Willimantic honors residents killed in the World Wars and Vietnam with a downtown park and memorial.
Memorial Park, on Main Street (Routes 32 and 66) between Watson and Tingley streets, features a large monument dedicated in 1953. The monument features three archways that bear memorial plaques honoring Willimantic’s war heroes.
The central archway features a bronze plaque reading, “Dedicated to the men of the City of Willimantic, Connecticut, who made the supreme sacrifice in the cause of freedom…in the flaming crucible of war. These patriots laid down their lives that all the peoples of the earth might dwell together in peace.”
The central archway also has a plaque honoring the service of Willimantic’s Vietnam veterans.
The plaque in the right (eastern) bears the names of 56 residents lost during World War II.
The plaque in the left archway lists 29 residents who died while serving in World War I.
A boulder near the memorial bears a 1919 plaque honoring the service of local National Guard troops who served in World War I.
The Frog Bridge in the Willimantic section of Windham provides a quirky look at the town’s history.
Officially named the Tread City Crossing, the bridge connects Main Street (Route 66) and Pleasant Street (Route 32), and crosses the Willimantic River.
But the bridge, which opened in 2000, is more commonly known for its decorative elements, including the 11-foot bronze frogs at the bridge’s northern and southern ends and the large thread spools lining the bridge.
The spools symbolize Willimantic’s historic importance as a thread production center, and several former mill buildings (since converted to other uses) can be seen from the bridge’s sidewalks.
The frogs symbolize the 1754 Frog Fight, a curious incident from Willimantic’s history. According to local legend, Willimantic residents, concerned about attacks from French forces or Native Americans, were awakened during a hot June night by loud, strange noises coming from the woods. Residents grabbed muskets and waited all night for an attack that didn’t come.
The next morning, the noises were attributed to thousands of frogs fighting over the last remnants of water in a nearly dried-out millpond. Residents were initially embarrassed about the incident, but later adopted frogs an unofficial mascot of Willimantic.