In 1697, the town meeting authorized a highway 30 rods wide to go between the home lots. The road, now Route 87, was referred to as “the great Broad street.” In the town center, it was crossed by the road to Windham and Colchester, now Route 207. This became the site of the meetinghouse, a place for public assembly, militia musters, and other public uses including schools. Abutting property owners along the broad street also used the land for grazing livestock and cutting hay. By 1730, all the undivided land in town had been distributed to those with rights to distribution except for the section of the broad street that had evolved into public space in the town center. This is the area known as the town green. Because of the wetland in this area the road had divided into two separate streets, West Town Street and East Town Street (Route 87). No deed transfer has ever taken place between the hundreds of thousands of descendants of settlers with proprietary rights and the town. However, the town maintains oversight and liability while abutting property owners continue the traditional use of cutting hay in the meadowland. Today the green is a dramatic feature in Lebanon’s landscape. It is the heart of the community, hosting a seasonal farmers’ market, an annual antiques show, a winter-time skating pond, and numerous other community and family events.
Dr. William Beaumont Birthplace
Dr. William Beaumont (1785-1853) is often referred to as the “Father of Gastric Physiology.” He is famous for his experiments on the effects of the digestion process. His 1833 book about his work became a staple of the medical community and is still used today. He was born in the house his father Samuel Beaumont had built around 1750. The house was moved from its original location by the Beaumont Medical Club of Yale University Medical School to its current location behind the Governor Trumbull House. The house is now a museum, owned by the Lebanon Historical Society. A small town park on Village Hill Road marks its original site.
Governor Trumbull House
Merchant Joseph Trumbull built this house between 1735 and 1740. In 1755, on his father’s death, Jonathan Trumbull moved his family into the house, which he enlarged to suit his needs. Jonathan Trumbull carried on extensive inter-colonial and overseas trade and was politically active as a member of the General Assembly. In 1769 he was elected governor of the colony of Connecticut. A staunch opponent of British taxation, Trumbull became the only colonial governor to support the independence movement and to continue serving throughout the War for Independence. His house is now designated a National Historic Landmark as the birthplace of his son, John Trumbull, America’s patriot artist. Today it is a museum owned by the Connecticut Daughters of the American Revolution. 860-642-7558. http://www.ctdar.org
The Wadsworth Stable is located on the Governor Trumbull House grounds. The stable was originally situated on the Jeremiah Wadsworth estate in Hartford. Wadsworth, a close friend of the Trumbulls, served as commissary general of the Continental Army and later as chief agent supplying the French troops. He also hosted the first meeting between Governor Trumbull, General Washington, and the French commander, the Comte de Rochambeau. The original stable on the Wadsworth property was razed in 1801 as a fire break and a new stable in the Palladian style of architecture erected in its place. This building was moved to Lebanon in 1954 because it was threatened with demolition.
Revolutionary War Office
After the beginning of hostilities between the American colonies and Britain in 1775, Governor Trumbull converted his former store into his War Office. Here he met with the Council of Safety, which was empowered to manage all of the State’s affairs related to the war effort. Although the Council often met in Hartford or elsewhere, more than 500 of its 1,000 meetings took place in this building. Many important national leaders, including General George Washington, General Henry Knox, the French commander General Rochambeau, and the Marquis de Lafayette passed through its door. The war office is now a museum owned by the Connecticut Society of the Sons of the American Revolution www.connecticutsar.org
Jonathan Trumbull Jr. House Museum
In 1777, Jonathan Trumbull Jr. purchased this house, which he and his family had been living in since 1769. Master-joiner Isaac Fitch then remodeled the interior with elaborate woodwork that remains in place today. The younger Trumbull was a Harvard graduate and a merchant dealing in whale oil, flour, and ship building. When the Revolutionary War started, he served as Paymaster General for the Continental Army and the first Comptroller of the U.S. Treasury. From 1781 to 1783, he served as General George Washington’s military secretary. Later in life he became a Congressman, U.S. Senator, and governor of Connecticut. His house is operated as a museum by the Town of Lebanon. 860-642-6100. www.lebanontownhall.org/trumbulljuniormuseum.htm
First Congregational Church
The First Congregational Church of Lebanon was organized in 1700 and built its first meetinghouse in 1706. This building was used for town meetings as well as religious services. In 1732, the meetinghouse was replaced because the original building was too small. A brick meetinghouse, designed by artist John Trumbull, was constructed 1804-1809. (Trumbull, the son of Governor Jonathan Trumbull and brother of Jonathan Trumbull Jr. grew up in Lebanon, served in the American Revolution, and became famous as the “patriot artist” of Revolutionary War scenes.) During the 19th century, the brick meeting house was up-dated several times. In 1938, hurricane winds sent the steeple toppling into the church nave, ruining the interior. Although work was interrupted by World War II, the church was fully restored by 1954. , 860-642-6179. www.lebanonfirstcong.org
Many other historic houses surround the Green or stand near-by. These are privately owned and not open to the public. A guidebook, Around Lebanon Green: An Architectural and Historical Review of Lebanon, Connecticut, which is available at the Lebanon Historical Society Museum and Visitor Center, provides information about many of these additional sites.