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GLASTONBURY

Glastonbury Statistics

Numbers You Need

Town Site - Public Schools - Welles-Turner Memorial Library
South Glastonbury Public Library - East Glastonbury Public Library


In the past decade it’s become fertile ground for some of the best “west of the river” dining spots to plant a second or third location, a draw for an aggressive increase in high-end retail operations, as well the place for trophy homes. Its schools and sports teams are at the top of the class in statewide match-ups. Its riverfront developments and town center plans point to a bright future. That’s the sizzle of the “new” Glastonbury.

But Glastonbury’s status as the cream of the “east of the river” communities is not a recent phenomenon. Its underlying allure has long been its expansive land area (52 square miles), impressive history, its strategic location relative to the state’s capital city and interstate highways, the remarkable beauty of its varied topography, and its superb school system.

During the American Revolution, Yale University held classes here. Noah Webster once taught in a one-room schoolhouse here. Lincoln’s secretary of the Navy, Gideon Welles, was born here. And Aqua Velva and Electric Shave were created here. Glastonbury also hatched Arbor Acres, one of the world’s largest poultry producers, gave birth to the delicious Hale peach, and once grew some the world’s finest cigar tobacco.

Historically, Glastonbury comprised three principal villages — Glastonbury Center, South Glastonbury, and East Glastonbury — each community centered on both agriculture and industry. The Connecticut River’s local tributaries — the Salmon, Hubbard, and Roaring Brooks — provided waterpower for early manufacturing, and the fertile river bottomland and the highlands were conducive to farming. The Connecticut itself was a vital artery to the rest of the region, state, nation and world.

Glastonbury also has the distinction of having its own weekly newspaper, The Glastonbury Citizen, which has been covering local happenings for more than 50 years. It is currently the only family-owned weekly in Connecticut.

Originally part of Wethersfield, Glastonbury incorporated in 1693. With a population of approximately 34,800, the town has seen a consistent average annual growth of about 15% since the 1970s, and anticipates that trend continuing, with a burgeoning housing market in the east and south on former woodlands, farms and orchards. Today, Glastonbury’s hubs of activity reflect its historic roots: Somerset Square and the Town Center in the north, South Glastonbury village, and satellite commercial areas in East Glastonbury.

Town Center: Enter Glastonbury from Wethersfield on Route 3, and The Shops at Somerset Square on Glastonbury Boulevard serve as a sophisticated contemporary gateway. One of America’s first “lifestyle centers,” with nearly half a million square feet of upscale retail space housed in a complex of classically inspired architecture, the square was designed in the late 1980s by Robert A.M. Stern, now Dean of the Yale School of Architecture. Its layout essentially creates a traditional-style town square for a town that never had one. It ingeniously integrates automobile traffic through a stylish mall setting for easier access to its trendy shops, boutiques, and restaurants.

The 150-room Hilton Garden Inn, the town’s first hotel, opened in 2004 adjacent to Route 3 and “the Square.” Next-door is the Hilton’s 135-unit Homewood Suites, a residential style hotel for extended-stay travelers.

Heading east toward Glastonbury Center, Main Street is a mixed commercial thoroughfare, highlighted by Katz’s Ace Hardware, a veritable town landmark founded in 1920 by Joe and Ben Katz. Today, third-generation owner Bob Krieger and his staff are the definition of customer service in the recently expanded store that preserves a refreshing small-town ambience.

Glastonbury Center — anchored by the stately Welles-Turner Library, with a tree-shaded park and fountain — thrives with dozens of businesses located in four plazas along Hebron Avenue and Welles Street.

A slight modification of zoning regulations to allow al fresco dining has resulted in an influx of pedestrian traffic to eateries such as Adriatik’s Family Restaurant and The Diamond Restaurant and Grille. The Diamond, a venerable Glastonbury watering hole, has refurbished its bar and expanded its dining area to accommodate the increased demand for its famous burgers, sandwiches, and seafood. Across the road at 2377 Main Street, Daybreak Coffee Roasters, founded there in 1989 by owner Tom Clarke, has continued as a Glastonbury institution despite the trend toward chains. Its loyal local following appreciates its coffees, roasted in small batches to guarantee freshness and peak flavor, daily-baked pastries, handcrafted gourmet gift baskets and the country-store-style good cheer that remains a constant.

Over the past five years, though, the town center has become an alternative to downtown Hartford and West Hartford Center for a well-heeled crowd. Max has added Max Fish to its long loved Max Amore. West Hartford celeb Chef Billy Grant (Bricco and Grants) has opened Bricco Trattoria. And a new edition of Plan B Burger Bar, started in West Hartford, has recently arrived.

The town has recently completed a comprehensive Glastonbury Center 2020 plan that calls for improvements to traffic flow and parking, and creating a pedestrian and bicycle sensitive streetscape. It also establishes guidelines for the redevelopment of existing sites and identification of opportunities for new development. The major goal of the plan is to create a more cohesive, pedestrian-friendly environment that at the same time can respond to the anticipated demand for additional office and retail space..

Also, a 12-million-dollar expansion of Riverfront Park that will reconnect the town with the Connecticut River is well underway. Opened during the past couple of years are a 4-million-dollar boathouse for the high school crew team that has an observation deck open to the public, a boat launch area, basketball courts, picnic areas, walking trails and a skating rink.

Main Street, south of the Center is the beginning of the Historic District, with handsome 18th and 19th century homes built by some of the town’s most prominent early families. On the corner of Hubbard Street, the Glastonbury Historical Society (in what was the original Town Hall) features exhibits that celebrate the town’s Native American, agricultural and industrial heritage. Behind it, the original Town Green is the site of the Art Guild’s annual art shows and the town’s Concerts on the Green, while the adjacent Green Cemetery has headstones dating back to the 1600s.

South Glastonbury: Two miles south, Main Street merges with Route 17 on its way to South Glastonbury village. On the right, the Connecticut Audubon Society presents nature programs, lectures and music. It’s appropriately situated at the entrance of Earle Park, 48 acres of woods and trails along the Connecticut River. Just a stone’s throw away is The Old Cider Mill, one of the country’s oldest mills. It is open only in the fall to sell local fruits, vegetables, cider, and its tasty apple fritters.

Less than a mile down the road is Berruti’s Harvest House, one of several popular farm markets along Route 17 in South Glastonbury. Ensconced at the foot of the hilly, third-generation farm, the market is a stunning tableau of colors: field fresh vegetables, fruits from the orchards, including its own specially cultivated white plums and white peaches, all accented by a palette of fresh flowers. Berruti’s is one of the few orchards that still grow rare heirloom apples such as Northern Spy and Black Twig.

Further on, just before South Glastonbury’s village center, the Welles-Shipman-Ward House, built in 1755, “possesses exceptional architecture” according to the U.S. Department of the Interior. Now owned by the Historical Society, the house, its 18th-century-style herb gardens and vintage barns are open to visitors.

South Glastonbury has been described as the perfect pedestrian village—a mix of historic and contemporary buildings with sidewalks that make any of its attractions easily accessible. Among the popular spots, there are three historic churches. There are plenty of places to stop if you get hungry: 2 Hopewell Restaurant, well known for upscale dining; Harpo’s Bakery, featuring fresh baked breads and desserts; Gardiner’s Market, an updated small-town grocery operation that’s brimming with fine products and a personal touch that stems from its long family tradition; and Char Koon, whose creative Pacific Rim cuisine has earned this cozy hide-away a well-deserved regional status.

Behind South Tavern, above the village, Cotton Hollow Preserve is a hiker’s delight, with paths winding along boisterous Roaring Brook to the impressive ruins of what was once a vibrant 18th and 19th century industrial community. Waterfalls with pools of cool, sparkling water often draw a skinny-dipper or two on a hot summer’s day.

From Main Street, a right on Water Street leads west on a scenic road toward the Glastonbury Hill-Rocky Hill Ferry landing and the Seaboard Marina on the Connecticut River, home of the Glastonbury High School rowing team. Along the way, Glastonbury’s horsy set struts its stuff and its stallions! The lovely meadowlands provide a perfect setting for expansive equestrian centers like The Pines on Dug Road. Horton’s tobacco farm, still a family operation, is another landmark.

East Glastonbury: Heading east out of the village, Hopewell Road winds up through the hills to Chestnut Hill Road and on into East Glastonbury. Several spots offer a breathtaking view of the Connecticut River. At the junction of New London Turnpike, Chestnut Hill Commons includes the Country Store that happily advertises live bait, crawlers and worms among its other wares, and Lottie’s Country Kitchen, renowned for its robust breakfasts and lunches.

Drive down Quarry Road and take a left on Manchester Road to Hebron Avenue, where a few decades ago this crossroads was a remote outpost with little more than a gas station and the historic Buckingham Congregational Church. Today there’s a plaza anchored by Highland Park Market, the famous gourmet food emporium that originated in Manchester.

Glastonbury’s popularity today stems from its ability to blend an abundant supply of country chic with an infusion of city-wise swagger. But the town is ever mindful of balancing the evolving needs of its growing community with the preservation of its natural assets. While residents accept the inevitability of continued development, they have never been shy about saying “enough is enough.” In 2004, for example, a grassroots citizens group successfully defeated plans for a strip mall in the town’s north end. The new Town Center plan has been shaped by considerable citizen input, and South Glastonbury’s river meadows farmland has, thus far, resisted persistent attempts at housing development.

Photograph by Al Ferreira