The Madison Green
bordered by the Boston Post Road, Meetinghouse Lane, Britton Lane, and Copse Road
In the twenty-first century, Madison’s green is a local hub for social events and cultural gatherings—from sunbathing, Frisbee-tossing, and picnicking to antiques fairs, farmers’ markets, and concerts. In this way, it is much like other New England greens. Its earlier history also echoes the stories of other iconic greens in Connecticut.
Originally set aside, very early in the settlement’s history, as a common area for the grazing of livestock, it was at first a rather unkempt expanse of sandy hillocks on the south side and swampy swales to the north. Crisscrossed by a messy web of uneven cartways, it stretched from Judd’s Hill at the west to what is now Academy Street at the east. Records show that by 1661 some efforts were already underway to protect and improve this parcel. By 1705 and 1743, when the first and second meetinghouses were built at its southeast corner, a haphazard arrangement of Sabbath-day houses and barns were scattered about the common. These allowed for a bit of shelter and comfort for worshippers and their horses, but they too were somewhat of a jumble.
In 1842, shortly after the construction of the present-day meetinghouse in 1838, the townspeople voted to clear the land, amid some controversy. Despite strong arguments for and against the beautification, all of the buildings were cleared by 1845, and the ground was prepared for something more genteel. By 1855, the marshy places had been drained and filled; walks were laid; elm, spruce, and fir trees were planted; fences were added—and later were taken away.
During the course of nearly 400 years, militias drilled here; geese grazed here; troops trained and mustered here; the church bells pealed for services and for special occasions, such as the visit of the Marquis de Lafayette in 1824. More than a century after the Marquis’ reception at the home of Colonel Wilcox, the green’s majestic elms were wiped out in the hurricane of 1938, and the land was once again cleared and manicured. Today the four-acre-plus parcel remains at the heart of community life, both peaceful and lively in every season.