The first edition of Sarah Brown McCulloch’s Guilford: A Walking Guide, The Green & Neighboring Streets was published in 1989 with principal funding provided by the Guilford Preservation Alliance. In 2012 we presented for the first time an online version of the text with updates from the 2012 revision. Now, in February 2013, we have begun adding photos to this text. For links to this new illustrated version of Sarah Brown McCulloch’s Guilford: A Walking Guide click here. We also have a new illustrated version of our survey of Significant Structures Fifty Years Old or More.
What a great party we had for the “Hope Springs” premier! Thanks to our hosts at the Guilford Food Center and Breakwater Books and to all of the merchants who sponsored the very successful fundraiser. The event on August 8th brought together excited moviegoers, local and state politicians, and even a few local businessmen in tuxes. Guilford Preservation Alliance board member Ellie Green’s husband Barry took great photos capturing the spirit and excitement of the evening. [Read more...]
The next time you visit Guilford’s modern Shore Line East commuter rail station at the bottom of Old Whitfield Street, take a few moments to study the tall, octagonal brick water tower that stands sentinel on the north side of the tracks, a few hundred feet east of the passenger platform.
A crew of GPA volunteers recently cleared away the overgrowth and debris that have obscured this wonderful historic structure for years, allowing us all to appreciate the soaring pilasters, elegant corbelling, gracefully arched windows, and other details that make it one of Guilford’s architectural gems.
The GPA has long been in the forefront of efforts to bring the water tower and the adjacent rectangular engine house back to life. Both buildings date from around 1875, when Guilford’s 1850s-vintage wood-framed passenger depot–tragically demolished by Amtrak in 2000–was served by no fewer than a dozen steam-powered trains a day.
Today, twice that many Shore Line East trains stop in Guilford, bringing thousands of visitors and commuters to our doorstep every month of the year. It doesn’t take much imagination to envision the refurbished water tower as an iconic portal–say, a welcome and information center for tourists eager to explore our town’s wealth of historic, cultural, and recreational resources.
The 19th-century station buildings are an irreplaceable part of Guilford’s heritage. But preserving them is not about turning back the clock. It’s about planning for the future and capitalizing on one of our most distinctive and valuable assets. In short, it’s about making heritage and cultural tourism an integral part of Guilford’s 21st-century economy.
Elsewhere on this website you can read about some of the GPA’s related initiatives, including walking tours of the historic town center led by specially trained Guilford High School students, a presentation on sustainable development by one of the leading “green” developers in the country, and a new website, www.historicguilford.org, dedicated to promoting our town as a tourist destination.
The train station project is a key part of that larger effort. It’s also an urgent priority, as the continuing deterioration of the water tower indicates. Thanks to the generosity of dozens of Guilford citizens, the GPA has a substantial fund earmarked for stabilizing the station buildings, and we are currently assessing the possibility of raising additional funds to install a new roof on the water tower.
Pending resolution of legal issues relating to ownership and potential liability for toxic cleanup on the site, the GPA board last year decided to move ahead incrementally, starting by commissioning field-measured architectural plans of the two station buildings. Over the past several months, local architects William Mack and Randy Siress have donned hard hats, braved the elements, and volunteered hundreds of hours of time to create the beautiful drawings of the water tower that you can view here.
Since the original plans for the structure no longer survive, this painstakingly researched documentation enables us for the first time to accurately envision the water tower in all its pristine splendor. From a practical standpoint, the drawings will serve as a blueprint for the building’s restoration and make reconstruction possible in the event that it collapses in a hurricane or other natural disaster.
On a separate but parallel track, the GPA is collaborating with Amtrak, Connecticut State Archaeologist Nick Bellantoni and his colleagues at the State Historic Preservation Office, town officials, and other interested parties to develop a long-range plan for preserving the water tower and engine house as part of an ecologically and economically sustainable effort to revitalize the neighborhood around the train station.
Many pieces will need to fall into place before this complex project becomes a reality. In the meantime, the GPA is working with the state Department of Transportation to install a permanent historical display about the old passenger and freight depot in the foyer of the Shore Line East commuter rail station, a project made possible through the generosity of Boynton Schmitt, a long-time friend of preservation in Guilford.
Both the exhibit and the eventual adaptive reuse of the old station buildings demonstrate, in a very tangible way, what we mean when we speak about connecting Guilford’s past and future.
The latest project I have been working on is developing the Historic Walking Tours program here in Guilford. [Read here Susan Misur's article published in the New Haven Register July 1, 2012]. We have assembled a group of enthusiastic high school student researchers and guides who will lead visitors on two newly-developed tours, both encompassing the Guilford Historic Town Center (which is listed on the National Register of Historic Places). One tour will focus on the history of Guilford and include an introduction to three of Guilford’s house museums. The second tour will focus on architecture and include Guilford’s historic districts and scenic Broad and Fair Streets.
Highlights of our walking tours will include our well-known eight-acre green, the home site of the most popular poet of the 19th century, six homes on the National Register of Historic Places, two historic districts, stories of Indian Wars and regicides, stories of America’s most popular novelist of the 19th century and Guilford’s most famous summer guest, details of New England slavery, histories of separatists from the Church of England, revolts within the Congregational Church, and the expulsion of Abolitionists. All in a community with the oldest stone house in New England, the third most pre-Revolutionary War homes in the Northeast, and almost 375 years of history.
These same student guides are developing a Historic Architecture Walking Tour of our most beautiful residential streets filled with 18th and 19th century homes. These homes built for sea captains, preachers, merchants, traders, and congressmen are representative of Colonial, Federal, Greek Revival, Italianate, Gothic Revival, Queen Anne, Second Empire, and the rare Octagonal architectural styles. Students are also discovering the stories of the women and men who lived in these homes. These tours are scheduled on Saturdays and Sundays from the June 23 through mid-September. The Historic Walking Tours will begin at 11 a.m., and the Architecture Tours will begin at 2 p.m.
Please consult our new Historic Guilford website for information about purchasing tickets, and for learning more about our wonderful town of Guilford, “where New England begins.”
[By Penny Colby] In 2005 the Guilford Board of Selectmen adopted a Delay of Demolition Ordinance at the instigation and with the assistance of the Guilford Preservation Alliance. If a demolition permit is requested this ordinance gives [Read more...]
The first edition of Sarah Brown McCulloch’s Guilford: A Walking Guide, The Green & Neighboring Streets was published in 1989 with principal funding provided by the Guilford Preservation Alliance. We are presenting for the first time an online version of the text (from the 2006 seventh printing, revised, with a few editorial notes in brackets from 2012). In the future we plan to present an illustrated version. A new revision of McCulloch’s book is expected to appear in the summer of 2012.
You can click here to begin reading Guilford: A Walking Guide.
This summer, I visited England with my wife who travelled there to meet a client for her job as a consultant. This is the first time in almost 24 years I was able to travel with my wife on a business trip since my duties as Mr. Mom have diminished with the growth of my three children. With my wife having two days of breakfast-lunch-dinner meetings scheduled during the trip, I was left with two full days to explore the parts of England within driving distance of London. So I needed a plan and using this new fangled technology called a search engine (Google), I discovered a village on an ancient map of East Devonshire with the rare (but somehow familiar) name of Culliton (my surname.) Currently, the village is named Colyton and is located near the village of Colyford. It is close to where the River Coly flows into the English Channel.
Now I always considered Culliton an Irish name but Ireland, like the U.S. is kind of a melting pot. Many of the names in Ireland are the results of the various immigrant groups including Druids, Celts, Vikings, Normans, English, Spanish, and Scots. I have been told by Irish friends and acquaintances that the Cullitons are from County Kilkenny, Ireland. But because of the fact that the name Culliton and its variations have been identified as an Irish-Anglo-Norman names, there is a possibility that it is the result of the place-name Culliton/Colyton, Devonshire. And even though DNA testing through the Y – Chromosome can establish male ancestral origins (this can be done on the female side too), I thought the trip to Colyton, at might reveal my actual, if not my mythological homeland!
But then the nightmares returned. They started five years ago during a trip to England with my family. We rented a compact car and I started driving from Heathrow Airport toward Gloucestershire, a couple of hours west of London. Not only was the steering wheel on the right (as in wrong) side of the car, and not only did I have to shift with my left hand, and not only did every intersection contain a roundabout, but driving on the left side of the road was very disconcerting. And while I scared (scarred?) my family as I continuously sideswiped the brush on the left side of the car, I developed recurring nightmares about driving down the wrong side of the road and causing a catastrophic accident. These memorable dreams required me to change the destination of my adventure. I needed an adventure with public transportation.
So instead of searching for the ancestral home of the Cullitons, I would explore the ancestral home of the forefathers of my current home, Guilford, Connecticut. I decided to take my daypack and go for a hike in Surrey, England. This is the county south of Metropolitan London and the home of many of the original settlers of Guilford, Connecticut. I planned a trip where I could take the train from London to Ockley Station, Surrey and then hike through Ockley and end up in Guildford, (spelled Guilford on an old map) Surrey. This would be a two day hike with a sleepover somewhere in between the two locations. When I was done with the hike, I would be able to take a train back to London from Guildford. As many of you know, Ockley is the home of Reverend Henry Whitfield, the leader of the families who settled Guilford, Connecticut in 1639. The main city (or borough) closest to Ockley is Guildford, Surrey, our town’s namesake (although possibly indirectly.) By consulting online maps, I was able to guess that I could take a two day hike and arrive at Guildford on the second day before the sun set.
Ockley and Guildford were not too far apart really; maybe fifteen miles as the crow flies. But unable to fly like a crow, and unwilling to walk the entire distance on paved roads, and unable to find suitable berthing along the most efficient route, I developed a route that allowed me to take advantage of “public rights of ways,” mostly footpaths and bridleways through public and private land. This stretched my hike to about 25 miles, which is an appropriate distance for two days of hiking. With the help of the cartographers at Stafford’s in Covent Gardens, London, I was able to purchase a map that guided me on this hike.
Every culture and community has its origin story, and Guilford surely has its own story. In Steiner’s History of Menunkatuck, (1897), the story of the Reverend Henry Whitfield and his band of Puritans is told with details about where they came from and why they left England. King James, Oliver Cromwell, Archbishop Laude, Thomas Hooker, John Davenport, Lord Saye and Sele, Lord Brooke, and George Fenwick all seemed to have a hand directly or indirectly in why this Puritan group left England for the New World.
So I was excited to head to Ockley, where Henry Whitfield emigrated from. I took the morning train from London and arrived around 10 a.m. at Ockley Station. Taking out my trusty map, I followed a public path due east through barley fields to the village. Downtown Ockley is found along an ancient Roman road that is as straight as an arrow for many miles. After stopping for lunch at a local pub, I was directed to the old parish church on the north end of town. The church was St. Margaret’s and it is the church where Henry Whitfield was the rector before resigning to gather a company of fellow Puritans with him to travel to the New World to form a plantation. I was excited to find a plaque inside the 13th century church listing Reverend Henry Whitfield as the rector from 1619 to 1638 and another plaque commemorating his voyage to and founding of Guilford, Connecticut.
From there I hiked north through the manorial forests to the manor house called the Wotton House which is both an inn and conference center. I arrived there as the local nobility, the Lord Lieutenant of Surrey, had gathered her leadership in ceremonial military costumes. My L.L. Bean hiking clothes did not fit into the dress of the day, but all were polite.
The next day, I continued my hike through the North Downs Way public trails that followed former drover and pilgrimage routes. It was a great route that included World War II pillboxes, well managed forests, and heath. In England, keeping open pastures is part of the conservation efforts. They have even brought back an ancient breed of cattle that help them manage the native plant species through grazing.
I continued my hike west through forests, along bridal paths and foot trails. One particularly challenging section was the hike up to St. Martha’s Church which is located at the top of a very high hill. The most challenging part was the sandy path that made the hike similar to climbing up a very high sand dune. At the top, I found an ancient church, a very old graveyard, and a beautiful view of the Borough of Guildford.
The hike from to Guildford from the church was mostly downhill. But as I arrived along the riverbank of the Wey River, I realized that the Guildford in Surrey, England had little geographical resemblance to my American Guilford. This was a settlement along a navigable river surrounded by hills. Guilford, CT is a settlement along a broad plane with tidal rivers along salt marshes.
Some local historians or experts of rural England in the audience may have already surmised my mistake. Although Guilford, Connecticut is named after a Guildford, England, it is named after East Guldeford in Sussex, England, not Guildford, Surrey. This East Guldeford is a village along the English Channel named after Sir Richard Guildford, a Knight of the Garter and adviser to King Henry the VII who paid to have the salt marshes drained and diked in the 1480s. In this village there is a broad plain with salt marshes, closely resembling Guilford, Connecticut.
Although I did find Ockley and the mother church to the Puritans’ churches that settled Guilford, North Guilford, Madison, and North Madison, CT, I did not find the Guilford or Guildford, our town’s namesake.
What I did find from the hike was what the name Guilford or Guildford or Guldeford means. These names mean, according to legend, Golden Ford. At a shallow spot on the river where there was a natural crossing, the sand beneath the water was golden in color. It is an old Norman name related to the gilding on a book or the gilded age. I also found that Surrey and Sussex, the counties south of London are beautiful places where the hiking trails are lovely, the people are friendly, and the history is magnificent.
In the future, I would like to talk more about St. Margaret’s Church in Ockley and the group trying to preserve that church for next 700 years. Stay tuned.
We have just posted on our website (on the page entitled GPA Survey of Historic Places) a new, comprehensive annotated list of properties in Guilford. This survey, entitled “Significant Structures Fifty Years Old or More, Guilford, [Read more...]
A column by Howard Brown, widely acclaimed environmental and management consultant and GPA board member.
Preservation and Change.
I often hear people say that nothing ever changes around here. When I moved to Guilford in 1970, there was one traffic light. Route 1 was a rural road through open fields and woods. Most of the houses along the shoreline were uninsulated summer cottages. The population was about 8,000 and an acre of land was about $8000. Many of the houses in the center of town were in need of repair.
We often forget how many of the things we take for granted in our daily lives are actually new. The Connecticut Turnpike (now I-95) was only completed in 1958. Before that auto access to this town was all via Route 1, which more resembled Rt. 146 than its present incarnation with shoulders and modern lanes. Even into the 1950′s, many houses in town still didn’t have decent plumbing. For the residents of what is now the Griswold House, electricity was a single light bulb hanging from the ceiling.
Perhaps, most significantly, when I moved to the town in 1970, there was still very little public interest in municipal government and very little citizen involvement in town affairs. From an economic point of view, in 1970, Guilford was largely rural, just on the verge of a growth spurt that would change its character.
For all of the change and new prosperity, Guilford has managed to avoid many of the negative affects that befell towns along the I-95 corridor. Active citizenry helped channel development in relatively constructive ways, and that helped preserve and protect many of the community’s assets. Now, as the national economy has begun to slowly recover from a deep recession, and as development pressure spreads east from New York along I-95, the people of Guilford need to make new choices about what kind of town we want to live in, and how to channel the powerful economic forces of development in constructive ways to achieve our goals.
Local Economies and Responsible Development
Preservation and economic development are actually two sides of the same coin. In fact, historic and environmental preservalition are often key drivers of a healthy local economy. The term sustainable development, which has increasingly become a goal of communities across the country, is often defined as meeting the needs of the today’s citizens without compromising future generations’ capacity to meet their needs. This is an underlying principle of GPA’s work.
Effective economic development is about enhancing the the economic and social wellbeing of the people in a community by building an economy that is robust and can stay healthy even during booms and busts of larger economic cycles. Economists who study local economies look for many indicators of health and success. They tend to look beyond the common assumptions about commercial real estate development to understand what makes some communities thrive while others struggle with cycles of rising costs, rising taxes, declining municipal services and declining property values. One thing is clear, the towns that are the most attractive places to visit and live are neither hostile to development nor indifferent to their uniqueness. The communities that most people consider desirable are the ones with the wisdom to embrace yet channel development to enhance their uniqueness.
More than half of Guilford’s households have settled here since 1970. Most moved here from other places because the unique rural and historic village character of the town is still intact. GPA believes that the healthiest economic development should from policies and programs that build on the strengths that make Guilford a special and desirable place, rather than activities that make it more like every other place.
Guilford’s historic architecture and landscapes, its charming town center, its quintessential New England coastline, its farms and rolling hills in the north, and its extraordinary ecological diversity, are all features that contribute to its uniqueness. Though Guilford is geographically one of the largest towns in CT, nearly 18 of its 50 square miles are now protected open space with a growing network of nature trails and resources. It also has a blend of small retail shops, growing small businesses, and a burgeoning regional medical services and technology sector. We are the only town in Connecticut with two important highways (146 and 77) designated by the State as Scenic Roads. All of these assets represent important opportunities to encourage low impact tourism, and expand the health- and medical-related business environment.
Over the years, the GPA has helped preserve our architectural heritage—by securing national and regional recognition for it—and has worked to support open space preservation and protect small farms and local businesses. In the coming year, we will be using this site to share more information about our economic development initiatives, and we look forward to hearing your thoughts and ideas.
GPA Board member
A column about local history by Dennis Culliton, Guilford’s popular middle school teacher.
Guilford as History: A Rich Collection of Mysteries Waiting to Be Answered.
As a child, I walked in the woods and forests of my native Massachusetts and wondered at the stone walls, pens, and foundations of a past civilization that occupied and farmed almost every acre of land east of the Hudson River. I wondered how the early settlers, the Nipmuck Indians, and the later immigrants made a living in such a rocky habitat.
Twenty years ago, when I first lived in Guilford, and twelve years ago, when my family and I finally settled in Guilford and made it our home, the need to try to understand early settlers and how they made a living again formed inside me. Why did the Menunkatuck Indians settle here? Why did the salt box make sense for early residents? Where did the homeowners who owned such big houses around the Green make such a surplus of income to build such substantial houses? Who were the indentured servants, slaves, and immigrants who cleaned the stables, made the meals, and emptied the bedpans in those houses?
And Guilford also has signs of a past civilization of farmers, stone cutters, and foundry workers who made the town what it is and were absorbed into the population or relocated to new areas with new opportunities. In Guilford, we have many areas where the evidence exists to explore the contributions of those who sweated and toiled and drifted away.
Even our Green holds stories yet to be told (or forgotten and yet to be told again.) How many of the grave stones that were moved from the Green to the West End and Alderbrook were moved without the bodies? Why is the Civil War monument so prominent in a town that has been sending soldiers to war since the French and Indian War? Why does it appear that almost ten percent of the names on that same monument are from soldiers who fought and died in African American units in a town that has not had a substantial African American population in its history?
The Civil War monument holds many clues to the stories of the sixty-one men who died to preserve the Union. These clues can be followed to the Guilford Free Library where letters and diaries from Bentons, Parmelees, and Dudleys sit in cabinets waiting to tell the tales of a soldier’s life and battles from Antietam to Five Forks. These stories sit beside family records, historic photographs, ancient maps, and the diaries of men and women who thought enough about their lives in Guilford that some amateur historian might someday enjoy reading about how they lived.
There are even more mysteries to explore! Just Google Fitz-Greene Halleck (the subject of one of the largest statues in Central Park, New York, and of the largest monument in Alderbrook Cemetery) and try to explain why the most popular American poet from the 19th Century is virtually unknown in America (and Guilford) today.
I hope that in future columns I will be able to explain a few of these mysteries; but more importantly, I hope to whet your appetite for all of the interesting morsels of history that are waiting to be uncovered in this special place we call home. I also hope to introduce you to some of the historic resources and some of the great men and women who keep the stories of Guilford alive for this generation and for generations to come.