Guilford Center, Guilford, CT
Established during the earliest days of settlement in the center of town, the Guilford Green has always been a center of town activity. In the early days, it was a utilitarian public space rather than the park-like setting it has today. In 1643, a meetinghouse was constructed on the Green. Within a few years, the town academy, Town House and an Episcopal Church were also built. The green was used as the military drilling grounds and open space for wandering cows, sheep, horses and pigs for almost two centuries. In the early 1700s, it also began to be used as a cemetery.
In 1815, the newly formed Town Borough of Guilford began making civic improvements to the green. Residents were ordered to restrain their horses, cattle and sheep in this space that had been officially named the Publick Square. In 1824, burial headstones were removed, and three years later elm trees were planted. In 1837, a fence was constructed to keep animals out. Also in the 19th century, all buildings were removed.
In 1874, Guilford’s female residents organized the United Workers for Public Improvement to raise funds “to repair the walks, light the streets, improve the condition of the Village Green, and extend the work of beautifying and improving the village.”
By the 1880s, the green was landscaped much as it appears today. Mature trees grow along the paths, and near the center is a Civil War monument dedicated in 1877. Smaller memorials are found throughout the Green including a large boulder with a bronze plaque honoring those who served in the Spanish American War; a smaller boulder with a bronze plaque “in memory of all Revolutionary Soldiers in Guilford”; a rectangular cut stone memorializing those who served in World War I, Korea and Vietnam; a large rectangular stone next to a smaller one remembering those who died in Vietnam; another large boulder with a bronze plaque dedicated to those who served in World War I; and a polished granite memorial honoring fire fighters who lost their lives in the line of duty.