Long Wharf, New Haven, Connecticut:
Long Wharf has been a major landmark for commerce in New Haven since the 17th century. In 1663, Samuel Bache received the first grant to build a wharf and warehouse in the harbor. Twenty years later, Thomas Trowbridge obtained a grant for a wharf and warehouse that adjoined the Bache wharf. By 1738, the docks were extended 429 feet into the harbor – the longest built in the country thus far. The official name of the docks was “Union Wharf” though the location was popularly known as Long Wharf.
Next, in 1810, a civil engineer named William Lanson led a second expansion of Long Wharf and part of Farmington Canal. Lanson was a prominent African-American entrepreneur. He expanded Long Wharf by 1,350 feet, allowing larger ships to dock in New Haven. Lanson and his employees quarried rocks from East Haven’s Blue Mountain and loaded them onto transport boats down to New Haven. He was a former slave who moved to New Haven with his family at the start of the 19th century.
Lanson promoted the notion that whites and blacks could work and thrive together. By 1820, he was a leading figure in the black community and an owner of real estate and businesses. This included a livery service and a hotel called the Liberian in a neighborhood called New Guinea (today’s Wooster Square). He overcame substantial odds to become one of the earliest black entrepreneurs in Connecticut. In September of 2020, the City of New Haven unveiled a 7-foot tall bronze statue next to the Farmington Canal Trail to commemorate the life and legacy of William Lanson.
City of New Haven’s Long Wharf Pier: https://www.newhavenct.gov/government/departments-divisions/port-authority/long-wharf-pier
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