Century-old monument returns to Hodges Square in New London
New London – The ongoing efforts to revitalize the Hodges Square section of the city will get another boost this month with a ribbon-cutting for a 108-year-old monument that has not stood in the area since the early 1970s.
Landscapers were on hand Tuesday to transform the dirt patch where it is now located into a more fitting venue for a monument first bequeathed to the city in 1907 by Mary Turner Allyn Henry as a memorial to her father, Lyman Allyn, and her brother, Josh Turner Allyn.
The Hodges Square Monument was recently recovered from its storage spot at the Lyman Allyn Museum and installed at its new home in front of 405 Williams St. as part of the efforts of the Hodges Square Village Association.
Forrest Sklar, co-chairman of the Hodges Square Village Association, said the reinstallation of the monument close to its original location is one of the initiatives aimed at rebuilding a neighborhood dismantled when the Gold Star Memorial Bridge ramps were installed in the 1970s.
Sklar, owner of Copy Cats printing business at 458 Williams St., said he and others in the group want to help attract more foot traffic and create a more welcoming atmosphere for businesses and residents.
“This wasn’t at the top of the list, but we thought if we had an iconic monument it would help the neighborhood,” Sklar said.
Earlier this year the association unveiled Hodges Square Park, a 10,000-square-foot parklet on private property that now contained picnic tables, benches and green space. Features at the park were designed by Connecticut College students and installed through a volunteer effort that included Coast Guard cadets.
The association also has installed new signs along William Street to welcome motorists and park benches and planters through donations and volunteer efforts.
New London Landmarks, the preservation group, commissioned a master plan for the area in 2013 that was financed by a $100,000 “Creative Placemaking” grant from the state Department of Economic and Community Development’s Office of the Arts
The plan focused on re-connecting the area north of the two spans of the Gold Star Memorial Bridge, including Hodges Square, Riverside Park and the Crystal Avenue area, with the southern portion of New London. Much of the neighborhood was demolished in the 1960s by highway projects.
Landmarks Executive Director Constance Kristofik said it had lost its character and was nearly forgotten when it was separated from the city by the highway.
The plan concluded “the primary goal is to encourage and energize all the people who live and work in this neighborhood to look at their streets, the park, and their business center with new eyes.” For Hodges Square, that could be achieved by “making it prettier,” by slowing traffic, improving bike safety and establishing new business to attract students, among other improvements.
While the re-installed monument was once used to water horses, Sklar said there are no immediate plans to add water.
The ribbon cutting will be held at 10 a.m. on Oct 24 at 405 Williams St. Coffee and hot cider will be served.