The area of Essex called Essex Village was originally named Potapoug Point. It bordered the Connecticut River, and part of it was a peninsula with two large coves on either side. Main Street on the "point" was not laid out until 1748, and up to that time only a few people resided here. However, with the outbreak of the War of the Revolution, a dramatic cultural and demographic switch occurred in town. Captain Uriah Hayden was commissioned by the Colony of Connecticut to build the "Oliver Cromwell," the largest ship ever constructed in the Connecticut River Valley, and the first ship to be built and financed by the Colony. Captain Hayden lived on the waterfront at the foot of Main Street and literally built this vessel in his side yard. This established Essex Village as a place to build the wooden sailing ships required by our new nation for trade. The protected coves and the short distance from Long Island Sound were important geographical features. Between the Revolutionary and Civil Wars, over 600 vessels of various types were produced here. Essex Village expanded greatly, eclipsing Centerbrook as the center. Two ropewalks were built, to accommodate the needs of the shipping industry for rope, as shipyards emerged along the shorelines. Essex was unusual, for it was an area where artisans were able to flourish and become entrepreneurs. These were people who had highly defined skills and put them to work in their own businesses. This was in contrast to some northern parts of the Connecticut River Valley, where so-called "River Gods" flourished. They were the landed gentry with direct connections to the Congregational Church, thereby dominating their (primarily) agricultural sub-cultures. Actually, Essex could be referred to as one of the places where the capitalist system really got started. Ships produced here were completed in a pre-industrial manner, for no two vessels were alike. Each was designed for its particular use and custom built. This is in direct contrast to the subsequent factory system, which emphasized interchangeable parts.
Dennison Road • Essex Court • Main Street • Route 154