Guilford was founded in 1639 by a small group of Puritans led by the Reverend Henry Whitfield, whose stone house still stands above the salt marshes of Long Island Sound; how it was bought from a female sachem of a local Indian tribe for "12 coates, 12 fathom of Wompom, 12 glasses, 12 payer of shooes, 12 Hatchetts, 12 paire of stockings, 12 Hooes, 4 kettles, 12 knives, 12 hatts, 12 poringers, 12 spoons, and 2 English coates"; and how one of the settlers' first acts was to lay out "their large and beautifully located public green, a perpetual monument of their foresight and sagacity."
In those days, the green was a 16-acre parallelogram of rough and uneven ground containing a number of small ponds. In its first two centuries, it became crowded with two churches, two graveyards, a town house, a hay scale, and four schoolhouses. More than four acres were shaved off its southern and eastern sides to provide central locations for a pair of blacksmiths. But early in the 19th century, stung by Yale president Timothy Dwight's criticism of its unkempt appearance, the citizens of Guilford decided to beautify their green. They tore down or moved the buildings, disinterred and reburied the remains of their ancestors, planted elm trees, and leveled and fenced in the ground. The result was one of the most spectacular greens in New England, a civic jewel.
The Whitfield House
Built in 1639, the Henry Whitfield House is Connecticut's oldest house and New England's oldest stone house. Originally it served as both the residence of Reverend Henry C. Whitfield and as a stronghold for the community.