Westleigh of Litchfield

History of Litchfield

Founded in 1719, Litchfield was designated the county seat in 1751, and by the 1790s the town had become the leading commercial, social, cultural and legal center of Northwestern Connecticut. Its population grew from 1,366 in 1756 to 2,544 in 1774, and by 1810 Litchfield was the fourth largest settlement in the state with a population of 4,639.

In October 1777, William Franklin, the son of Benjamin Franklin, may have been jailed in the Litchfield jail because he was a Loyalist.

Beginning in 1784, Litchfield lawyer, Tapping Reeve, systematized his law lectures for young students, creating the Litchfield Law School. Reeve was the first to develop a series of formal, regular lectures that insured that all students had access to the same body of knowledge. Among those who attended was David Sherman Boardman, a prominent nineteenth-century lawyer and judge in the county. Litchfield Law School is believed to be the first Law School in the United States.

Established in 1792, Sarah Pierce’s Litchfield Female Academy was one of the first major educational institutions for women in the United States.

Harriet Beecher Stowe, Henry Ward Beecher, Charles Beecher, Edward Beecher, Isabella Beecher Hooker, and Catharine Beecher all grew up in Litchfield where their father, Lyman Beecher was the Presyterian minister from 1810-1826.

During its “Golden Age” (1784–1834) Litchfield had an unusual number of college educated inhabitants. In 1791 Samuel Miles Hopkins, a student at the Litchfield Law School, described Litchfield in his journal as a town of “hard, active, reading, thinking, intelligent men who may probably be set forth as a pattern of the finest community on earth.”

Litchfield’s fortunes declined during the later years of the nineteenth century. The town did not have the ample water supply and rail transportation necessary to establish industry and the village became a sleepy backwater.

Rediscovered as a resort community in the late nineteenth century Litchfield became a popular spot for vacation, weekend and summer homes. The town embraced the Colonial Revival movement and by the early Century many of the homes began to sport the white paint and black shutters seen today

Litchfield Profile

LOCATION:  Litchfield is located 34 miles west of Hartford, 16 miles northwest of Waterbury and 6 miles southwest of Torrington, in the midst of the Litchfield Hills and is the county seat of Litchfield County, although there is no longer county government.

AREA & TOPOGRAPHY:  Litchfield’s land area of 57.3 square miles includes the Boroughs of Litchfield and Bantam and the Villages of East Litchfield, Northfield and Milton.

CLIMATE:  Average annual temperature is 51.4 F (summer temperature 70 F, winter temperature 27F). Annual precipitation averages just under 50 inches.

POPULATION:

  • 1980 Census: 7605
  • 1990 Census: 8365
  • 2000 Census: 8316
  • 2010 Census: 8466

TAXES:

  • 2008-09 Mill Rate – 25.5
  • 2009-10 Mill Rate – 21.2
  • 2010-11 Mill Rate – 21.9

FORM OF GOVERNMENT:  Board of Selectmen and Town Meeting

EDUCATION:  Litchfield serves its residents with three public schools: elementary, intermediate and high. Litchfield Public school enrollment as of March of 2011 was 1152.  There is also one regional high school which serves the neighboring towns of Warren, Morris and Goshen. In addition there are also numerous private schools in the area.

CULTURAL & RECREATIONAL:

Litchfield has two excellent public libraries that are privately maintained. The Oliver Wolcott Library is located at 160 South Street.  The Gilbert Library is located at 38 Main Street in the village of Northfield.

The Bantam Cinema is located on Route 209 in the Borough of Bantam and offers a wide variety of cultural and current films. For information call  860-567-0006.

The Litchfield Historical Society, at the corner of South and East Streets, occupies a 1905 classical brick building which houses the Litchfield History Museum and a historical research library.

Bantam Lake, the largest natural body of water in the State, has summer cottages, camping, swimming, boating and fishing, and sports ice boats, skaters and ice fisherman in the winter. Bantam Lake is also host to the annual Bantam Lake Ski Club Show in August.

Litchfield Nature Center & Museum, on the grounds of the White Memorial Foundation, contains large dioramas showing wildlife in the area and many other exciting exhibits. There is a wooden boardwalk thru wetland habitats. White Memorial’s 4000 acres offer public recreation facilities for summer and winter – swimming, fishing, boating, camping, picnicking, riding, snow shoeing, cross country skiing and hiking on miles of trails.

The Litchfield Community Field, North Lake Street, offers tennis and basketball courts, running track, three ballfields, a pavilion for picnics and a playscape.

Topsmead State Forest, formally the Edith M. Chase estate, is located on Buell Road off Route 118, featuring an English Tudor style house on 511 acres. Enjoy walking trails, horseback riding, cross country skiing and other types of outdoor recreation from 8:00 a.m. to dusk. Tours are held during the summer months.

Mt. Tom State Park, 3 ½ miles west of Bantam off Route 202. The stone tower at the summit of Mt. Tom, 1325 sq. ft., is a favorite destination among hikers. The trail is about 1 mile long. Picnicking, swimming, hiking, and fishing are allowed at the park

All information about Litchfield courtesy Wikipedia and townoflitchfield.org.