The Norwich Historical Society recently completed the Norwich Freedom Trail and the Norwich Millionaires’ Triangle parts of the Walk Norwich Trail System. In total, the Walk Norwich Trail System has four major trails: the Uncas Leap Trail, the Benedict Arnold Trail, the Freedom Trail and the Millionaires’ Triangle, plus two partner trails: the Heritage Trail and the Troubadour Trail.
The Norwich Freedom Trail celebrates Norwich’s rich, diverse, and largely untold story of African-American heritage, highlighting notable people who played important roles in the movement to end slavery and advance civil rights before and after the Civil War. These courageous individuals, including men, women and children, range from former slaves to progressive educators and humanitarians, elected officials and civic leaders. All found ways — some quietly, others in the public forum — to fight for liberty and human dignity in an era of social and political upheaval. The trail includes Norwich notables such as David Ruggles, James L. Smith and the Jail Hill National Register Historic District, located adjacent to historic downtown Norwich. In addition, the trail emphasizes Norwich’s connection to President Abraham Lincoln during the Civil War.
The Norwich Millionaires’ Triangle explores Norwich’s industrial era in the Gilded Age. It is said that by the mid-19th century, Norwich claimed more millionaires per capita than any other city in the United States, with more than 50 residents earning in excess of $1 million per year in today’s dollars. By the early 1800s, the Millionaires’ Triangle — bordered by Broadway, Broad Street and Washington Street — was on the way to becoming the city’s finest residential district. The rich and famous of the era included William Slater, Leonard Ballou and Henry Bill. Many of the homes are still in existence and are all conveniently located near Slater Memorial Museum and the Chelsea Parade National Register Historic District. This effort includes connectivity to the various mill village neighborhoods in the city (Greeneville, Occum, Taftville and Yantic), along with the stories of servant life during that period.
Copies of the brochures are currently available at the Norwich Heritage & Regional Visitors’ Center located at 69 E. Town St. in Norwich in the outdoor information box, and the trails are accessible digitally on www.walknorwich.org. Our executive director is in the process of fabricating outdoor information panels that will interpret specific historic sites along the trails. We hope to have the interpretive signs installed this spring. Special thank you to the City of Norwich and the Public Works Department for their help coordinating and installing the Walk Norwich interpretive signs.
Thank you to the Sachem Fund, the State Historic Preservation Office, the Last Green Valley and the Norwich Noontime Rotary Club for funding this project.
Historically Speaking, which appears on Mondays, presents short historical stories. Regan Miner is executive director of the Norwich Historical Society.
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