Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Main Street, Willimantic

Willimantic has always tried to evade easy categorization.

Born as a small village on the Willimantic River in the early 19th century, it became a borough of Windham in 1833, then a city in 1893. In 1983 the city consolidated with the town of Windham, and Willimantic became a village - or one of four sections of the town - once again.

Downtown Willimantic feels like your typical well-worn college town, except where it doesn't.

Some parts of it are classic New England.

Some parts are reminiscent of Connecticut's other small, scrappy cities: New London, Norwich, and the like, with their mural walls and vibrant little centers that fade out into sleepy industrial areas and suburban-looking streets. (Willimantic's nickname, Thread City, also seems to recognize how city-like the place remains.)

Thread City's history is as Connecticut as it gets: prosperity, carried in on the waterfalls that powered the mills, then decline, as America's need for thread could be satisfied more cheaply elsewhere.

The void left by the mills is being filled in a typically Connecticut way too.

Now instead of spools of thread, Willimantic turns out art, culture, and history, and stands as a sort of quirky palimpsest that lures visitors across its bridges and around its corners where unpredictable oddities seem to hide.

And then, of course, there are the frogs.


  1. Since no one has commented, I just want to let you know that many of us here in Willimantic really liked this & it's getting much circulation on Facebook. Thanks.

  2. What impresses me about the City of Willimantic is the compassion and cordiality of its homies. Homeless folks get home cooked meals, there is a great No Freeze shelter in the winter, community gardens and the college students do all sorts of volunteer work. A great theater, art spaces and an awesome food coop. In Eastern Connecticut there is not a lot of $$$ but fine people....

  3. Willimantic is the epitome of the little city that "thought it could ".I lived there for over 30 yrs.. and watched the struggles and transformation. I'm glad it's finally beginning to attract some positive attention !

  4. The first time I drove through Willimantic and saw the frog bridge I thought it was like something you would see in a cultural center in Europe. When I discovered the mill history and the Victorian houses I knew it was a special place. And the Willimantic River running through it makes it extra special. So I worked there for seven years and met great strong independent funny people and now though I am far away I have such a heart connection to Willimantic.

  5. I have seen so many changes in Willimantic good bad and ugly but from these pictures it's much nicer now... I remember the first ever Boombox parade!

  6. I call it "Characters Welcome" (after the motto of one of the TV channels).

  7. I always say Willimantic can be compared to a farm pond: sometimes you see some disturbing things on the surface; but, when you get below the surface, it's teaming with life. Come and swim in our pond and we'll introduce you to the vitality of our community.



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