Topic: Things to Do

5 Best Town Greens in New England

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The New England village green is one of the region’s most memorable sights. We asked This Old House producer Bruce Irving to share his picks for the 5 best town greens in New England.

Best Town Greens in New England

Woodstock, Vermont

Erika Mitchell/Istockphoto

Village greens—and just about every other part of New England’s built environment—have been grabbing Bruce Irving’s attention for a long time. He produced television’s This Old House for 17 years before launching a career in the Cambridge, Massachusetts, area as a real-estate agent and home-renovation consultant. His book New England Icons reveals the hidden histories of the region’s familiar sights. If he had a spare moment to spread out a picnic, here’s where he’d go …

Cambridge, Massachusetts

In the center of a hotbed of modern innovation is a site with roots in the historic hotbed of Revolutionary America. On July 3, 1775, General George Washington rode onto Cambridge Comamon and assumed command of the Continental Army. Hard by Harvard Yard, it’s a great place to stroll, and this spring is slated to witness the workings of a major renovation, its first since the Bicentennial.

Woodstock, Vermont

Standing in this lovely ellipse, a visitor can, in one rotation, take in a dozen examples of great American architecture. Exquisite Georgian, Federal, and Greek Revival homes line the green, the centerpiece of a streetscape declared one of the “Great Places in America” by the American Planning Association. After rotating, tuck into Richardson’s Tavern at the Woodstock Inn, fronting on the green.

The monuments scattered about a green offer a narrative of a town’s past—like the cube of granite with the hook poking out of its top in Amherst, New Hampshire's green. Read more about Amherst, New Hampshire's town common.

The monuments scattered about a green offer a narrative of a town’s past—like the cube of granite with the hook poking out of its top in Amherst, New Hampshire’s green.

Alyson Horrocks

Amherst, New Hampshire

This is a village that keeps its heritage alive, with two museums and the largest historic district in the state: 120 buildings on 1,600 acres. In the middle of it all, Amherst’s beautiful oval green is as hardworking as ever, hosting a Christmas-tree lighting, band concerts, an antiques show, farmers’ markets, an Easter-egg hunt, and a big July 4th celebration.

Craftsbury Common, Vermont

Perched on a hilltop, this two-acre rectangle has escaped the heavy-traffic necklace so many greens suffer, thanks to the rerouting of a state highway back in the 1950s. Featured in Hitchcock’s The Trouble with Harry, the common is ringed by a bright-white three-rail fence, faithfully maintained since the early 1900s by Village Improvement Society volunteers. The second Saturday of every August finds townspeople at Old Home Day, complete with potato-sack races.

Old Campus at Yale University.

Old Campus at Yale University.

Aimee Seavey

New Haven, Connecticut

The Puritans measured the settlement’s green to hold 144,000 people. Why? Such was the number of souls prophesied to be saved in the Rapture, and the town fathers wanted a good spot for the airlift. When Hurricane Sandy descended in the fall of 2012, it toppled an old oak tree. Among its roots was a human skeleton, likely dating to Colonial times, when the green was the town’s burying ground. Pondering this, visit nearby Sally’s, Frank Pepe’s, and Modern to decide who makes the best pizza in New England.


 

Editors’ Alternative Favorites
Though it’s easy to see the merits in Bruce Irving’s choices, it’s impossible to for us to leave off two of Connecticut’s gems—Guilford and Litchfield—while those who’ve visited Longfellow, Massachusett’s green will certainly want their votes tallied, too.

Best Town Greens in New England

Guilford, Connecticut

Lisa Sacco

View photos of some of our favorite town greens and join in the conversation.

What are your picks for the best town greens in New England?

Comments
  • Jennifer

    Do you mean Longmeadow, Massachusetts? They have a lovely town green.

    Reply
  • Eastcoastgurl

    Hello? Little Compton Rhode Island? Incomparable.

    Reply
  • While Southington’s Green is of modest size, I would submit that no Green anywhere receives both the hardy work-out and splendid care than ours does.

    Reply
  • Newfane, Vermont. One of the most photographed in the state.

    Reply
  • Weston, Massachusetts! A beautiful Town Hall sits at the top of the green and the highschool graduations (on sunny days) are all held there. I grew up there and played on the green, picnicked on the green and attended many fairs, concerts and events there. Thanks!

    Reply
  • I’m glad you mentioned Guilford. Had me worried for a minute.

    Reply
  • Peter

    The Guilford Green is an iconic New England Green surrounded by beautiful old homes and churches!

    Reply
  • Vianna

    The Guilford, CT green is lovely. I remember, as a kid, attending a wedding at the Congregational (what else?!!) there. But I have to admit my heart-felt favorite is Lancaster, NH. Band concerts in the summer, people honking their horns when Gardner Wentworth conducted the band with his inimitable flair. (I think I’m homesick).

    Reply
  • Linda

    My best is Guilford Ct. My grandfather had a cottage there when I was growing up. Every summer my sister and 2 or 3 female cousins would spend a whole week with grandfather without any parents. It was GREAT!! We thought we were taking care of him!! Soooo many good memories there!!

    Reply

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