Thursday, September 21, 2017

New England Villages: Guilford CT

As noted in recent posts, I have been working on a project which looks at the viability of using historic New England village centers as a framework for supporting 21st rural development.  The idea is that the village model can be updated to support sustainable development in the countryside and to serve as a counterweight to large-lot, exurban sprawl.  I did some field visits recently and thought I would share some highlights.
Guilford CT is a town of some 22,000 people, about 15 miles east of New Haven, on I-95 and Shore Line East.  It isn’t really a village, but it does have one asset that many people in Connecticut view as the epitome of a New England village – a magnificent green.

Now as people who have studied New England village greens will tell you (especially see the definitive book on the subject: The New England Village (Creating the North American Landscape) by Joseph Wood, available here) they come in all sorts of shapes and sizes.  The Guilford green is notable for being big (nearly 12 acres) and rectangular.  It is mainly open space (used as an outdoor concert venue), with only a few monuments – the main one a handsome Civil War monument dedicated to the men of Guilford who died in the war.  The streets bounding the green are home to churches, the town hall, private homes, and a nice business district of small shops.  The look and function of the town green have changed over the nearly four centuries it has been in use (see an interesting history here), but it has continued to be the iconic center of town and by serving as a sort of archetype of the town green it has shared its symbolic value with other New Englanders.

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