How the 'Village on the Plain' became Plainville: Town celebrates 150 years

Published on Sunday, 21 July 2019 21:12
Written by Michelle Jalbert


PLAINVILLE - The Plainville Historic Center kicked off the town’s 150th Anniversary Celebration Saturday by showing how the “Village on the Plain” became Plainville.

The “Plainville Through the Years” exhibit had a “Then and Now” area, displays featuring notable people and places, and a questionnaire quizzing people about what antique items were used for.

There was even a display called “Do you remember?” where visitors left notes of their memories of town from long ago, like milk being delivered to the house and 5 cent candy bars.

A lot has changed in 150 years.

Volunteer Gertrude LaCombe and the rest of the historic society worked on the exhibit for a month before it opened in early June.

“We are a hidden gem in Plainville. People are exceptionally surprised at what they find here,” she said.

The history of the land began with the Tunxis tribe, LaCombe explained. They were hunters and gatherers who relied on deer for food and clothing and used cattails for pillows, bedding and diapers.

“Plainville was known as the great plain,” LaCombe said.

Fast forward a couple of hundred years and the land becomes a town reliant on a canal to do business.

“If it weren’t for the canal, we wouldn’t be here. It was the focal point of downtown Plainville,” LaCombe said. Even though the canal was only there for 20 years, it made a big impact on the town.

A train was later built that followed the canal and sparked more business.

“We were the crossroads of Connecticut at that time,” LaCombe said.

Fast forward a bit more and the town becomes home to a drive-in, stadium and the White Oak Pleasure Picnic Grounds, which competed directly with Lake Compounce. The stadium featured car races, derbies, rodeos, air races and circuses.

“It was a big deal in those days,” LaCombe said.

LaCombe remembers the last big anniversary celebration the town had 100 years ago.

Men dressed up as “Brothers of the Bush” in red vests and had to get permits to shave their beards. If they had shaved without a permit, they were put in parade “jail.”

“It was all in good fun,” LaCombe said.

It wasn’t too long after that Ruth Hummel founded the Plainville Historic Society and the center, and the rest, as they say, is history.

“They’ve done a great job,” said Cassandra Clark about the exhibit. She visited with her daughter, Skylar.

The celebration was about making history as well.

Reed’s Craft Ginger Beer was giving out samples at the center. John Bello, who was raised in Plainville, marketed the beverage as well as the popular SoBe beverages. Bello was also the president of NFL Properties, its marketing and merchandising arm.

“He turned it into a mega business for the NFL,” said his friend, Tom Barber. “He’s kind of a marketing genius.”

Both Barber and Bello are Plainville High School Class of ‘64 alumni. Bello will be inducted into the Plainville Sports Hall of Fame in October.

“He always remembers where he came from and gives back to Plainville,” Barber added.

The Plainville Historic Center is open from 1 to 3 p.m. every Saturday.

Michelle Jalbert can be reached at

Posted in New Britain Herald, Plainville on Sunday, 21 July 2019 21:12. Updated: Sunday, 21 July 2019 21:15.