By Dan Shine
Secrets of New Haven Green
It’s a bit odd that there aren’t any ghost stories associated with New Haven Green—especially when you consider that beneath all of that grass lie over 5,000 of New Haven’s earliest residents, unmarked in their final repose.
The Green was used as a burying ground from the earliest days of the New Haven Colony. After severe yellow fever epidemics in 1794 and 1795, it was decided that the Green was simply too crowded to continue as the principal burying ground. In 1796, a new cemetery site was chosen, at what was then the edge of town. This became the Grove Street Cemetery, and its first burial took place in 1797.
Meanwhile the burial ground on the green continued to be used sporadically until 1812. At that time, the gravestones were moved from the Green to the perimeter of Grove Street Cemetery—but those New Haveners buried beneath them were never moved. It must be remembered that this was in a time before concrete burial vaults, and that which had been buried generally could not be wholly recovered and moved elsewhere—so there the remains remain—to this day!
Old maps and paintings of New Haven Green indicate the existence of a large columned building located behind Center Church. That building was the State House. That’s right, Connecticut was the only state ever to have two state capitols from 1703 to 1875, those being New Haven and Hartford.
We should recall that New Haven had always been fiercely independent and self-sufficient; a charter from King Charles II in 1662 united New Haven—albeit uncomfortably–with the Connecticut Colony, otherwise known as Hartford. Unwilling to play second fiddle, New Haven insisted on being the state capitol, as did Hartford. Somehow, both got what they wanted, and that arrangement lasted for 172 years.
Today as you walk around on New Haven Green, you cannot find a single trace of the old State House or the old burying ground; it seems they belong to another time, and that is where they will remain.