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 three 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 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.
One response to “The Villages of New Hartford”
Great work, Anne!