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10 Facts about New Haven, CT

Updated on April 9, 2014
Downtown New Haven
Downtown New Haven | Source

New Haven is a city in south-central Connecticut. It is situated at the head of New Haven Harbor, 4 miles (6 km) from Long Island Sound and 35 miles (56 km) south-southwest of Hartford. An industrial and university city, New Haven was settled by Euramericans in 1638. The city has long been distinguished as the home of Yale University, its largest taxpayer and employer. New Haven's nickname is the "Elm City," having historically contained many elm trees. The population of New Haven is 129,779 (2010).

1. The commercial heart of the city was its harbor, which once extended almost to the New Haven Green, now some distance to the northwest. The harbor area gradually decayed, partly as a result of being cut off from the rest of the city, first by the railroad and then, after World War II, by the construction of Interstate 95. It began to recover in the mid-1980s with the dredging of the harbor itself to accommodate increased shipping activity, and as a result of extensive retail, office, and recreational development.

East Rock Park
East Rock Park | Source

2. The focus of the city had shifted to the environs of the Green, a 16-acre (6.5-ha) park laid out in 1638, with a cluster of three famous churches dating from the early 19th century -Trinity, Center, and United. (Some early tombstones from the Green, once a burial ground, are in the crypt of Center Church; others were removed to Grove Street Cemetery.) Proximity to the Yale campus helped the growth of this district, which was revitalized as a hub of commercial and cultural activity in the 1980s. Landmarks include the Chapel Square Mall development and the nearby Shubert and Palace theaters.

3. About a mile (1.6 km) northeast of the Green is East Rock Park, some 446 acres (181 ha) of woodlands and gardens. West Rock Park is to the northwest of the Green; there is a nature center there. It is the site of the Judges' Cave, noted as the hiding place of the "regicide" judges Edward Whalley and William Goffe, who had signed the death warrant of King Charles I and then had fled England. There are numerous other parks throughout the city.

Yale University
Yale University | Source

4. Yale University has had a pervasive influence on the educational and cultural life of the city. It offers public lectures, concerts, and productions of the Yale Drama School. The Peabody Museum of Natural History, the Yale University Art Gallery, the Yale Center for British Art, and the Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library with its sculpture garden by Isamu Noguchi are all well known. The university's stadium, the Yale Bowl, is modeled on the Colosseum in Rome. New Haven's other educational institutions include Albertus Magnus College, Southern Connecticut State University, and the University of New Haven (in West Haven).

5. The city's cultural institutions include the New Haven Colony Historical Society, the Winchester Gun Museum, the Eli Whitney Museum, and the Connecticut Children's Museum. New Haven's Shubert and Palace Theaters produce shows on tour from Broadway; the Long Wharf Theater, on the other hand, has sent productions to New York. There are a multitude of theater groups within the city's cultural structure as well as a varied selection of musical concerts, including the New Haven Jazz Festival.

The Amistad Memorial
The Amistad Memorial | Source

6. The Amistad Memorial, a 14-foot (4-meter) bronze relief sculpture, created by Ed Hamilton, honors the life of Joseph Cinque, one of 50 Africans kidnapped from Sierra Leone and slated for sale in Cuba in 1839. The battle for the captives' freedom ensued in New Haven. This memorial can be observed at the New Haven Colony Historical Society.

7. The city's principal industries have included ordnance; apparel and leather goods; paper, printing, and publishing; manufacture of food products; chemicals, rubber, and plastics; stone, clay, and glass; primary and fabricated metals; machinery; electric products; and transportation equipment.

8. As a railroad center and also a port of entry, New Haven has handled much foreign commerce, both exports and imports. It is the largest wholesale distributing city in Connecticut. A thriving retail trade is carried on with the surrounding region. There is a great deal of coastal waterborne commerce, chiefly in liquid fuels, steel, and copper.

9. New Haven was incorporated as a city in 1784. About 1800 a sealing fleet was created, and New Haven traders ventured as far as the Pacific and the Far East. For some time these vessels brought enormous profits. Much of the city's modern industrial development began in 1798, when Eli Whitney, a Yale graduate and inventor of the cotton gin, returned to New Haven from the South and started a gun factory. He employed a system of interchangeable parts, which so impressed the U.S. government that his factory became a major arsenal in the War of 1812. Whitney's company later became the Winchester Repeating Arms Company.

10. New Haven's industrial base eroded after World War II, and many middle-class workers and their families fled the inner city for the suburbs. In 1957 Mayor Richard Lee launched an urban renewal project that attracted nationwide attention. New Haven's plans comprised the restoration and rebuilding of housing and community facilities, and a project for broad commercial redevelopment. Nevertheless, in the following decades, the city encountered the political, economic, and racial problems characteristic of many urban centers in the United States.

More Facts about New Haven

  • After Indian habitation, New Haven was settled in 1638 by a group of Puritans, most of whom had landed in Boston from England in summer 1637.
  • During the Revolutionary War, New Haven was captured and looted by British troops, although they did not burn the city, and casualties were relatively few.
  • The first railroad entered the city in 1839.
  • Wooster Square was a slum but later became home to new commercial and industrial buildings and an established historical district.
  • The Pilot Pen International Tennis Tournament, which draws top players from around the world, takes place annually in New Haven.

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