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Once a small sheep farming and milling center, Newtown is one of the fastest growing communities in Connecticut. Easy travel to employment and commercial centers in lower Fairfield County and Westchester County, N.Y., makes Newtown particularly appealing to commuters.
The town has a total area of 60.38 square miles, of which 57.8 square miles of it is land and 1.3 square is water. Newtown is the state's fifth largest town in area and is bordered by Bethel, Bridgewater, Brookfield, Easton, Monroe, Oxford, Redding and Southbury.
The town of Newtown was purchased from the Pohtatuck Indians in 1705. It was settled from Stratford and incorporated in 1711. Newtown was a stronghold for Tories during the early American Revolutionary War. French General Rochambeau and his troops encamped here in 1781 during their celebrated march on their way to the siege of Yorktown, Virginia, which ended the Revolution. An important crossroads throughout its early history, the village of Hawleyville briefly emerged as a railroad center and the town's population grew to over 4,000 around 1881. In the following decades, the population dwindled to a low of 2,635 in 1930 before again growing.
Local industries have included the manufacture of tea bags, combs, furniture, fire hose, buttons, folding boxes and hats, as well as farming. The game of Scrabble was developed here by James Brunot.
Newtown has a number of notable landmarks. The most famous is the flag pole, which was erected in 1876. The Newtown Bee, the local weekly newspaper, has been serving the area since 1877. Another important building is the Newtown Meeting House, which served as the town's Congregational Church for many years. The rooster weathervane (a town symbol), located atop the meeting house is said to have been used as a target by French soldiers during the Revolutionary War.
Another landmark is the famous "Fairfield Hills" Hospital which was built in the 1930s. Closed in 1995, Fairfield Hills was used as the set of the movie Sleepers in 1995. Newtown recently purchased the property, and the town is considering a somewhat controversial plan for its usage. In 2008, The NYA (Newtown Youth Academy) was added, with a turf field, basketball courts, and a fitness center.
The landmark of Hawley School, constructed in the 1920s, has been used as a whole-town school, a high school, and an elementary school. Currently it is an elementary school. Though it has served many different functions, its original section has remained much the same. Two additions have been added since it was originally built.
The selection of architectural designs, sizes and price ranges satisfies the most demanding needs of every family. New age-restricted communities cater to the interests of older adults.
The traditional New England town green, known as Ram's Pasture, was once a grazing area for the town's flock. A lovely collection of pre-Revolutionary War homes surrounds the green. It also hosts the annual Christmas tree lighting, and has a skating pond and plenty of space to fly a kite on windy days.
In the center of Main Street is the town's most distinctive landmark, its towering flagpole, first erected in 1876. The Edmond Town Hall shows second-run movies for a few dollars, and the Cyrenius H. Booth Library doubled its floor space with an expansion in 1998. Mary Elizabeth Hawley, a local benefactor, donated both buildings and left trust funds to pay for their continued care.
The public school system and many outstanding youth services reflect the importance of the education and welfare of the town's children . In addition to traditional academic coursework, the schools offer a state-of-the-art computer programs and after-school childcare. Several preschools, private schools and a parochial school provide private instruction. The Newtown Public school system operates four elementary schools that serve grades K-4, an Intermediate school serving grades 5-6, and Newtown Middle School (serving grades 7-8), and Newtown High School serving grades 9-12. Newtown also has several private and parochial schools including St. Rose of Lima School, The Fraser-Woods School, and the Housatonic Valley Waldorf School
Newtown's public library was opened in 1932 and can hold 25,000 volumes. The library was a gift from Mary Elizabeth Hawley and was named after her maternal grandfather, a doctor in town in the 1800s. Hawley's gift paid for construction of the building and also included a trust fund of about $250,000
The town of Newtown offers many programs for area residents and there are numerous parks and fields offering playgrounds, swimming, tennis, softball, baseball, volleyball, lacrosse, soccer, as well as a nature center and trails. The Housatonic River, Lake Lillinonah, Lake Zoar, Collis P. Huntington State Park and Paugausett State Forest offer breathtaking settings for the nature enthusiast. Teen and senior centers host programs and social events. Two private country clubs feature challenging 9-hole courses for golfers. Parks include Treadwell Park, Dickinson Park, and Collis P. Huntington State Park. Treadwell park, named after former selectman Timothy Treadwell, contains recreation facilities and the town pool.
Notable residents include James Purdy, who helped slaves escape to Canada in the 1850s and ministered to smallpox victims during the American Civil War. Other residents have been, Mary Elizabeth Hawley, Newtown's benefactress; Joseph F. Engelberger, an engineer and entrepreneur who is often credited with being the "Father of Robotics" - the Robotics Industries Association annually presents the Joseph F. Engelberger Awards to "persons who have contributed outstandingly to the furtherance of the science and practice of robotics."; actor Anthony Edwards known for his roles in Top Gun, Gotcha!, Fast Times at Ridgemont High, Revenge of the Nerds II: Nerds in Paradise and the television series ER, lives in Sandy Hook; and Bruce Jenner, 1976 Summer Olympics decathlon gold medalist, attended Newtown High School.