The Colchester History Museum formerly the Reverend John Ballard House The Reverend John Ballard House, now the Colchester History Museum, during restoration Colchester Historical Society Board of Governors with John Adams actor Colchester Burying Ground located behind Bacon Academy.  Interred at the cemetery are the remains of Pierpont and Abigail Bacon, the Reverend John Bulkeley and the Tomb of Gershom Bulkeley and his descendants. The Tomb of Gershom Bulkeley and his descendants among the stone markers in the Colchester Burying Ground Collection Committee archiving over 800 images and postcards of Colchester's Past Third Grade Historic Walking Tour of the Colchester Burying Ground John Warner Barber drawing with original School for Colored Children among the trees on the right side of church Volunteer, Bertha Glemboski, hosts the Third Grade Historic Walking Tour visit to the Nathaniel Foote House Hundreds of Colchester's students annually tour our Museum Looking north into Colchester from what is now Route 85 (New London Road) with the Smith Farm in the foreground. We invite guest speakers.  In this case, Children's Chairs: The Evolution of Furniture Styles

Colchester’s Historic Ginkgo Tree

Ginkgo tree 2018

Ginkgo tree 2018

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.  In 1965, our historic Ginkgo tree was endanger of being removed.

Ginko tree circa 1965

The large old Gingko tree located on South Main Street in front of the CVS parking lot has a long and interesting history. Some residents refer to it as the “ugly” tree, some love it and still others never notice it. It has stood in that spot for over a century and it’s survived the growth of Colchester, and changes that have happened around it.

Bigalow House Circa 1898

Bigalow House Circa 1898


Mrs Elizabeth Bigelow

Mrs Elizabeth Bigelow

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

The house that the tree stood in front of was owned by Elizabeth E Bigelow, born 1858, great-granddaughter of Col. Guy Bigelow. The Bigelow Family ancestry dates back to Lieutenant John Bigelow who first came to Colchester in 1709. They were farmers and over the years became an important and influential family in Colchester history.
In the 1920 census, Elizabeth is listed as owner of the home and occupation as Gardener. She was known though out the area for her beautiful gardens that had unusual specimens. She was also very involved in town issues, belonging to the Bacon Academy Trustees and the Colchester Chapter of Daughters of America Revolution. She would hold lavish garden parties in her gardens to benefit these causes.

Ginkgo trees are not native to America and were import at the time from Asia. She may have acquired the tree from another family member that traveled extensively. She had a cousin, William Sturgis Bigelow that lived and traveled in Japan for seven years. He returned bring back many pieces of fine art and maybe several plant specimens. He may have gifted the ginkgo tree to his cousin for her gardens. He came back to Boston from his travels in Japan in 1889. It is estimated that she planted the tree at that time.

The Colchester ginkgo tree has survived may changes, brought about by the growing commercial needs of the town. In the 1960’s the three houses that stood where the CVS parking lot is now, were destroyed to make room for a grocery store. The historical 1800 houses and Miss Bigelow’s gardens were lost, but Colchester citizens rallied around the Ginkgo tree to save it. These events may have been the catalyst for the founding of the Colchester Historical Society.

Efforts are underway to get the Ginkgo tree listed as a historical and notable tree in Connecticut. It is now on property owned by the state and its care and maintenance is in question. The Conn. College Arboretum keeps the list of the States notable trees.

Sheila Tortorigi
Special Thanks to Kevin Tulimieri for research resources and caring about the tree

We regret that our museum is closed due to COVID-19, we apologize for any inconvenience.  However,  you can now visit the Colchester History Museum virtually using our new 360 Virtual Tour!  Click on the introductory video link and then click the 360 Museum Tour for the full experience.  Enjoy your tour and visit us in 2021 when we reopen the museum.

For Museum Virtual Tour Introduction click here

360 Virtual Museum Tour

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

To mark our 57th Anniversary a look at CHS beginnings.

Coggshell-Robinson House circa 1870

A sad ending to a great example of our structural history, the demolition of the Coggshell-Robinson House: ‎

Emerging from the Shadows: the Story of Colchester’s School for Colored Children, 1803-1840 winner of the Connecticut League of History Organizations’ Award of Merit and the American Association of State and Local History Leadership in History Award:…ildren-1804-1840/

 Preserving history is more than buildings and places

For more information, email



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