East Haven is a town in New Haven County, Connecticut, in the United States. As of the 2010 census, the town population was 29,257. Located east of New Haven, it is part of the Greater New Haven area. East Haven is from Hartford, from New York City, from Providence, Rhode Island, and from Boston.
The area now known as East Haven was obtained by Puritan settlers Reverend John Davenport and Theophilus Eaton on November 29, 1638, as part of the purchase of New Haven from Sachem Momauguin of the local Quinnipiack tribe. Additional land, in what is now known as Foxon, was purchased from Indian Chief Montowese on December 11, 1638.
In 1639 Thomas Gregson petitioned for the purchase of Solitary Cove, later called Morris Cove. This was granted on August 5, 1644, and was the last piece of land that made up the original town of East Haven. The original town boundaries were from the harbor and Quinnipiac River on the west to the Branford and North Branford town line on the east. The southern boundary is the Long Island Sound, and the North Haven town line is the northern boundary.
East Farms, as it was first called, was considered a parish of the New Haven Colony. Settlers settled into Morris Cove and what is now the "center" of East Haven in 1639. The first Connecticut ironworks, the third in New England, was founded on the shores of Furnace Pond in 1655. Originally called Lonotononket (Great Pond) by the Quinnipiac Indians, today it is called Lake Saltonstall. With Branford and North Branford having had settlers since 1643, people from the New Haven Colony started to settle the Foxon section in 1683.
In 1665, the New Haven Colony was merged with the Connecticut Colony (Hartford) under a charter from King Charles II. With the success of the ironwork mill, the area became known as Iron Works Village. In 1675 Iron Works Village petitioned the Connecticut Colony to become a separate town. Negotiations with New Haven regarding land never succeeded. This eventually led to the relinquishing of village privileges in 1685. Efforts were again made in 1703, and the Connecticut Colony granted the town petition for township in May 1707 and the name was changed from Iron Works Village to East Haven. Some outstanding land issues with New Haven and a minor feud with Governor Gurdon Saltonstall resulted in the rescinding of the township status; the area was once again a parish of New Haven.
In 1706 the first public school building was built in East Haven, followed by the appointment of a School Committee in 1707.
Jacob Hemingway, the original Yale student, served as the first pastor (1704–1754) of the Congregational church. Several meeting houses were built in East Haven, and in January 1772 the Society of East Haven authorized the expense of $1,000.00 to build a new meeting house. As the new meeting house was being built, the building was extended by and a steeple was added. In 1774 the Old Stone (Congregational) Church was finished, and Nicholas Street was named its first minister.
During the American Revolution, the area saw troop movement and encampment by both revolutionary and British forces. On July 5, 1779, British forces led by General William Tryon landed from war ships, attacked Black Rock Fort in Morris Cove and captured its 19 defenders. The British were then able to march into New Haven and East Haven. General Lafayette and revolutionary forces also visited town and encamped on the green. During the Revolution, East Haven lost 16 men. John Howe was killed at the Black Rock Fort. Fifteen other men died, mostly on British prison ships in Long Island Sound. After the war, Black Rock Fort was abandoned.
East Haven became an incorporated town in May 1785. At the initial town meeting, on July 5, 1785, Isaac Chidsey was named first selectman.
When relations between the United States and Britain deteriorated in the early 19th century, the government decided to re-fortify Black Rock Fort. A new masonry wall was built for fortification. Six guns were installed and a new barracks for 50 men and a magazine were built. The fort was renamed Fort Nathan Hale, in honor of the Connecticut patriot. During the War of 1812, the fort successfully defended the area from several British raids.
In 1863, during the Civil War, a new Fort Hale was built to defend against possible raids by the Confederate States. Built next to the ruins of the original fort, the fortification included an earthen rampart, five fortified bunkers, eighteen guns and a moat with a drawbridge. The fort did not see any action during the Civil War.
East Haven's western border was the Quinnipiac River, and the town was in charge of four bridges that crossed it. In 1881 East Haven was facing a financial problem. The repair and maintenance of the four bridges that crossed the Quinnipiac River, along with highway maintenance and payments to Civil War soldiers, presented the town with a $200,000 debt. The bridges contributed $180,000 of that debt. Combined with requests for additional town services, the Board of Selectman voted to sell Fair Haven, Granniss Corners and Morris Cove to New Haven. After a public vote where East Haven residents voted 123 to sell and 9 not to sell, the three sections were ceded to New Haven. Overnight the town's debt was paid, the town's population dropped by 70% and its land mass dropped by 33%.
Since the 1850s, Lake Saltonstall had become a major amusement center in the region. The lake was used heavily during the summer and by skaters in the winter. The lake, which borders the towns of East Haven and Branford, was sold in 1895 to the New Haven Water Company.
The new East Haven continued to grow. In 1892, after several businesses and the town hall were destroyed in a fire, the Board of Selectmen voted to install fire hydrants in the center of town and ordered of hose. Fighting town fires was handled by citizens that came to the fire. By 1899, several young town members formed a volunteer fire department. They applied for state recognition and started serving the town on January 2, 1900.
Policing East Haven was handled by New Haven sheriffs until 1900 or so when the town hired Jim Smith to be the town's first constable. Smith used the barn on his farm as the jail. The constable staff continued to grow until it was organized in 1925 under the Board of Public Safety which included the East Haven Fire Department and the newly organized East Haven Police Department.
Technology was improving the lives of the residents. 1898 saw gas lights being installed in East Haven. By 1903, four streets were lighted by gas lights. The town established its own telephone company in 1899 and had 75 customers before selling its holding to the local telephone company. Electric lights made their debut in 1918.
The East Haven Library was established in 1909. With an increase in population, especially citizens of Irish and Italian descent, the first Roman Catholic church opened in East Haven in 1916.
World War I cost the lives of 5 East Haven men.
The town voted to build a new town hall in 1927. At a cost of $135,000.00 the new town hall was dedicated on August 11, 1928. Over 5,000 residents attended the open house. The next month, on September 22, 1928, the new East Haven Library was opened and dedicated.
World War II saw many men from East Haven going overseas. 24 of them died in the war.
After World War II, East Haven benefited from families moving out of large cities into the rural areas. The population of East Haven nearly doubled from the end of the war to 1960. The population increase was also assisted by the building of Interstate 95 through the center of town in 1951.
The Vietnam War was kind to East Haven. Lance Corporal Richard J. Wolcheski, USMC, was the only East Haven casualty of this war.
Large retail stores and fast food franchises started to build outlets on both U.S. 1 and State Route 80 in the 1960s and 1970s. The downtown area went through re-development in the 1970s which saw the East Haven Mall built. Condominiums were built in the Center and Foxon sections. The town added its athletic complex, a new swimming pool to the high school. The new East Haven Police headquarters was finished in 1973.
The downtown area is undergoing another re-development effort that started in 2004. The project will transform the downtown area from the 1970s city look back to a look of an old New England town, with period lighting and brick sidewalks.
On March 16, 2009, the town came to an agreement with neighboring New Haven over the future of Tweed New Haven Regional Airport, which straddles the boundary between the two municipalities, ending over 40 years of strife.