History of West Haven, Connecticut

History of West Haven, Connecticut

The history of West Haven, Connecticut:

Up to the Revolution

Before the English came, three major Native American tribes would spend summers in the area that became West Haven. The tribes set up camps in the area of Old Creek near the sand bar, on what later became the Green and as far inland as Maltby Lakes. Before the arrival of English settlers, the Dutch noticed the high mounds of oyster shells along the shoreline. [http://www.westhavenhistory.org/our_town.htm Web page titled "Our Town" at the "West Haven Historical Society"] Web site, accessed March 12, 2007]

Settled in 1648, West Haven (then known as West Farms) was a part of the original New Haven Colony.Fact|date=October 2007 The historic crossing of the first six settling families of gentlemen farmers into West Farms" by horse bridge over West River (close to New Haven Harbor) is an event commemorated regularly by the town as well as with a mural, "Fording of the West River to Settle West Haven" (painted in 1938), in the main post office. [http://www.westhavenhistory.org/our_significance.htm Web page titled "The Significance of West Haven and the West River Crossing" at the "West Haven Historical Society"] Web site, accessed March 12, 2007]

Unusually for a New England town, the colonials built both a Congregational meeting house and, in the early 1700s, Christ Episcopal Church, one of the first Episcopal churches in New England. The church was started with the help of Yale University and constructed next door to the meeting house. In the Congregational meeting house was the site for all town records, town government events and management. The first public library in the state of Connecticut was also set up there.

In 1719, the hamlet became the separate parish of West Haven.

In 1779 the British attacked New Haven Harbor and came ashore in West Haven. Thomas Painter, a militiaman watching for the approaching British ships while standing atop Savin Rock, is depicted on the city seal. The main commercial street, Campbell Avenue, is named for British Adjutant William Campbell, who stopped to help a minister who had been shot. He is buried in the Allingtown section.

Economic history

From colonial times until at least World War II, West Haven was heavily involved in shipping. Ships from West Haven sailed to the West Indies and South America for spices, silks, rum, sugar and similar items in return for local timber. More than 35 ship owners, ship builders, masters and captains from West Haven have been identified with that trade. Tall-masted trade ships were built in town by Scandinavian boat builders, and in World War II, pontoon craft and light weight Chris Craft were built in the community.

Industry was also a major part of the local economy, starting with the West Haven and American Buckle Shops, which produced buckles, buttons and a prosthetic clips and braces during the Civil War. These factories were later joined by piano and organ companies. During World War II, Armstrong Rubber Company had a plant in town manufacturing tires and rafts for the military.

avin Rock Park

Savin Rock became a popular vacation spot by the 1870s, when ferries and horse-drawn cars from New Haven created easier access to the site. The New Haven Harbor beachside resort had a playground and carousel. [ [http://www.americanantiquarian.org/Exhibitions/Vacationing/resortsandhotels.htm Web page titled "Summer Vacationing in New England: Resorts and Hotels" at the "American Antiquarian Society"] Web site, accessed March 13, 2007] Savin Rock Amusement Park thrived in the 1940s and '50s and was closed in the 1960s. One of the last reminders of the area is Jimmies of Savin Rock, a restaurant known for its seafood and split hot dogs.

Twentieth century

West Haven and North Milford joined to become Orange (incorporated as a town in 1822). In 1921, West Haven split from Orange to become a separate town. It was incorporated as a city in 1961 and is known as "Connecticut's Youngest City." [ [http://www.cityofwesthaven.com West Haven Web site] ]

In 1927, "Lender's Beigel Bakery" was founded in the city by Polish immigrant Harry Lender. His customers were primarily Jewish delicatessens in New York City. Lender's sons, Murray and Marvin, later ran the business, specializing in "flash-frozen" bagels, a process that allowed the bagels to be sold nationwide. The business had grown to 600 employees by 1984, when it was sold to Kraft Foods. H. Lender and Sons restaurants in Connecticut now serve the "true" Lender's bagel. [ [http://www.haruth.com/bagel.html Web page titled "The Schmooze Bagel History" at the "Haruth Communications"] Web site, accessed March 13, 2007]

West Haven has a mayor-City Council form of government. John M. Picard, the city's tenth mayor, was elected in 2005. There are three independent fire districts served by the West Haven, West Shore and Allingtown fire departments.


External links

* [http://www.westhavenhistory.org/index.htm/ West Haven Historical Society]
* [http://www.wardheitmann.org/ Ward-Heitman House Museum]

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