Natural Setting and Town Origins
Click on the map for a
When the collision of continental landmasses
which created the Western Highlands of Connecticut was occurring
250 to 500 million years ago, a belt of lime-rich ocean
floor was thrust up among the primeval mountains. Eons later,
the softer limestone had eroded into the deep, mile-wide
valley which now stretches some 30 miles from northern Ridgefield
thru New Milford to New Preston.
Flowing directly across this ancient limestone trench
from northwest to southeast, cutting through highland
gorges on each side, is the Housatonic River at central
Here the Housatonic intercepts the northward flowing
Still River which drains the southerly two-thirds
of the limestone valley and the southward flowing
East and West Aspetuck Rivers which drain the northerly
one-third of the limestone valley. This pattern helped
form the significant water
supply resources in New Milford today.
OVERVIEW OF NEW MILFORD, CT
The highest elevation in New Milford is about
1,281 feet atop Bear Hill in the north-
corner of the Town. Then
the low point of just under 200 feet is on the
shore of Lake Lillinonah at the south end near Bridgewater.
See the full context
for Bridgewater's terrain on the regional
the early colonists along the southwest Connecticut coast
the Housatonic River was a natural route inland to the fertile
soils of this limestone valley. Sometime before 1671, a trading
post was built 25 miles above tidewater, at Goodyear's Island
just below New Milford's Great Falls of the Housatonic.
These falls were a favorite fishing ground of the native inhabitants
whose fort and village of "Weantinock" sat on a
bluff about two miles north of the falls at present day Fort
Hill. As early as 1670, the Connecticut General Court had
authorized several proprietors to purchase land on both sides
of the Housatonic at Weantinock, and a deed was signed with
four of the Weantinock sachems at Stratford in April, 1671.
Settlement was not organized until 1706, however, when twelve
new proprietors met at New Milford to buy out the original
grant and lay out a "town plat".
The site chosen for the new settlement was on a low terrace
near the east bank of the Housatonic, between the confluences
of the Still and Aspetuck Rivers, at the middle of the fertile
valley and at the virtual center of the ninety square mile
grant. The Town site was also directly across the river from
the natives' river meadow planting ground (still called "Indian
Field") and their Weantinock village. A new agreement
had been concluded with the tribe's leading sachem, Waramaug,
in 1705 which continued for many decades of peaceful coexistence
between the two villages on opposite banks of the river.
The 1706 grant, totaling about 92 square miles, extended
from the bounds of Danbury on the south to Kent on the north,
and encompassed most of present-day Bridgewater, about half
of Brookfield and part of Washington. With a total land
and water area of 40,768 acres (63.7 square miles), New
Milford still remains the largest municipality in area in
The Town's terrain is diverse, but predominantly hilly to
mountainous. Two features which extend through the length
of the town are the central limestone valley and the Housatonic
The Housatonic, originally called the "Great River"
in early deeds, originates in the mountains of northwestern
Massachusetts above Pittsfield and enters northwest New Milford
about two miles above Gaylordsville where it forms the border
Flowing southeasterly through a mostly steep-sided narrow
chasm, in about eight miles it reaches the wide limestone
plain at New Milford center and curves gently to the east
side of the valley where it becomes the headwaters of Lake
Lillinonah, a Connecticut Light and Power hydroelectric impoundment.
At about 11 miles the river again enters a narrow steep-sided
chasm, long known as "Lovers Leap", just above the
now-submerged site of the Great Falls and Goodyear's Island.
The lower three river miles in New Milford are the calm waters
of Lake Lillinonah, generally 400 to 800 feet wide, and the
final two miles mark the town's boundary with Bridgewater.
interest will be the 1973 report Navigation
of the Housatonic River in the 18th and 19th centuries.
Lake Candlewood, also a Connecticut Light and Power hydroelectric
impoundment, is another major feature. New Milford Bay, the
5 mile-long northeastern arm of the lake, is the narrow flooded
valley of the Rocky River. Averaging 500 to 2,500 feet in
breadth this portion of the lake and its hilly shoreline extend
from the town's southwest corner to just west of the center,
above the Rocky River power station on the south bank of the
West of Lake Candlewood and the Housatonic River high ridges
extend along the border of Sherman, the principal ridge lines
consisting of Green Pond Mountain, Candlewood Mountain, Stillson
Hill, Barnes Hill and Boardman Mountain.
The north central area is a region of high hills and mountains,
separated by the twin forks of the upper limestone valley,
and drained respectively by the West Aspetuck and East Aspetuck
Rivers. There are also several lesser streams, including Womenshenuk
Brook and Merryall Brook. Principal peaks in this area are
Long Mountain, Rock Cobble Hill, Mt. Tom, Peet Hill, Iron
Hill and Bear Hill, all with elevations rising above 1,000
feet. By contrast, the elevation of the Housatonic at Gaylordsville
is about 250 feet and at the headwaters of Lake Lillinonah,
just south of the center, about 200 feet.
High ridges also dominate the eastern side of New Milford.
Here however, the terrain is less mountainous and the hills
more gently rounded, typical of glacial till uplands. The
principal hilltop areas are Second Hill, Mine Hill and the
"Chestnut Lands" ridge. Several small streams which
flow to the valley from this highland area are Great, Cross
and Town Farm Brooks. Four small water reservoirs, no longer
in use, are located on the latter two brooks.
The rich, alluvial and limestone-based soils of the Still
River valley and the East and West Aspetuck valleys created
a long period of agricultural prosperity for the Town. Good
soils have also been farmed for long periods in the valley
at Gaylordsville, on Stillson Hill, throughout the Merryall
area, on Town and Second Hills, and in the Chestnut Lands
Submerged under a large glacial lake at the end of the last
ice age, about 15,000 years ago, the Still River valley and
central area include a number of gravel terraces at various
elevations. These significant aquifers are productive groundwater
sources for Town and private wells, and have been mined for
sand and gravel in several locations
glacial deposits map).
(See also early
research on glaciers and drainage development in Greater Danbury).
The blend of hills, valleys, streams and lakes creates many scenic vistas throughout New Milford.
New Milford Development:
Beginnings To 1950
Settlement began about 1708 as the proprietors arrived to
claim their home lots on the "town plat", located
at the south end of Aspetuck Hill where Main Street presently
lies. In common with other Connecticut frontier settlements
of the period, the plat created a wide common street and surrounding
village of home lots, clustered for defense and mutual assistance.
By 1714, fourteen of the sixteen home lots were occupied by
cabins and about two dozen families had settled in the central
area. A cartway or path led westward from the town street
to the river's edge and northward a mile to the rapids, then
the common fording place of the Housatonic (later to become
Bennett Street and Boardman Road). Another path led southeast
to several outlying dwellings (present-day Grove Street).
As the frontier receded into the northwestern towns of Connecticut,
settlement gradually spread from the center to outlying sections.
By 1717, a saw and grist mill was in operation on the Still
River at present-day Lanesville. In 1719, a meeting house
was started in the center although not completed for another
12 years. In 1725, an early proprietor acquired several thousand-acres
in the northwest area of the Town and initiated settlement
of the Gaylordsville section where another ford of the Housatonic
River was available.
It is likely that the choice lands of the Still River valley
and those just north of the village were settled and under
cultivation by the end of the first quarter of the century.
Settlement reached the better farm lands in such outlying
areas as Merryall, the "Chestnut Lands", and the
"Neck" (modern Bridgewater) during the 1730's and
Transportation between settled areas was difficult. Many years
passed before the primitive paths connecting the outlying
settlements -- many originating as Indian trails -- became
recognizable roads. Several of the earliest paths, later roads,
led north and south along the riverbank from the village to
fording places on the Housatonic, and also northeasterly through
the East Aspetuck Valley, southeasterly toward present-day
Bridgewater and southward through the Still River Valley.
A major obstacle, however, the fording of the Housatonic,
was overcome at an early date. In 1737, the Town constructed
the first bridge over the inland Housatonic, i.e. north of
tidewater at Derby. This long covered wooden structure, which
stood near the present bridge on Bridge Street, served until
carried away by flood in 1802. When the General Court subsequently
authorized several east-west "colony highways" to
be improved, one was laid out from Hartford to Litchfield
to Poughkeepsie via the New Milford long covered bridge, and
this route eventually became a major commerce and stage road.
At mid-century the Town was filling up rapidly as farms were
cleared and homesteads were established in every section,
propelled by a high birth rate and growing shortage of land
in the older towns. By 1774, there were 2,776 inhabitants
in the Town, which still included territory now the north
half of Brookfield and most of Bridgewater.
The New Milford
Historical Society & Museum is the guardian
of the Town's early resources, and the Gaylordsville
Historical Society covering the northwestern
portion of the municipality also has much of historical interest.
By the early 1800's, all but the steepest land had been brought
under cultivation or pasture. Small water-powered mills harnessed
most of the mid-size streams and enterprising farmers practiced
dozens of trades for economic gain, such as blacksmith, cooper,
fuller, hatter, joiner, miller, shoemaker, tanner, tavern
keeper, wheelwright and others. The upper limestone valley
along the East Aspetuck River contained a belt of marble ideal
for building stone and in 1800 quarrying and sawing of this
stone into slabs for export began in Marbledale, the part
of New Milford ceded to the new Town of Washington a few years
By 1830, there were 15 marble quarries and 20 mills producing
and shipping marble all over the country, located along a
three-mile stretch of the East Aspetuck at the New Milford-Washington
line. Iron ore had also been discovered in the nearby hills,
and New Milford's available limestone, used as flux in the
smelting process, and water-power led to the establishment
of an iron industry.
The earliest iron works were at the Halfway Falls on the Still
River (in present-day Brookfield) and later foundries were
established at New Preston, at present-day Lanesville, and
two in the Lower Merryall section. A paper mill which manufactured
paper from straw also operated on the East Aspetuck south
The rich soils of the river valleys led to a bountiful agricultural
production by the close of the eighteenth century, and resulted
in agitation for improved roads to tidewater. Many turnpike
companies were being chartered by the General Assembly, and
several of these secured rights in New Milford and vicinity.
These built and operated the Bridgeport and New Milford Turnpike,
New Preston Turnpike, Sherman Turnpike and Long Meadow Turnpike.
Also reconstructed as a toll bridge was the long covered bridge
at New Milford center and before 1810, a new long-span covered
bridge was built over the Housatonic at Gaylordsville. By
mid-century additional toll roads and bridges had been built
across the Housatonic at Southville (now Lower Bridgewater),
the Brookfield town line (Old Bridge Road), Great Falls (Lanesville)
and Boardman Bridge.
Despite the loss in 1788 of some 5,400-acres of settled land
to form the new Town of Brookfield, New Milford's population
increased to 3,221 in 1800, making it then the most populous
Town of the present-day region.
As small industries and commerce continued to expand, Town
population continued to grow over the next five decades. In
1819, when the Town's population was about 3, 800 persons,
the Gazetteer of Connecticut and Rhode Island described New
Milford as a "flourishing post-town" with three
bridges across the Housatonic and "numerous sites for
mills". It noted that the village contained 60 houses,
a post office, several mercantile stores and mechanics' shops.
With the now-thriving iron industry of the upper Housatonic
valley and inland farmers and manufacturers clamoring for
better access to tidewater ports, the Connecticut Legislature
in 1836 chartered the Housatonic Railroad. With major financial
backing from investors in Bridgeport, the line was routed
from Bridgeport north to Newtown, along the Still River valley
to New Milford where it would cross the Housatonic, and thence
northward along the river valley to east-west rail connections
under construction in Massachusetts. Construction reached
New Milford center in 1840.
The Housatonic line became one of the first to ship fresh
milk to New York City and briefly prospered in hauling products
of the valley's stone and iron industries to tidewater. But
by the later 1840's and early 1850's, many of the limestone
quarries began to close and the iron industry was in decline.
Other rail lines succeeded in constructing more direct links
to New York, Albany, Springfield and Boston, depriving towns
along the Housatonic line of their hoped-for "main line"
New Milford's population, stable for a decade prior to arrival
of the railroad, increased during the 1840's to a peak in
1850 of 4,508 persons. At this period, the 1850's, the Town
was settled to its agricultural limit and there was scarcely
an area of arable land not in use for pasture or crops.
Hillsides and mountains had also been intensively cut over
for timber, firewood and charcoal needed first by industry
and later by the railroad, giving the countryside an opened
appearance in every section. Tobacco growing began on a large
scale on the alluvial soils of the Still River valley, and
within a few years there were five growers producing more
than 9,000 cases of tobacco annually, valued at $500,000 to
$600,000 a year.
Dairy products and other cash crops also prospered on the
better soils, but steep and eroded hillsides began to be abandoned
and population in the back country commenced a gradual decline
as some residents sought better livelihoods on western farms
or in the growing towns. Bridgewater separated from New Milford
in 1856 to form an independent town; with this loss and the
beginning of rural decline population receded to 3,535 in
With two passenger and two freight trains arriving daily,
the Town continued a modest commercial and industrial growth
during the 1850's. Streets in the central village were lined
with homes and other buildings along Main, Elm, Bennett, Railroad,
Bank, Bridge and upper Grove Streets.
Most of the small enterprises of the time were located on
the various streams and utilized waterpower. A large agricultural
fairground, with exhibition building and "Half Mile Trotting
Park" was situated on Fort Hill just across the river
from the village.
Over the next several decades, many of the small water powered
industries ceased, snuffed out in competition from new steam-powered
factories in the growing cities, and rural population continued
to decline as worn-out hill farms were abandoned. However
agriculture, now principally tobacco growing and dairy farming,
continued to thrive in the fertile river valleys and plateau
New Milford Town Hall. Photo courtesy
of Rick Gottschalk.
Rural population loss was offset by growth of the village,
which by 1890 had more than doubled in size since 1850, adding
new residential streets south, east and north. A town hall
had been constructed in 1875 and a swampy portion of Main
Street filled to create the village green. Two large button
factories, a number of warehouses and business blocks had
also been constructed in the central area. Fine examples of
transportation improvements of this era that remain with us
today are the
Boardman's Bridge and the Lovers Leap Bridge.
The Town's population in 1890 registered 3,917 persons, virtually
unchanged from 1880. The principal industries that year were
the growing and packing of tobacco, dairy farming, and the
manufacture of lime, fur hats, vegetable ivory buttons, pottery,
machinery, silica paints, carbonized pipe, bricks and building
Because of location on the valley rail line and at the center
of a productive agricultural area, the Town at this time had
developed into a considerable trading center, shipping out
its agricultural and other products and purveying all types
of merchandise from groceries and dry goods to building materials,
grain and farm implements to the surrounding area.
In the 1890's, also, the attractive scenery of the adjacent
countryside was beginning to draw summer visitors who arrived
by rail to board at such hostelries as the Merwinsville Hotel
at Gaylordsville, the Weantinaug Hotel overlooking the village,
and at various guest houses. Attractions of the Town to lure
visitors were described as beautiful scenery, excellent roads
for carriage driving, healthful climate, lakes for fishing
and boating, concerts, tennis, bowling and billiards. Thousands
of visitors arrived each autumn, also, for the annual agricultural
fair at the fairgrounds on Fort Hill.
a devastating Downtown fire in 1902, commercial prosperity
continued into the early 1900's as the manufacture of hats,
upholstery and furniture replaced older dying industries such
as button making and stone cutting. Tobacco and dairy farming
continued to prosper even as the upland rural population continued
Population increased during the 1890 to 1910 period to over
5,000 persons, with most of the growth in and close to the
village where much of the economic activity was located. A
table of census population
by decade for New Milford in this period is available.
However, significant changes were beginning in the years just
prior to and following World War I. Abandoned farms in the
hills were acquired and transformed into summer homes. The
Canterbury School, a private preparatory school, was founded
in 1915 on a hilltop just north of the village. A hydroelectric
generating plant had been built on the Housatonic River between
Gaylordsville and Bull's Bridge in 1903 and within a decade
electric and telephone lines were being strung throughout
In 1921, New Milford Hospital opened with ten beds in a Victorian
mansion on Whittlesey Avenue, moving to a still larger house
on its present site three years later. Automobiles appeared
on the gravel roads of the community with increasing frequency.
The decade 1910 to 1920 was a period of booming growth in
the larger industrial centers and New Milford, in common with
other small towns of the area, experienced a small population
exodus as economic activity shifted elsewhere. Population
declined to 4,781 in 1920 and remained "flat" through
the twenties, registering 4,700 persons at the beginning of
the Great Depression in 1930.
By the 1920's, virtually all of the nineteenth century industries
and small shops had passed out of existence, except for lime
manufacture at the kiln near Boardman Bridge. Industries which
had replaced them were tobacco packing, the manufacture of
hats, upholstery, lounges and chairs, the production of gold
and silver plated ware and the bleaching and dyeing of fabrics,
mostly concentrated in the center.
Agriculture, principally tobacco and dairy products, continued
as a mainstay of the Town's economy, although farmland in
the hills was shrinking and the landscape was assuming a more
Shortly after 1916, utilizing newly available federal funds,
the State of Connecticut began construction of a trunk-line
system of state highways. Route 7 was completed through the
Town as a paved two-lane road by 1920, and Routes 25 (now
67 and 202) and 37 were completed a few years later. The construction
of these roads, as well as several State-aid roads (designated
Routes 129, 130 and 134) and gradual surfacing and reconstruction
of Town roads suddenly released the rural districts of New
Milford from their relative isolation and brought car and
truck traffic to the village where several of the routes intersected.
In 1926, The Connecticut Light and Power Company commenced
construction of its Rocky River hydroelectric project. The
pumped storage generating station, the first large one created
in the United States, was built on the south bank of the Housatonic
near the confluence of Rocky River.
Acquisition of thousands of acres of rural land comprising
the Rocky River valley in southwestern New Milford and four
other towns was complete by 1928, and in February of that
year flooding of the valley commenced behind an earthen dam
950 feet in length. The new Candlewood Lake covered 5,420-acres,
of which about 800-acres were in the narrow northeastern arm
now known as New Milford Bay.
Several dwelling sites and the remains of several nineteenth
century mill sites which comprised the "Jerusalem"
section were inundated but the Town gained a magnificent twelve-mile
shoreline and land for a waterfront recreation facility, now
Lynn Deming Park. Real estate speculation and summer cottage
development began before 1930 at Birch Groves and several
other locations along the east shore where town roads provided
did New Milford's neighborhoods look like in 1934? Check
them out on this highly
detailed aerial photograph.
Despite the depression of the 1930's,
traffic increased along the main roads and small roadside
commercial arose, especially along Route 7 south of the
center. These small, random uses were typically highway-oriented,
such as refreshment stands, filling stations, produce stands,
guest homes and antique shops. A 1935 statewide guide for
tourists describes the
scenery of New Milford at that time.
tobacco growing declined due to changing market conditions,
dairy and produce farming remained strong in the valleys and
some upland areas. Relatively little growth occurred in the
village, as new homes were built during this decade at scattered
locations along the newly improved roads in the southern section
of the Town, many of them near the east shore of Lake Candlewood.
Town population increased by 18% to 5,559 persons in 1940.
Fortunately some of New
Milford's scenic road character from this early
era has been thoughtfully preserved for the future.
Daily passenger and freight service were still provided on
the "Berkshire Division" of the NY, NH & H Railroad
line through New Milford although automobile and truck traffic
were steadily eroding rail business. The beauty of the New
Milford countryside had also been "discovered" by
city residents and old homes and acreage were being acquired
for recreational camps, summer homes and retirement residences.
Route 7, now a wide-shouldered two-lane concrete road, had
become the major access to the Town as well as a south-to-north
artery, and more substantial commercial uses such as restaurants,
tourist cabins and service businesses were beginning to develop
along its frontage.
At the beginning of the forties the Town attracted a new industry,
the Nestle Company, which constructed a modern food products
plant on Boardman Road, just north of the village along the
banks of the Housatonic River and the rail line. The Town
was actively seeking new economic growth as agriculture weakened
and residential growth continued.
Wartime scarcities and booming defense industries elsewhere
kept Town population in check until the later 1940's and the
coming of postwar prosperity. As mid-century arrived, the
Town's principal industries remained agriculture, the manufacture
of food products, dyeing and bleaching of textiles, furniture
and leather goods manufacture, and two hydroelectric plants.
Population was rising again and stood at nearly 5,800 persons
in the 1950 Census.
New Milford Development:
1950 to 2000
Most of the developed land was concentrated around the central
village, along Route 7 south of the village, along Route 25
(now Route 202) between the village and Northville, and in
five lake front communities along the east shore of Lake Candlewood.
Almost 39,000-acres (about 94%) of the Town's area was farm,
fallow land, forest and water body.
Early in the 1950's, The Connecticut Light & Power Company
began work on its long-planned Shepaug hydroelectric dam,
located downstream on the Housatonic to utilize the controlled
discharges from the Rocky River hydroelectric station for
additional power generation. The new impoundment, Lake Lillinonah,
extended upriver to the center of New Milford, and inundated
about 100-acres of land in the Great Falls and Lovers' Leap
section when completed in 1954-55. Forty six-acres of State
and Town parkland were set aside at three locations along
the new lakefront.
For an overview of the extent of land development in New Milford,
CT near 1950, a review of 1946-55
USGS Topographic Maps for New Milford will
be of interest (sample above).
At the same time the Scovill Manufacturing Co. of Waterbury,
later Century Brass Products, acquired a large tract on Aspetuck
Avenue just north of the railroad and the Housatonic River
and constructed a massive plant for manufacture of copper
and brass tubing. A few years later, in 1958, Kimberly-Clark
Corporation purchased a farm on Pickett District Road, between
Route 7 and the Housatonic River, and constructed an extensive
paper products plant employing over 1,000 persons.
Both of these industries initially used rail transportation
for raw materials and products. Several smaller industrial
plants were also built along Route 7 during this period. Major
commercial uses soon followed in the half mile wide corridor
of Route 7, including two commercial landfills, an auto junkyard,
sand and gravel mining operations, motor vehicle sales yards,
gasoline stations, commercial yards, motels, restaurants and
numerous other businesses.
By 1980, land in commercial use had more than tripled to approximately
400 acres, and land in use for industry had increased to 395
acres, over four times the industrial area of 1950.
Paralleling the commercial and industrial boom of the 1950's
and 1960's was a tremendous surge in subdivision activity
and new home construction. Farms and other large tracts in
central and southern sections of the Town were rapidly developed
as New Milford's relatively lower land prices attracted young
postwar families linked to employment in the expanding metropolitan
areas to the south.
Town population jumped by 43% in the fifties, registering
over 8,300 persons in 1960, and exploded by another 75% in
the sixties, reaching 14,601 persons in 1970.
By the 1960's, farms were selling out throughout the Town
as land values escalated, and subdivisions were created throughout
extensive southwestern, central and eastern sections.
Along with the booming growth came numerous problems. Traffic
intensified along Route 7 south of the center, septic problems
erupted in some of the smaller-lot subdivisions and the Town
was obliged to undertake a major school construction program
ultimately creating a new high school and four new lower-grade
schools. Commercial landfills increased in size and village
sewage treatment became inadequate. Residential apartment
construction and spreading commercial sprawl were altering
the character of the community.
The Town had established a planning commission in the late
1950's and adopted a Town plan in 1959, but repeated efforts
to establish zoning regulations failed throughout the 1960's
as four successive referenda defeated the proposal. As waste
disposal, traffic and other problems continued to mount, zoning
was finally adopted on the fifth try in 1970.
The basic framework of zones implemented in 1971 closely reflected
the land use pattern which had already developed, but large
undeveloped areas of the Town were zoned for single-family
residential at forty, sixty and eighty thousand square-feet
lot requirements (for 1, 1 and 2-acre average lots), based
on natural limitations of the terrain.
A broad band of land for commercial and industrial use was
designated through the Still River valley and northward to
Boardman Bridge, encompassing most of the nonresidential uses
in the Route 7 corridor. Smaller strip zones for existing
business uses were established along Route 202 from the village
business center to Northville. In general, the new zoning
map closely reflected the updated Town Plan adopted in 1971-72.
In 1967 and 1968, under State pollution abatement orders,
prepared sewer plans for a new regional sewage
treatment plant and greatly extended sewer service areas.
The new sewered areas were planned to reach northeasterly
along Route 25 (now Rt. 202) through the Park Lane section,
southerly along Route 7 to the Brookfield line and westerly
to the densely developed shoreline neighborhoods along Lake
It had always been intuitive to shape New
Milford's development to natural features of the underlying
landscape. These are "constraints on development"
due to soil, slope and flood plain.
But as planning and zoning modernized, consideration of these
limiting natural features became more formalized in local
land use regulations, this trend due in part to newly available
federal and state natural resource maps.
the four basic categories above
displayed on a townwide map of New Milford.
of the four categories.
as the regional planning agency for New Milford was formed
in 1968, the word "Housatonic" in its title having
its source in an old
By the mid-1970's, however, the regional sewer plan was dead
and New Milford adjusted its plans to upgrade treatment at
the existing sewage plant site and to scale down development
potential in the lower Route 7 corridor. At this time it also
became apparent that the State's plans to construct a Route
7 expressway to the center of New Milford would not be realized
in the foreseeable future, thereby restraining some of the
development pressure on the corridor. Rail Service had ceased
the arrival of Connecticut's 1973 wetlands protection law,
development potential in New Milford was significantly reduced
as the approximately 11% of municipal land area defined as
wetland was largely excluded from development.
Water supply remained an acute problem. By the early 1970's,
there were nine small water companies serving scattered dense
subdivisions from community wells, with the New Milford Water
Company serving the central village from its four small reservoirs
and well at Fort Hill. A program of replacing undersize mains
in the village was undertaken by the water company and the
Town began a long legal struggle to limit and eventually close
the large commercial landfill.
By 1980, in only three decades developed land in the town
had increased to over 3 times its 1950 area. More than 5,000
dwelling units had been constructed and Town population reached
19,420 persons. About 4,100-acres of land had been consumed
for residential development and another 900-acres for new
non-residential uses during this period.
Development continued at a rapid though gradually declining
pace through the 1980's, influenced by stronger Town land
use regulations, the closing of the Century Brass mill on
Aspetuck Avenue, and the beginning of a recession in the regional
Among new land use controls adopted during this decade were
site plan review requirements for business and industrial
uses, mandatory special permits for multiple residences, special
design districts for shopping centers and other major projects,
planned residential districts, a "Town Landmark District"
for historic preservation, and special zones to protect floodplains
and the margins of the Housatonic River.
Despite a slowing of the rate of growth in the 1980's, over
2,000 acres of land were developed in this decade, bringing
the total of developed and permanently committed land to approximately
10,700 acres, 26% of the Town's total land and water area
and over 4 times the developed area of 1950. During the eighties,
land in residential use increased by about 1,750 acres, in
commercial and industrial use by 120 acres, and in other forms
of development by 165 acres. Town population in 1990 stood
at 23,629 persons and there were 7,350 dwelling units of which
about 15% were apartments or condominiums.
New Milford's zoning patterns on larger regional map | See full map
Commercial uses, no longer confined primarily to the central
village in 1990, were intensely developed along Route 7 from
Lanesville to the center with less intensive ribbons southward
along Route 7 to the Brookfield line, northward on Route 7
to Boardman Bridge and northeasterly to the vicinity of Northville.
Two large retail shopping centers had been built in the central
area of Route 7, with smaller retail and office centers along
Route 7, in Park Lane and at Gaylordsville. Nearly 500 acres
of land were in intensive commercial use in 1990.
Two major industries, Nestle and Kimberly-Clark, as well as
two old closed plants and more than a dozen small new industrial
establishments comprised the Town's 423-acres of industrial
use, all located close to the center or along Routes 7 and
products of the Town's industries in 1990 were processed foods,
paper products, precision instruments, computers, electrical
and electronic components, apparel, publications and two hydroelectric
plants. Non-agricultural employment in 1990 in the Town totaled
the Town's leading industry in the first half of the century,
had contracted by 1990 to 2,700 acres of land employing less
than 1% of the resident workforce. Farmland was still in active
production at widely scattered locations in the Still River
Valley, the Chestnut Lands section in Merryall and several
other localities. Most of the nearly 23,000 acres of vacant
land which remained in 1990 was forested, and the majority
of this rural land lay in the northern section of the Town
and along its highland western and eastern borders.
The population of New Milford reached 28,142 in 2010.
In its fourth century, New Milford is a community of growing
sophistication, a leading component of what is becoming
"The Greater Danbury-New Milford Area" and not
just another suburb of Danbury.
For a logical path for New
Milford's future land use to follow, the HVCEO
Regional Development Plan presents sound advice.