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New Milford Town Green

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In 1702 the people of Milford were allowed to purchase land from the Wiantanock Indians which the following year the court officially named New Milford. New Milford was incorporated in 1712 and a plat was laid out consisting of 16 home lots in an east-west orientation along a street running north-south at the lower part of Aspetuck Hill. It was this central road that has evolved into the New Milford Town Green.

The meetinghouse was erected, starting in 1719 and not completed until years later, on Aspetuck Hill overlooking the northern end of the green. The Episcopalians constructed a church at the south end of the green in 1744 and ten years later the members of the Congregational Church also built a new meetinghouse on the green about where Whittlesey Avenue today intersects with Main Street. The present Congregational Church was built in 1833 at its present location on the east side of the green.

New Milford grew gradually and in the early 19th century the linear town plan oriented on the north-west axis by virtue of the green developed in an east-west direction. The resulting street pattern is very much as it exists today.

In an engraving of the green from the first half of the 19th century, J. W. Barber shows a bare swath of land between two roads, Main and South Main Street. The steeple of the Congregational Church (the one presently standing which was built in 1833) is evident in the background. In the foreground on the green is the Episcopal Church which no longer exists. South Main Street is defined by a tight row of buildings behind a long fence and a row of trees. This somewhat picturesque view of the green is in contrast to reports of the green "Being a byway for animals and even for public dumping" through which a crooked water course ran that, after a shower, turned the green into a large puddle of mud.

However, with the coming of the railroad in 1840 and the hey day of the tobacco industry (1870 to 1890), the New Milford Green took on a different look. The first improvement came in 1838 when an open-paved watercourse was laid across the green to guide the flow of water. In 1872, the Village Improvement Society was created. The private citizen's group under the leadership of Mrs. W. D. Black laid a covered sewer in place of the water course, graded and landscaped the green, and provided street lamps. The New Milford Cornet Band constructed the bandstand at the south end in 1875.

With construction of several institutional buildings including the Town Hall; the fourth Episcopalian Church, a stone church in the Norman-Gothic Revival style built in 1882; and the Richardsonian Romanesque Memorial Library in 1897, the streetscape of the green took a new monumental image that exists today.

A fire in 1902 destroyed most of the buildings bounded by Railroad, Bank and Main Streets including those along the west side of the green. Today, the buildings on that side are primarily commercial dating from the twentieth century. The exception is the Elijah Boardman House which was built in the 18th century.

The New Milford Green is and always has been the dominant feature of the town of New Milford. The 18th, 19th and 20th century buildings around that define its edge and provide scale to the long and narrow expanse and relate to it historically, visually and functionally.

 

 
 

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