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20th Century to Today

 
 

Ledyard Through the 20th Century to Today

A small town hall was built adjacent to the Congregational Church in the 1930s. Town meetings were still held in the church or, later, one of the schools, until the present municipal building was constructed in 1956. It has since been enlarged several times.

Until the 1940s, Ledyard was a town of 12 school districts, each with its own school. Secondary students traveled to Norwich, Groton or New London. The first consolidated school, the present Ledyard Center School, opened in 1949 and the district schools, most of them one-room buildings, closed. Seven of them survive, as dwellings, businesses and preserved as museums. Three more elementary schools were built between 1955 and 1965, one of them replaced in 2001. A high school for the town’s students was built in 1963, graduating its first class four years later. A junior high school, now Ledyard Middle School, was opened in 1971, serving grades seven and eight.

Ledyard’s principal industry, a division of Dow Chemical Company, opened at Allyn’s Point in 1952. A manufacturer of polystyrene plastic, plastic foam and latex, the plant has been expanded over the years. Many of the raw materials are shipped in by water, while finished products leave by motor transport.

The town grew extensively in the 1960s, as farmland and hillsides were developed for housing and one of the first indoor shopping malls was opened in Gales Ferry. The Vality complex, on the site of the former Hurlbutt farm, offered complete household shopping, from food to clothing to hardware to toys, all under a single roof. Competition from larger shopping centers and malls in the region eventually resulted in the closing of the pioneer megastore, but the concept was only recently revived in the region by the world’s largest retail chain. Ledyard’s population grew rapidly in this period as the town became a bedroom community for employees of the General Dynamics Electric Boat Company, Pfizer Incorporated, and the Navy forces at Submarine Base New London. During the decade, the town’s population increased from 5,300 to nearly 15,000.

In 1992, the Mashantucket Pequot Tribal Nation opened the Foxwoods Resort Casino in the northeastern section of town. Hugely successful, the complex has become a tourist destination and an economic engine with considerable effect on both the Native American reservation and the surrounding community.

Long governed by the traditional New England town meeting, Ledyard adopted a charter in 1971 that provided for a Mayor-Council form of government. A revised charter in 2002 continues the basic form of governance, with the Mayor acting as chief executive officer, and town officials elected at large from the community. Volunteer fire companies were organized in Gales Ferry in 1942 and at Ledyard Center ten years later. Both departments now have a small cadre of career firefighters. During the 1960s, a volunteer emergency medical squad was formed, and continues to serve the community.