Middletown, Connecticut

From Academic Kids

Middletown is a city located in Middlesex County, Connecticut, along the Connecticut River, in the south-central part of the state. It was founded in 1650 and incorporated as a city in 1784. Originally a busy sailing port and then an industrial center, it is now largely a residential city and college town. As of the 2000 census, the city had a total population of 43,167.



The land on the western bank of the Connecticut River where Middletown now lies was home to the Mattabesett Indians when the Connecticut General Court elected to establish a settlement there in 1650. Colonists arrived shortly thereafter from nearby Hartford, Wethersfield, and Windsor, and lived mostly peacefully alongside the tribe. In 1653, the village was first named Middletown.

Later in the seventeenth century, Mohegans moved into the area from the Hudson River Valley. Dubbed Pequots, or killers of men, by the more peaceful Mattabesetts, the newcomers threatened and raided fellow Native Americans and English settlers alike for several decades before a peaceful coexistence was reestablished. The English settlers eventually purchased nearly all of the shrinking holdings of the Native Americans, including substantial lands on the eastern side of the river, limiting them to a small strip of land surrounding the tribal home of the Mattabesett chief.

By the time of the American Revolution, Middletown was a thriving port, with one-third of its citizens involved in merchant and maritime activities. After the war, Middletown was incorporated as a city in 1784. The port's decline began with the strained American-British relations, and resulting trade restrictions, which led to the War of 1812. Although the port never recovered, the city did distinguish itself in the war effort, as Middletown's Commodore Thomas Macdonough led American forces to the victory on Lake Champlain in 1814 which ended British hopes for an invasion into New York.

Middletown was a major hub of firearm manufacture during this period with numerous gun manufacturers in the area, and supplied the majority of pistols to the United States government during the War of 1812. Afterwards, however, the center of this business passed to New Haven and Hartford. (See also History of Connecticut industry)

The mid-nineteenth century was marked by the establishment in 1831 of Wesleyan College (later Wesleyan University) and by manufacturing replacing trade as Middletown's economic mainstay. The city's industrial growth was limited by the decision of the railroad to bypass Middletown when tracks were laid to connect Hartford with New Haven. The city played a role in the Civil War as well. General Joseph Mansfield of Middletown led Union forces at Antietam, where he died in action in 1862. The city was also active in the abolition movement, and was a notable hub along the underground railway.

In the late nineteenth and early twentieth century, the once predominantly Anglo-Saxon city underwent a demographic transformation. First the Irish, and then large numbers of Italian immigrants arrived to work in Middletown's factories and farms. Polish and German arrivals followed, and by 1910 the population had swelled to nearly 21,000. Meanwhile, the number of African-Americans dwindled to a mere 53 persons, as employers chose to hire white immigrants. Later in the century, more African-Americans migrated to the area, followed by a more recent influx of Hispanic residents, giving the city its current mix of diverse ethnic groups.

Both natural events and a continuing influx of people and businesses impacted the city in the first half of the nineteenth century. Middletown was hit by floods in 1927 and 1936, and by The Great New England Hurricane in 1938. Despite these influences, the Arrigoni Bridge was completed over the Connecticut River in 1938, connecting Middletown to Portland and points east. In the 1960s, Pratt and Whitney Aircraft opened a large plant in Middletown. Concurrently developers bought up much of the city's remaining farms, including most of Oak Grove Dairy, to make room both for local workers and for commuters to surrounding cities.


Physically smaller than the colonial town from which it grew, Middletown now sits solely along the west bank of the Connecticut River, in the south-central portion of the state. Running alongside the river, State Route 9 traverses the city's eastern border. According to the United States Census Bureau, the city has a total area of 109.6 km² (42.3 mi²). 105.9 km² (40.9 mi²) of it is land and 3.7 km² (1.4 mi²) of it is water. The total area is 3.36% water.


As of the census2 of 2000, there were 43,167 people, 18,554 households, and 10,390 families residing in the city. The population density is 407.5/km² (1,055.4/mi²). There are 19,697 housing units at an average density of 185.9/km² (481.6/mi²). The racial makeup of the city is 80.01% White, 12.26% Black or African American, 5.30% Hispanic or Latino, and 2.68% Asian, .

There are 18,554 households, of which 25.7% have children under the age of 18 living with them, 41.3% are married couples living together, and 44.0% are non-families. The average household size is 2.23 and the average family size is 2.90.

21.7% of residents are under the age of 18, 8.3% from 18 to 24, 35.1% from 25 to 44, 21.5% from 45 to 64, and 13.4% are 65 years of age or older. The median age is 36 years.

The median income for a household in the city is $47,162, and the median income for a family is $60,845. Males have a median income of $45,790 versus $34,648 for females. The per capita income for the city is $25,720. 7.5% of the population and 4.3% of families are below the poverty line.

Middletown today

In recent decades, Middletown has focused on balancing the needs and comforts of its residents with the industrial development required to help fund services. These efforts date at least to 1931, when the city was one the first in America to establish a planning board. Progress continues under the leadership of the current mayor, Domenique S. Thornton. Currently the Main Street Market development continues to revitalize the downtown area. In addition to Pratt and Whitney, Aetna Life and Casualty is a major employer, while both Middlesex Community and Technical College and the Wilcox School of Nursing support the town's reputation as an educational center. Meanwhile, Sunshine Dairy continues to represent Middletown's agricultural heritage. Adjacent to the town is Powder Ridge Ski Resort, on Powder Hill.

Located on the western border of the city, in an area known as Westlake, is an 84 house community known as The Farms (http://www.geocities.com/w06457). This architectural award winning community was developed in 1969 by George Achenbach and was one of the first communities in Connecticut designed for cluster living, with open areas designated as common land.

Well-known Residents

External link

Other references

  • History of Middlesex County 1635-1885: With Biographical Sketches of Its Prominent Men. Pratt & Read Co. New York: J. B. Beers & Co., 1884.

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State of Connecticut




Greater New Haven | Greater Hartford | Litchfield Hills | Lower Connecticut River Valley | Naugatuck River Valley | New York metropolitan area/Gold Coast | Quiet Corner | Southeastern Connecticut

Largest cities:

Ansonia | Bridgeport | Bristol | Danbury | Fairfield | Greenwich | Groton | Hartford | Meriden | Middletown | Milford | Naugatuck | New Britain | New Haven | New London | North Haven | Norwalk | Norwich | Shelton | Stamford | Torrington | Waterbury | West Hartford


Fairfield | Hartford | Litchfield | Middlesex | New Haven | New London | Tolland | Windham

de:Middletown (Connecticut)

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