museum before restoration museum during restoration Renovated Museum and home of CHS Collection Committee archiving over 800 images and postcards of Colchester's Past The Bulkeley Room Grade School tours of our Old Burial Ground Grade school tour of Nathaniel Foote House Hundreds of Colchester's students annually tour our Museum We invite guest speakers.  In this case, Children's Chairs: The Evolution of Furniture Styles

Colchester Historical Society Beginnings

It all started with saving a tree

Ginkgo tree circa 1965

The year was 1963.  “Progress” was taking hold of Colchester’s South Main Street.  Historic homes were being converted to commercial properties.  Some houses were saved and converted to business offices.  Others were knocked to the ground and removed.

Such was the case for the lot presently used for the CVS plaza.

Colchester South Main Street circa 1860s

Colchester South Main Street circa 1860s

Prior to 1958, the lot was the location of the famous Bigelow house.  According to land records, the house was built in 1850 for D.E Carroll.  In 1898, it was purchased by Elizabeth and Sarah Bigelow for $13,500.

Bigelow House Circa 1898

Bigalow House Circa 1898

Mrs Elizabeth Bigelow

Mrs Elizabeth Bigelow

Elizabeth Bigelow was a member of the Bigelow family that first settled in Colchester in 1709.

She was an artist, community activist and exceptional gardener.  Her house was known for her gardens.  After one trip abroad, she brought back a Ginkgo tree.  In the late 1890’s she planted the tree in front of her house on South Main Street.

The young Ginko Tree in front of the Bigelow House on S Main

The young Ginkgo Tree in front of the Bigelow House on S Main

This photo (circa early 1900s) shows the tree in its youth.

In 1929, Elizabeth passed away.  According to land record, the Bigelows sold the house to a local business man.  In 1958, the house was torn down to make way for a grocery store.  Later in 1963, the business man decided to take down the tree to expand his parking lot.  A group of prominent citizens gathered and decided to urge the owner to spare the tree.  Thankfully, the owner was convinced to leave the tree alone.

Ginkgo tree 2018

Ginkgo tree 2018

The tree today is about 120 years old and lives on its original site, now state-owned land.

After about six years, the group of citizens decided to incorporate, and in 1969 formed a not for profit organization now known as the Colchester Historical Society.

Colchester Historical Society original members

Colchester Historical Society original members

In the last fifty-five years, the Colchester Historical Society made some major accomplishments: (images will be added to site)

  • Led a citizen group to restore our old Burying grounds neglected for decades
  • Helped preserve the Sparrow House
  • Helped preserve the Ballard House
  • Helped preserve Old Town Hall
  • Helped initiate the development of a Historic Town District
  • Helped keep our Town Green in its original and intended state
  • Preserved and digitized the J.R. Holmes movies from the 1930s
  • Collected and digitized hundreds of photos as far back as 1880s.
  • Preserve the history of Colchester’s School for Colored Children
  • Keep Colchester residents aware of historic structures in danger of being razed.

Our future goals are to continue to preserve Colchester’s rich history using the modern technologies of the 21st Century.


The mission of the Colchester Historical Society is to enlighten the community to the rich history of Colchester

New to our site:

To mark our 55th Anniversary a look at CHS beginnings.

Read about Colchester’s 8 National Treasures

New Member Services page added to keep members informed:


 Preserving history is more than buildings and places

For more information, email



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