By: Anne C. Hall, New Hartford Historical Society
Like all New England towns, New Hartford is actually composed of several villages. Originally these were distinct areas of settlement, surrounded by outlying pasture and woodland regions. Today, extensive development has blurred the distinct nature of these villages. A village’s location was determined by a number of different factors: convenient road intersections or river crossings, geographically and politically important locations, prime agricultural land, or access to water power. Not surprisingly, all of these factors had some role in the location of New Hartford’s five villages. All five had their schools, stores, churches and graveyards.
The first village was that of Town Hill. Its center was located at the corner of Rte. 219 and Hoppen Road, now the Memorial Bell Park. This location was probably selected for two reasons: it is about a quarter mile from the geographic center of town and it is a broad, flat hilltop reasonably well suited for farming. However, it was not on a main highway and with poorer soils than those of the river valleys, along with no water-power, Town Hill was essentially abandoned as a village by the mid-1800′s.
The second village was that of Nepaug, originally called the town center. Located on the Nepaug River on what is now Rte. 202, but was then the Hartford-Litchfield Turnpike, this village had access to superior farmland in the Nepaug Valley and was on a main road, unlike Town Hill.
Bakerville and Pine Meadow were established shortly thereafter in the mid to late 1700′s. Like Nepaug they had the advantage of riparian agricultural land, easy access to water-power, and transportation links. All three river villages were centers of light industry, as well as trade and postal centers throughout the nineteenth century. Stagecoaches stopped daily in all three.
The last village was the North center. This is now what we consider the center of town. Although the Prospect and Holcomb Hill areas, which were part of the North Village, were farming areas, this center truly began to grow, along with Pine Meadow, in the 1820′s when the Farmington River was dammed and diverted in order to generate large amounts of power. The advent of the railway gave a further boost to Pine Meadow and North Villages, as the mainline of the eventual Central New England Railway and a line of New Haven and Hartford Railway ran through the villages.
Anne Hall grew up in New Hartford, studied abroad and is now happily living in New Hartford again. Anne works as an architectural historian and general history researcher. As a volunteer, she writes a weekly article for the Blog section of the the New Hartford Historical Society. We are very pleased to have Anne’s permission to re-run some of those articles on NewHartfordPlus. You may contact Anne by email at firstname.lastname@example.org and writing “History” in the subject line.
The two postcard images of Town Hill Church and of Town Hall are being used with the permission of Corinne Markwald Johnson of Peddlers’ Junction. You may purchase copies of these postcards as well as other postcards with historical views of New Hartford at Peddlers’ Junction in New Hartford Center.
The photo of the statue in the Old Nepaug Cemetery is by Mary Femniak.
The photos of St. John’s Church and of the Bakerville Library are by Maria Moore.