Location and Landmarks

A suburb of New Haven, Milford is a fairly small city in southern central Connecticut, bordered by Long Island Sound. Approximately 50,000 people make their homes in Milford. Milford is largely suburban; there's no need for skyscrapers there, since it is only 61 miles to New York City. In tourism brochures, the emphasis is placed on Milford's "Colonial" charm; the city is considered a fine example of New England quaintness.

Milford's pride and joy is its downtown Green. The Green is the second largest in all of New England, and is often the site of various festivals to celebrate art, music, food, and history. Milford's leaders and small business owners maintain a sense of pride in heritage, and schoolteachers try to impart this pride to Milford's children starting in kindergarten.

History and Economy

In 1639, Milford was purchased from the Paugusset sachem, Ansantawe. Settlers from Europe began to trickle in shortly afterward, and the town flourished and expanded. Many of the original houses and meeting places have been preserved and restored over the years, and are popular with tourists and residents alike. One of the most interesting sights to see in Milford is the large downtown cemetary. Some of the graves date back to the original settlers, and it is amazing how well you can still read the names and dates on the stones. School children often make field trips to this cemetary, in order to make grave rubbings. You can find some really neat tombstones, with ancient symbols such as winged skulls!

You don't normally read about Milford in US history books. But this sleepy little agrarian town was there, quietly playing its part in the background. For example, Milford was a stop along the Underground Railroad, and a small island on the town's property was used by Captain Kidd and other pirates as a site to bury treasure. I once tried to walk out to Charles Island, but was called back because the tide was coming in. I must have been seven years old at the time, and the thought of a treasure island I could walk to was quite compelling! Nobody has actually found any treasure on the island; it's my guess that the pirates took whatever was there and moved it a long time ago. Now, the island is mostly visited by high school students who go there so they can (for example) smoke pot. There aren't any buildings on the islad; just trees and rocks and seagulls.

Originally, Milford's economy was based on farming and oystering. In the early 1900s, however, Milford began expanding its horizons, producing leather, boots, hats, shoes, and other wearables. Trade of such goods, in addition to agriculture, dominated the economy until around World War II, when heavier industry moved in. Norden, Milford Rivet, U.S. Motors, and Edgecomb Steel became town fixtures. Today, Milford has over 2,000 businesses, yet manages to maintain the aura of a small yet bustling colonial village. The downtown area is carefully regulated; you won't find a Starbucks or a Barnes and Noble there. What you will find is a large number of rustic, family-owned businesses, each with a unique look and product. In third grade, one of our field trips was to Park Lane Opticians, an optometry and glasses-making shop owned and operated by a classmate's father.

So, What's It Actually Like to Live There?

Truthfully, not much goes on in Milford. I moved there in the middle of third grade, and moved to California right before my senior year of high school. Milford shaped most of the formative years of my childhood: every kid looked forward to such things as being able to visit the mall unattended, and everyone had a story about tromping around in the marshy woods behind many of the residential areas. Milford is a decent place for kids. There seems to be just the right amount of trees, and there is a reasonably small population of psychopaths running around. Downtown has its wanderers and mumblers, but it's nowhere near as bad as in, say, New York or San Francisco.

The schools, I'd say, are average: they've got a good reputation, but they are, of course, rampant with drugs and other indulgences of youth. My high school there, Joseph A. Foran high school, had a reasonable amount of unbroken furniture, a good art program, and a lovely large auditorium for plays and concerts. In retrospect, I see that it could have been a lot worse.

No matter where you live in Milford, you are basically within walking distance from the beach. It's Long Island Sound, so it's not the cleanest beach there is, but it is nice to be able to go anyway and catch fish, watch the seagulls circle lazily around, or hunt for treasure with a metal detector. There's also a really neat rock wall at one of the beaches (Gulf Beach, if I remember correctly) that is tons of fun to climb. Real estate varies; a beachfront mansion will certainly cost you upwards of one million US dollars, but you can get a nice 3-bedroom split level ranch for $150,000.

Milford wasn't a bad place to grow up, but I don't think I'd want to live there again. It doesn't take long to explore the entire city, and if I were to try and settle there now, I think I'd end up wanting more. But Milford was the backdrop for my youth, so I'd like to go back and visit.


References:
http://www.milfordct.com/relocation.htm
http://www.milfordctrealestate.com/Milford.html
http://www.ci.milford.ct.us/history.html
Personal experience living in Milford from 1987 - 1996.

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