District Overview Inventory List District Map

Guilford Town Center Historic District

LHD boundaries as described are approximate and subject to change. Consult the LHD Study Report on file with the relevant local district commission or municipal authority to verify district boundaries and whether a specific property, particularly one in proximity of a boundary line, is within the district. Also note that LHD boundaries may differ from those of State or National Register Districts.

Year of Establishment:
District Authority:
Historic District Commission
Link to Commission or Municipal Website:
District Character:
Town Center/ Town Green

Buildings, Park

Architectural Style:

The Guilford Historic Town Centre is not dominated by any particular architectural style, nor by any single outstanding topographical or landscape feature. The Town, while undoubtedly late Colonial and Federal in character, is more diverse than that. Furthermore, the architecture and streetscape are enriched and strengthened by the natural settling, particularly the tidal marshes, street trees, and the Green. [NR]

17th Century, 18th Century, 19th Century, 20th Century

Guilford was first settled in 1639 by a group of English Puritans. Settlement occurred in the area bounded by the West River and East Creek along the shore. The large central Green was established at this time, inspired by New Haven's Green and has been maintained, with only minor encroachments ever since. The Green is unmistakably the center, a spatial magnet that draws everything around it, including the approaching neighboring streets. The town began, like New Haven, with hopes of becoming a mercantile port. But conquering a wilderness turned out to be a longer, harsher thing that the early colonists had bargained for. Soon Guilford, like its sister towns, settled down to become an agricultural village. Fortunately its land was fertile and its harbor teemed with shellfish. It was soon supporting a community which, if not rich, was secure. Farming continued to be Guilford's mainstay, but it explored other avenues likes Coastal trade and shipbuilding industry and related maritime industries. [NR & 2]

Architecture, Community Planning : The Guilford Historic Town Center is significant as a modern thriving community in which a substantial portion of its architectural heritage has been preserved. The community exists in a relatively undisturbed natural coastal environment, but is subject to pressure for change, both positive or negative depending on responses of the community. Although hopes to establish Guilford as a major mercantile port were unsuccessful, the town began its modest growth with an economy based on shell fishing and agriculture. Despite a minor boom between 1750 and 1812 in the shipbuilding industry and related maritime industries, Guilford grew very little until the mid 20th century and is no doubt the principal reason for the preservation of its atmosphere of an earlier time. Guilford's development in the late 19th and early 20th century was basically that of a small agricultural town. Several foundries built after the Civil War served to diversify the economy to a modest extent. Commercial development in the town was devoted to serving the needs of the farming people. This need resulted in the construction of stores and banks, a notable example being the Guilford Trust Company building constructed in 1912 in the Beaux Arts style at the south end of the Green. While the large number of structures of historic interest contribute to the value of this area as an historic place, its real significance is in the way these buildings relate harmoniously to each other and to the natural landscape to create an environment illustrative of 300 years of history. The value of this environment is further enhanced by the fact that it is today a thriving community in a very human sense. [NR]

[1] District information retrieved from the town website http://www.ci.guilford.ct.us/.
[2] Town Center Historic District Guilford, Report of the Historic District Study Committee, 1986-87, SHPO Library, Hartford.
[3] Assessors information and Parcel IDs retrieved from the website http://guilfordct.virtualtownhall.net/Public_Documents/GuilfordCT_Assessor/index.
[NR] Raiche Stephen J., Guilford Historic Town Center, National Register Nomination Number- 76001988 NRIS, National Park Service, 1976 - http://pdfhost.focus.nps.gov/docs/NRHP/Text/76001988.pdf; http://pdfhost.focus.nps.gov/docs/NRHP/Photos/76001988.pdf.

The National Register Guilford Town Center historic district includes a large area with more than 700 structures, encompassing both the local historic districts of Guilford: Town Center historic district and Whitfield Street historic district.

Date of Compilation:
Manjusha Patnaik, CT Trust for Historic Preservation