Woodstock, Connecticut

Woodstock is a town in Windham County, Connecticut, United States. The population was 7,221 at the 2000 census.

Annual Events

  • The Woodstock Fair, run by the Woodstock Agricultural Society (established in 1846) has been held since 1860. The current President of the Woodstock Fair is Susan Z. Hibbard. For more information, visit their Web site


17th century

In the mid-17th century, John Eliot, a Puritan missionary to the Indians, established "praying towns" where Native Americans took up Christianity and were expected to renounce their religious ceremonies, traditional dress, and customs. One Praying town, called Wabaquasset (Senexet, Wabiquisset), 6 miles west of the Quinebaug River in present-day Woodstock, was the largest of the three northeastern Connecticut praying towns.

In 1675, when King Philip's War broke out, some of the town's Indians, (especially in the southern part of the town) sided with the Mohegans and the English while others sided with the Indians led by Philip, rallying to arms on what is now Curtis Island in present Holland, Massachusetts and Brimfield, Massachusetts. During the war, the Praying town became deserted, and the English with their Indian allies marched through Woodstock to present day Thompson in the summer of 1676 burning any crops or stored corn they could find.

In 1682, Massachusetts bought a tract of land, which included Woodstock, from the Mohegans. A group of 13 men from Roxbury, Mass. (home of the Pastorate of Woodstock's earlier visitor, John Eliot), settled the town in 1686 and named it New Roxbury. Judge Samuel Sewall suggested the town change its name to Woodstock in 1690, and in 1749 the town became part of Connecticut.

18th and 19th centuries

A farming town in the 18th century, Woodstock began attracting industry after the War of 1812. "By 1820, there were 2 distilleries, 2 wheel wrights, an oil mill, fulling mill, carding machines, grist mills, saw mills, a goldsmith, and twine and cotton batting operations. Woodstock Valley was known for its shoe factories," according to the history page at the Woodstock town government Web site.

By the middle of the 19th century, industry almost ceased, and Woodstock reverted back to a rural state. The town then became a summer destination for wealthy city dwellers from around the East coast of the United States.

Fourth of July celebrations

Henry C. Bowen, a native of the town who became wealthy and helped found the Republican Party, hosted July 4 celebrations in Woodstock at his Roseland Park during the latter part of the 19th century. These celebrations attracted as many as 10,000 people who heard speeches, saw fireworks, and drank pink lemonade. Bowen, often called "Mr. Fourth of July," was an important benefactor of the town. Bowen gave his Roseland Park, which included a man-made lake, to the community.

U.S. Presidents visited Bowen's summer home on Woodstock Hill: Ulysses S. Grant, Benjamin Harrison, and Rutherford B. Hayes, as his guests and speakers for 4th of July celebrations. However, only Grant visited while he was a sitting President. Grant spent a night there in spite of the fact that Bowen (a teetotaler) forbade drinking and smoking in his home (Grant was made to smoke out on the porch, and he drank covertly).

Other prominent visitors were Henry Ward Beecher and John C. Fremont.

Roseland Cottage

Roseland Cottage, also known as the Pink House or the Bowen House, was a summer home built by wealthy businessman Henry C. Bowen in 1846. This is where Bowen hosted U.S. Presidents for his then-famous Independence Day celebrations at Roseland Park. Ulysses S. Grant bowled his first strike in the bowling alley located in the carriage barn.

The pink colored house features "tall, angular gables, gingerbread trim, and 21 formal flower gardens outlined by dwarf boxwood hedges," according to a Hartford Courant article. Roseland is an example of Victorian Gothic Revival style, which can be seen in its pointed gables, scrolled bargeboards, many tall chimneys, and leaded glass windows in diamond shapes. The outside walls, of board and batten wood siding, have been painted 13 different colors over the past 150 years -- all shades of pink (as of the summer of 2006 the house was a coral or salmon color). The house still has the owners' original furniture and knickknacks.

Roseland was designed (under Bowen's direction) by architect Joseph C. Wells. The design was influenced by the architectural design books of architectural critic Andrew Jackson Downing.

Fine Homebuilding magazine named Roseland one of the 25 most important houses in America in its 2006 Fine Homebuilding Houses Annual Issue.

Notable people, past and present

  • Samuel C. Crafts (1768-1853), who led an extensive botanical investigation of the Mississippi Valley in 1802, was later governor of Vermont and represented the state in both the U.S. House of Representatives and U.S. Senate. He was born in Woodstock, but moved away as a child. His father founded The Publick House in Sturbridge, Massachusetts and Craftsbury, Vermont.
  • Brian Dennehy, a stage and film actor, lives in town.
  • William Eaton (1764–1811) a U.S. Marine officer and U.S. Consul at Tunis, led one of the most stirring adventures in American history during the First Barbary Pirate War. He was born in Woodstock.
  • Caroll Spinney a puppeteer who is best known for playing Big Bird and Oscar the Grouch on the TV show Sesame Street, lives in town.
  • Amasa Walker (1799-1875) Congressman (1862-63), and writer on financial topics
  • Jared Warner Williams (1796–1864) Born in West Woodstock, he represented New Hampshire in the U.S. House and Senate and served for two years as that state's governor.
  • George Washington Wells the founder of the American Optical Company in Southbridge, Massachusetts, was born in Woodstock and graduated from Woodstock Academy.


According to the United States Census Bureau, the town has a total area of 61.8 square miles (160.1 km²), of which 60.5 square miles (156.8 km²) is land and 1.3 square miles (3.4 km² or 2.10%) is water. It is the second-largest town in Connecticut in terms of land area (after New Milford).


As of the census of 2000, there were 7,221 people, 2,754 households, and 2,048 families residing in the town. The population density was 119.3 people per square mile (46.1/km²). There were 3,044 housing units at an average density of 50.3/sq mi (19.4/km²). The racial makeup of the town was 97.37% White, 0.17% African American, 0.29% Native American, 0.43% Asian, 0.01% Pacific Islander, 0.44% from other races, and 1.29% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 0.82% of the population.

There were 2,754 households out of which 36.1% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 64.9% were married couples living together, 6.9% had a female householder with no husband present, and 25.6% were non-families. 20.5% of all households were made up of individuals and 8.3% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.62 and the average family size was 3.04.

In the town the population was spread out with 26.3% under the age of 18, 5.3% from 18 to 24, 30.1% from 25 to 44, 25.9% from 45 to 64, and 12.4% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 39 years. For every 100 females there were 98.4 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 94.6 males.

The median income for a household in the town was $55,313, and the median income for a family was $65,574. Males had a median income of $46,017 versus $30,222 for females. The per capita income for the town was $25,331. About 1.9% of families and 4.2% of the population were below the poverty line, including 5.3% of those under age 18 and 5.2% of those age 65 or over.


Woodstock is served by the Woodstock School District. Woodstock Elementary School (Pre-Kindergarten through 4) and Woodstock Middle School (5-8) serve Woodstock. Dr. Frank Baran is the Superintendent. Woodstock Elementary School serves children in pre-Kindgergarten through fourth grade. Enrollment exceeded 500 as of 2006. Woodstock Middle School, acquired in 1996, has an enrollment of more than 400 in Grades 5-8.

The town has one "independent New England academy" (a special public school administered directly by the state of Connecticut) called Woodstock Academy, and one private school (The Hyde School).

Woodstock Academy

Woodstock Academy, a "New England academy" which is directly administered by the state of Connecticut, is located in Woodstock. Founded in 1801 as a New England academy, Woodstock Academy closed twice in the 19th century, and the second time was revived by local philanthropist and Academy graduate Henry C. Bowen. After Bowen's death, his family set up endowments to help keep the school running. In 1915 it became designated the town of Woodstock's public high school. In 1932 Eastford, a nearby community, also designated it as its town high school. From 1915 until 2004 the Town of Woodstock had designated the Academy as its public high school.

Today the school serves the towns of Woodstock, Eastford, Pomfret, Union, Canterbury, and Brooklyn with a student population of over 1100. The school is often described as "independent" as it is not controlled by any of the municipalities that it serves.

Presently the Woodstock Board of Education is in the process of negotiating a new contract with the school, but negotiations have been at an impasse these last two years as the Woodstock Board of Education has been trying to get more financial control over Woodstock Academy, a school which is, as of 2007, only administered by itself and the state of Connecticut.

Points of interest

The Solair Recreation League

The oldest nudist camp of the USA (Solair Recreation League) is located in Woodstock. The camp was founded in 1934 and offers activities such as nude swimming, nude volleyball, nude billiards, nude outdoor tennis, nude air hockey and nude boating to its members. The camp is family oriented and owned and operated by its members. . Like in other nudist facilities, the average age of the Solair members is rather high. To attract younger members, the camp offers discount rates for people under 40 years of age and organized a College Day on May 5, 2007.

See also

  • History of Woodstock, by Windham County’s historian Ellen Larned


External links

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