(203) 672-4384 Spells History

Allan Appel PhotoJack and Wyn Martin, visiting town from Vancouver Tuesday, took a trip back in time to Colonial Days on the fabulous New Haven Green—via cellphone.

The Martins availed themselves of a new audio tour of the Green.

The tour—which is dial-able from any cell phone and even from that dusty, Colonial device, the land line—is a collaborative project created and funded by the Committee of the Proprietors of the Common and Undivided Lands in New Haven (whew!) and the Garden Club of New Haven.

In order to take the tour, here’s all you do: Dial the number above on your cell, as Jack Martin did on his Apple 4S iPhone. Then Jim Andreassi of Elm Shakespeare Company comes on to take you on a 30-minute tour of the Green, with 11 “stops” describing its buildings, history, and evolution.

It’s pitched to the non-cognoscenti and to visitors like the Martins. But even we locals can learn a lot—did you know that public whipping was allowed on the Green until 1825?—and take pride in a place that it behooves us not to take for granted.

As Andreassi puts it, the actual time of the “30-minute” walk “depends on how fast you walk,” not on how fast he talks. That’s because for each of the 11 stops, you simply press the number and pound key to activate him. When he ceases speaking, he won’t start up again until you have reached your next destination stop and summon him once again with the next number.

“It’s almost like having a guided tour in a museum. Instead of going from painting to painting, you go from building to building,” said Martin, as he and his wife got started—after listening to the overview—at the first stop in front of Center Church.

They learned that the current structure went up in 1812; that there are 137 gravestones in the crypt, dating from 1687; and that in back of the church the regicides Goffe and Whalley are honored. Pride of place back there goes to co-founder of our town, with John Davenport, Theophilus Eaton.

Jim Andreassi reports on the recording that Theophilus’s bones are actually in that sarcophagus. Mmmm ... I wonder.

If you want to learn more about the regicides, you press 13#. Then you get a side audio trip, another neat feature throughout.

Below are a few stops I made on the tour, asking folks utilizing the Green today what they think of how it has been used in the past right beneath their feet.

Stop 3, College at Elm. I think my favorite info from the tour emerges from the narration right here: “Had you been on this corner in the early centuries of the Green’s existence and looked along College Street at the top of the Green, you would have seen roughly in the center of the block stocks with holes for feet and hands, and a pillory with holes for heads and hands, and a whipping post. These were placed on the Green from 1639 until about 1808, and whipping was permitted until 1825.”

I learned that perjurers were placed in the pillory, but the stocks were used to punish felons and drunks.

My intention was to find someone drinking on the Green, or someone upset at another person’s drunkenness, tell the person about what I had just learned, and get a reaction.

Then I thought better of it.

Before I moved on to Stop 4, United Church; and Stop 5, Cass Gilbert’s New Haven Free Public Library and other buildings looking north viewed from the Lower Green; and Stop 6, the 1861 Henry Austin City Hall (pictured) in its high Victorian Gothic recreation, saved by preservationists, I decided to hit 3# again and relisten.

I was pleased with how the tour narration made relevant the Colonial history of the law and its infractions with a mention of more recent events on the Green: “In the same general area [of the stock and pillory] in 2011 and 2012, Occupy New Haven protesters camped out to support the movement begun with Occupy Wall Street, continuing the Green’s place in New Haven’s more recent history as a site for free speech and freedom of association. The Puritan founders would not have tolerated protest and dissent from their views.”

At Stop 8, the 1928 World War [One] Memorial Flagpole, the only war memorial on the Green, I encountered Jose Vealzquez (pictured). He told me he thinks the memorial should have been bigger. He didn’t have a cell phone, so he couldn’t listen at the moment but said he will. A senior at Hillhouse High, he hopes to study visual art at Eastern Connecticut State University when he graduates and become a tattoo artist.

He said he liked the World War One doughboy relief on the pole. “It looks like he’ s moving forward”—and the lady [in the adjacent relief] is a peacemaker,” he speculated.

Finally, down near the Bennett Memorial Fountain, at Church and Chapel, which marks the first public drinking water pump in the city, I learned that the early public market was also held there. The narration told me this area, between fountain and flagpole, was also where livestock were allowed to graze up until 1812.

That was OK news for Army Sgt. First Class Blossom Mack, who was using the area to drill about 18 new soldiers. She was keeping them in shape, as they await deployment, with push-ups and a drill pushing a large truck tire all across the site where cows had chomped and militias of many eras had drilled.

“I’m grateful for the space. I have a large group,” said Sgt. Mack, who then got back down to business.

There is no access fee for the audio-tour call.

More information about the audio tour, and a complementary brochure-based tour focused on the trees,  are available at the Info New Haven Visitor Center at the corner of College and Chapel Streets or at the Yale University Visitor Center between College and Temple Streets.

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posted by: robn on March 12, 2014  10:10am

Can we bring back public whipping? I was thinking specifically in terms of BOA misbehavior.

posted by: DingDong on March 12, 2014  1:23pm


A comment on the title: judging by the phone in front of me now, history would be spelled (203) 447-8679.