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All About The New Haven Green: From Its History to Its Mystery

16 acres long and made of nine symmetrical squares – downtown is made up of 9 squares, New Haven’s Green is made up of quadrants and pathways, the New Haven Green is the beating heart and soul of our city. The Green has lived many lives, once standing as a religious epicenter cloaked in the echoes of 19th-century church bells. Fun fact about the Green? The Puritans who founded New Haven and planned the Green designed it to be exactly large enough to lift and spare the 144,000 people whom they believed would ascend in the Second Coming of Christ – a launching pad for the end times, so to speak. Religious lore aside, the New Haven Green has served as a home base for the community for centuries, giving the residents of New Haven a place to connect, and a story to take home. Here’s the entire – unexpected – history of the Green.

A Front Row Seat To History

In recent years, New Haven has made history hosting political leaders, like when Bill Clinton, the 42nd President of the United States, enjoyed a pie at Pepe’s and walked the grounds of Yale. Long before Clinton, the Green gave New Haven locals a front row seat to witness George Washington address soldiers during the American Revolution, and hear Abraham Lincoln deliver a presidential campaign speech. From the start, the Green has earned its nickname, “the marketplace,” as it served as a true marketplace for ideas, culture, and patriotism to grow and flourish.

Our Theocratic Roots

It is no secret that our theocratic roots run deep. On the east side of the Green, you’ll find three historic churches: Center Church, Trinity Episcopal Church, and United Church. As the founding church of New Haven built over the New Haven Crypt, Center Church has been welcoming and bounding people together in faith for more than three centuries. And for architectural design enthusiasts, pay a visit to Trinity Episcopal Church to admire its stunning Gothic architectural style, with windows made of opalescent glass that tell the biblical story of Christ on the road to Emmaus or United Church to witness a fine example of Federal style architecture, featuring its fluted ionic columns for a grand welcome.

An Eerie Halloween Eve Discovery

While significant moments in history are made atop the open pasture of the Green, the history is just as rich below the soil. Here’s another fun fact for your next spooky storytime. Did you know nearly 5,000 people lay buried beneath the Green? On the eve of Halloween 2012, the strong winds of Superstorm Sandy blew through the town, knocking a 103-year-old giant oak tree onto the Green and unearthing an eerie discovery. Buried deep in the hollows of the ground, lay 18th-century human skeletal remains and a pair of time capsules from 1909 tangled in the roots. Donated to the New Haven Museum, the time capsule contents were soon put on display in the innovative exhibition and tribute, Nothing Is Set in Stone: The Lincoln Oak and the New Haven Green.

Who Runs the Green? A Centuries Old Mystery is Unveiled

Who runs the Green? Meet the Committee of the Proprietors of Common and Undivided Lands of New Haven, an exclusive group of local leaders who have spent the last centuries laying the ground rules for the space. Until just a few years ago, the Proprietors of the Green remained a mystery to even lifelong New Haven residents.

In 2017, for their official entry into the limelight, the Proprietors sent a representative to City Hall to announce their new modern vision for the Green, marking a new era of engagement with the public. Still, a question loomed large, who exactly are the other Proprietors, and how did they get this gig?

Anne Calabresi, a New Haven resident and current Proprietor, was born into the role. She descends from Thomas Eaton, the original Proprietor and founder of the New Haven Colony.

Hand in hand, the Proprietors tirelessly work together to prevent the commercialization of the Green, keeping intact the nature of its true spirit – an open marketplace for ideas and culture to thrive and flourish for centuries to come.

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