Litchfield is a town in and former county seat of Litchfield County, Connecticut, United States. The population was 8,466 at the 2010 census. The boroughs of Bantam and Litchfield are located within the town. There are also three unincorporated villages: East Litchfield, Milton, and Northfield.
Founded in 1719, Litchfield was designated the county seat in 1751, and by the 1790s the town had become the leading commercial, social, cultural and legal center of Northwestern Connecticut. Its population grew from 1,366 in 1756 to 2,544 in 1774, and by 1810 Litchfield was the fourth largest settlement in the state with a population of 4,639.
Beginning in 1784, Litchfield lawyer, Tapping Reeve, systematized his law lectures for young students, creating the Litchfield Law School. Reeve was the first to develop a series of formal, regular lectures that insured that all students had access to the same body of knowledge. The list of students who attended Tapping Reeve's law school includes two Vice Presidents of the United States (Aaron Burr and John C. Calhoun), 101 members of the United States House of Representatives, 28 United States senators, six United States cabinet secretaries, three justices of the United States Supreme Court, 14 state governors and 13 state supreme court chief justices. Litchfield Law School was the first Law School in the United States.
Harriet Beecher Stowe, Henry Ward Beecher, Charles Beecher, Edward Beecher, Isabella Beecher Hooker, and Catharine Beecher all grew up in Litchfield, where their father Lyman Beecher was the Presbyterian minister from 1810 to 1826.
During its "Golden Age" (1784–1834), Litchfield had an unusual number of college-educated inhabitants. In 1791 Samuel Miles Hopkins, a student at the Litchfield Law School, described Litchfield in his journal as a town of "hard, active, reading, thinking, intelligent men who may probably be set forth as a pattern of the finest community on earth."
Litchfield's fortunes declined during the later years of the 19th century. The town did not have the ample water supply and rail transportation necessary to establish efficient industry, and the village became a sleepy backwater. Rediscovered as a resort community in the late 19th century, Litchfield became a popular spot for vacation, weekend and summer homes. The town embraced the Colonial Revival movement, and by the early 20th century many of the homes began to sport the white paint and black shutters seen today.