Ansonia Nature Center
The Paugasuck Indians, an Algonquin tribe, who lived in this area, found the hills surrounding the Housatonic and Naugatuck river valleys, a good place to live and so did the European immigrants, who replaced them. Edward Wooster,(nick-named Wolf Killer), the first permanent white settler in the valley, arrived in 1654, and built his house north and west of the Division Street Bridge. He raised 14 children and grew hops for the Milford Brewery, and was appointed Town Constable.
In 1655, Edward Riggs, also of Milford, built a stockaded house, a mile east of Woosters, on the hill, at what is now Pulaski Highway, across from Upland Terrace. Here, the English refugees, judges Whalley and Goff, sought refuge from King Charles I., in 1661, whom they had condemned earlier. This is the new sight of Ansonia High School. Shortly afterward, his brother-in-law, Thomas Langdon, built his home at the northern edge of this hill settlement, later called Squabble Hole, so named, for two feuding families by the name of Weed. Old stone walls and foundations can be found as evidence of those early settlers. Francis French built the fourth house on the western edge of Squabble Hole, and settled there with his new bride, in 1661.These four homesteads, along with Wooster's, were the only ones between New Haven and Massachusetts at that time. It was a 20-mile walk to the Milford settlement for Sunday worship services, which were obligatory, in those days. Settlers were expected to pay taxes and support the church, the clergy and the meeting house. In May (1672), the thirty settlers voted to establish and support their own local church and clergy. In 1673, they purchased a lot at Squabble Hole, and six months later, built a £ 100 dwelling for the Reverend John Bowers.
The nucleus of the early settlement, was known as Old Town. Its boundaries ran along the east bank of the Naugatuck River, from Division Street, to Platt Street, up Prindle Avenue (Cankwood Hill), to Pulasky Highway, across the hill to Academy Hill, and down again to Division Street.
Farms dominated the landscape until the 1950s and 1960s, when the average number of building permits were 250 per year. As you turn right onto Milan Street, just to your left, is the old stone foundation, marking the location of Ansonia's first family of African heritage. This is the location of Ansonia's last operating farm, which occupied 80 acres, of what is now the Ansonia Nature and Recreation Center
If you follow Milan Road to your left, it dead-ends near the farmhouse and barn that are privately owned, and surrounded on three sides by Ansonia's Community Gardens. The ancient highways here, Milan and Deerfield Roads, were once used to transport produce and animals into New Haven's busy markets. During the American Revolution, the colonists, making contact with the armed revolutionary forces on the coast used Milan Road's relative obscurity from the British forces, as a supply and courier route. David's Meadow, a reference to the original owners, who were the last of the Paugasuck Indians.
There was a tiny settlement to the north of the park, which housed these ingenious people. Smallpox, a European disease, fatal to native Americans, killed everyone but David's two children. A Yale University doctor had to chase the terrified and grief-stricken children through the woods, in order to inoculate them against the disease. The area residents, who feared smallpox contagion, promptly burned the tiny Village to the ground. No record exists of the children's lives, except that they eked out an existence, by hunting, gardening and selling baskets to the colonists.
Heightened awareness of the natural environment in the 1970s prompted local and regional officials to develop the site of the Ansonia Nature & Recreation Center. The park encompasses 104 acres of mature woodlands, a farm pond, upland swamp, wet meadows and old fields. Several miles of nature trails are used for teaching, nature study, cross-country skiing and hiking. Park hours are 9:00 am to 5:00 pm daily, except major holidays. The hub of the park is a large stone and glass interpretive building (Schumacher Pavilion dedicated in 1977). The octagon shaped building houses classroom/conference space, educational exhibits, a small natural history library, a gift shop, business office and a wildlife rehabilitation center. Popular natural history programs are provided to adults and children year round.
Outside is an award winning native wildflower and fern garden, and a butterfly/hummingbird garden maintained by the Ansonia Garden Club. Several acres have been set aside for use by the Ansonia Community Organic Gardeners.Three ball fields are managed by the city’s recreation department, and adjacent is an extensive children’s playground erected in 1991 by community volunteers. Two picnic shelters are available to reserve. Overlooking the pond, the new Redwing Pond House, an early childhood learning center and university intern research station, exhibits sustainable energy generation architectural design. A working demonstration, the building will generate its electricity from the sun and use a deep geothermal well for heating and cooling the structure.
Coming out of the Nature Center and take a right at the stop sign onto Milan St. At the next stop sign take a right on Benz Street. go .7 miles and straight through one stop sign.
At the end of the road, the 29 First Baptist Church will be straight ahead. First Baptist Church held services for a period of nearly 100 years at its original location at Main and State Streets. It celebrated its 125th anniversary in 1999.
Take a right on Hill Street. Go .4 miles and turn left on North Spring street. Go .1 miles to stop sign and take a right on Jewett Street. Go .2 mile to the Mansfield House on your right.