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
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.
Personal experience living in Milford from 1987 - 1996.