square," making reference to the vegetation that grew there.

It was in the 1850s that Gerard Hallock and the Trowbridge Family entered the scene. The Trowbridges were a merchant dynasty in the city; the family was among New Haven's first settlers. They acquired the area and continued to develop it. They built the first church in the neighborhood (now called Sacred Heart Church, 1851). They also were probably the ones who added the iron fence and planted trees around the perimeter of the green.

The neighborhood continued to grow through the 1880s. There are still examples of working-class housing from the period surrounding the green.

During the 20th century, the neighborhood evolved, and the square was eventually completely paved. Older residents of the area can still remember the square being flooded to create an ice skating rink every winter.

In 1979, the Citizen's Park Council of New Haven endorsed the Park Commission's plans to renovate the square. A decision was made to make the space into a "passive" use park due to the absence of any green park space in the Hill section of New Haven. The square was re-greened, pathways were laid out, shade trees were planted, and benches and a playground were installed. The renovation was financed with more than $200,000 in locally administered Community Development block grants. The Square was rededicated in 1980. It continues to be a community gathering place.

Trowbridge Square was originally conceived of as a small replica of the New Haven Green and finally developed in the second half of the 19th century as a focal point of a residential neighborhood. The square itself has changed substantially over time but it remains the focal point of the working class neighborhood that was constructed around it.



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