Light & Verity

Happy Birthday, Elm City

Highlights of 375 years.

New Haven turned 375 on April 24. In honor of the city’s anniversary, here’s a short course in some history you might have missed.


A “great shippe” loaded with goods to sell in London set sail from New Haven and was never heard from again. But months later, some colonists swore to having seen a ghostly apparition of the ship—being torn apart in a storm—in the clouds above New Haven Harbor. The incident later inspired a Longfellow poem.


When word reached New Haven of the start of the American Revolution, local militia leader (and future traitor)Benedict Arnold demanded the keys to the local powder house from reluctant town leaders, so his men could join the fight. The squabble is reenacted every April on the New Haven Green.


The city saw the first of what would be many violent riots over the next few decades pitting Yale students against off-duty sailors and townspeople. Locals referred to one student, Guy Richards ’07, as the “college bully.” This became an elected undergraduate office until it was outlawed by the faculty in 1840.


George W. Coy set up the world’s first commercial telephone exchange in downtown New Haven in January, less than two years after the invention of the telephone. He had 21 subscribers. A month later, when the world’s first telephone directory was published (just names, no numbers), there were 50.


New Haven began the projects that made it a leader in postwar urban renewal (much criticized since). Many large-scale plans were enacted, but others weren’t: among the unrealized were a “ring road” that would have cut off downtown from the Dixwell and Dwight areas, a half-mile-long parking garage on State Street, and a freeway through East Rock Park.

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