The following is excerpted from the American Planning Association Website

Summary

Historical sites abound in New England, but few boast as rich a history as the New Haven Green. Established in 1641 as the marketplace of the Puritans' New Haven Colony, the Green has seen much in its 365-year-plus history. General George Washington spoke here during the American Revolution. The Amistad captives were exercised here, Abraham Lincoln gave a presidential campaign speech, and rallies were held during the Vietnam War and civil rights struggles. Easily accessible by bus, car, bicycle, and pedestrians, the Green is the city's public gathering place.

DESIGNATED AREA

New Haven Green, bordered by College, Chapel, Church, and Elm streets, covers 16 acres in the heart of downtown.

Lined by trees, traversed by pathways and surrounded by historic buildings, the Green is the centerpiece of New Haven's historic, cultural, and religious events. Photo courtesy of Greater New Haven Convention and Visitors Bureau.

PLANNING EXCELLENCE

Verdant tree cover, diagonal sidewalks, and historic buildings — some of which date back more than 250 years — contribute to the Green's setting and unique sense of place.

New Haven's commitment to planning, plan implementation, and smart growth principles are helping the city increase density and promote residential, commercial, retail, and entertainment uses on the streets adjoining the Green.

United Church is one of three churches built between 1812 and 1816 on the Green. Photo courtesy of Greater New Haven Convention and Visitors Bureau.

DEFINING CHARACTERISTICS, FEATURES

Physical Setting and Attributes

  • The Green is the central square of New Haven's original nine-square settlement plan; located on the lower portion of the Green are the Bennett Fountain, built in 1907, and a marble World War I memorial with flag pole on the site where liberty poles were raised

  • Other amenities installed in the early 20th century; walkways located along edges, across the  middle, and on diagonals of the Green; granite fountain constructed  in 2003

  • First American elm and buttonwood trees planted on grounds in 1759 and around 1840; disease-resistant elms planted during the 1980s to replace older elms, many of which died from Dutch elm disease

  • Bus stops run along either side of the Green, improving accessibility and making the Green convenient to non-motorists

 

Private Land Managed For Public Benefit

  • In 1641, English engineer John Brockett platted the village and created the Green as a marketplace with a meeting house at the center; the Green is privately owned; in 1805 prominent New Haven residents who retain legal rights to control the Green's common land form a committee that assumes these responsibilities;  subsequent committee members hold the Green's legal rights to this day

  • The Green now designated a city park district, ensuring it remains in the public domain

 

Historic Architecture

  • Between 1812 and 1816 three churches were constructed and still stand on the Green today: the Federal style United Church, the Georgian style Center Church, and the Gothic Revival Trinity Episcopal Church, one of the first churches of that style built in the U.S.

  • The streets facing the Green have a great variety of historic buildings, including several structures built in the mid-1700s — the federal-style Nicholas Callahan and John Pierpont houses, Yale's "Old" Campus

  • Other buildings contributing to the Green's historic streetscape surroundings include the Governor Ralph Isaacs Ingersoll house (Greek revival, 1829); the Exchange Building (four-story Greek Revival, 1832); colonial-style  New Haven Free Public Library (1908); federal courthouse (Classical Revival, 1913); and the New Haven County Courthouse (Beaux-Arts neoclassical, 1914)

  • Named a National Historic Landmark in 1970; also on the Connecticut Register of Historic Places

 

The Green is easily accessible by bus, car, bicycle, and on foot. Photo courtesy of Greater New Haven Convention and Visitors Bureau.

British Spare Town; Smart Growth Shapes New Development

  • General George Washington addressed soldiers from New Haven on the Green

  • Occupying troops spared New Haven during American Revolution, unlike other nearby towns that were burned, because British General Charles Garth surveyed the city and remarked New Haven was "too beautiful a town to burn" (Branch, 1911)

  •  New Haven commits to practicing Smart Growth, including increasing residential density and allowing mixed uses (commercial, retail, dining, and entertainment) around the Green