SOUTHINGTON — The remains of an underground railroad stop on the former Curtiss Farm will be preserved despite plans for a subdivision nearby.
Slaves escaping to Canada stayed on the farm off South End Road. The stone foundation of a shed that used to house them is still on the property.
Developer Mark Lovley said he’s including the remnants in a portion of open space land that will be given to the town.
“They can bring schools out there,” he said, adding it will also be available for residents and town groups.
The 5-acre parcel owned by Lovley is adjacent to town-owned open space. Lovley said he’ll talk to the Southington Historical Society about putting up a plaque explaining the significance of the location and would be open to adding a wood chip path to connect other public land to the area.
Jennifer Clock, a Planning and Zoning Commission member who undertook a historical properties inventory update last year, said the Curtiss Farm is important for several reasons. In addition to the connection with the underground railroad, the Curtiss family still owns a portion of the land and is one of the oldest families in town.
“This is a highly sensitive and historic piece of land,” Clock said. “It’s a pretty important part of history that we’d lose.”
Clock and other commission members gave Lovley a zone change approval for the land earlier this week to accommodate a senior cluster housing development. She and others were encouraged that Lovley recognized the importance of the historic remains on the site.
Lovley still needs a site plan for the 15 homes he plans to build off South End Road.
According to town historians, in the mid 1800’s Carlos Curtiss would return to his farm in his wagon with slaves hiding under the hay. Once at the farm, Curtiss would hide the slaves in a large hole under a trap door in the barn, where they could count on safety and food. He used the wagon to hide the trap door and the next evening would set out for Farmington.
Though the barn has since been torn down, the hole remains. The pit will be preserved as part of the open space portion of the development.
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