The Land Around Us


The story of Guilford’s landscape stretches deep into geologic history, with volcanism, continental drift, and the erection and erosion of mountains all playing a role. However, the landscape the Menunkatuck inhabited and the English first saw—that which we know today—results primarily from glaciation. When the Wisconsin Glacier began its retreat 18,000 years ago, it deposited moraines at its southernmost reach near Long Island Sound and left glacial till across most of the region. Rivers and sea level rose as the ice retreated, eventually turning the Sound from a freshwater lake into a tidal, saline arm of the Atlantic.

Through time, residents of this landscape have held vastly different perceptions of it, and have used the land and water in many different ways. For Indigenous people, this place was their homeland and nature was the center of their spiritual life. Land was a gift to be used for their survival, not “owned.” For Puritans, this place was a savage wilderness to be civilized into a biblical paradise. Immigrants found this to be a land of new opportunity. Quarrymen mined its granite for architectural masterpieces such as the Brooklyn Bridge, Grand Central Station, and the base of Lady Liberty herself. Tourists found escape here from the pressures of urban living. The land was well suited for agriculture, and the sea for maritime industries. All of these aspects contributed to making Guilford the place it is today.

Guilford’s citizens enjoy a long history of caring for their surroundings by preserving historic properties and natural spaces for the good of the whole community. Before Guilford’s founders reached the New England shore, they bound their lives to each other in a Covenant, setting forth their vision for the community they would create together. These early settlers established the Guilford Green, and later their descendants saved it.

In the latter portion of the 20th century, farming declined and the construction of I-95 more than doubled the town’s population. However, conservation and recreation were on the rise, and Guilford residents protected many natural places. The Guilford Salt Meadows Sanctuary, the Westwoods, the East River Preserve, the Timberlands, and the Northwoods have been critical in helping the community retain its rural sense of place. The Menunkatuck and Shoreline Greenway trails connect Guilford to other beautiful portions of New England.

Through time, Guilford’s value of open space has helped preserve archaeological resources found on former Indigenous peoples’ lands and historic farmsteads. Shell mounds, stone walls made of glacial till, quarried ledges, and remnants of old mills and house foundations are among the many surviving features that share fascinating stories about Guilford’s past.

“A worker cutting stone at the Beattie Quarry Co., Leete’s Island,” Guilford Free Library Archives

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