Wethersfield’s historic core is called a ‘Cultural District’. Here’s what that means.

WETHERSFIELD — The state has designated Wethersfield’s colonial core a “cultural district,” a designation meant to highlight local history and boost tourism, announced Lt. Govt. Susan Bysiewicz this week.

The historic village includes many 18th century homes along with the historical society, the Webb Deane Stevens Museum, the Wethersfield Academy for the Arts, and locally owned restaurants and shops.

The state defines the districts as walkable areas “that have numerous cultural amenities, activities and/or assets” that draw visitors from other cities and states and serve as a hub for residents. Other communities with cultural districts are Ridgefield, Torrington and New London.

Approved upon application, the designation is intended to promote and encourage artists, entrepreneurs and creative businesses; promoting tourism; improve residents’ quality of life; strengthen the distinctive character of a community; drive economic growth; and highlight local culture and history.

Created by a law that came into force in October 2019, the program – Cultural Districts – requires the formation of a Cultural District Commission to administer all aspects of the district. The state promotes the districts through the Office of Tourism and the Office of the Arts, according to the program description.

Founded in 1633-34, the historic village of Wethersfield, or Old Wethersfield, houses more than 150 colonial homes and was the site in May 1781 (at the Webb House on Main Street) where General George Washington and French Marshal Jean-Baptiste Donatien de Vimeur, comte de Rochambeau, planned the Battle of Yorktown, which secured American independence.

“I am very grateful for the state’s designation that Wethersfield’s Historic Village is a Cultural District,” said Mayor Mike Rell. “I thank the many volunteers and state DECD who worked countless hours on this special recognition. We have always known that Old Wethersfield has some great qualities, such as our historic homes, great restaurants, shops and museums. With this recognition, we can reach so many more in Connecticut and beyond.”

“The Cultural District program emphasizes the importance of collaboration in municipal planning to fully leverage the far-reaching effects of the creative economy,” said Liz Shapiro, the Department of Economic and Community Development’s director of arts, conservation and museums.

“Bringing together arts organizations, artists, creative entrepreneurs, museums, restaurants, hotels and other stakeholders is critical to building a vibrancy that positively impacts residents and visitors alike,” Shapiro said. “Wethersfield is a shining example of a town with deep historical roots, where visitors can step back 300 years in one breath and enjoy a latte, scone or ice cream in the next.”

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