Our tour began at Long Wharf where you learned about William Lanson, a runaway slave turned engineer and land developer, and his engineering genius which built a 1,350 foot extension to Long Wharf, creating the longest pier in the country in 1810.
After the project he bought a bunch of land and houses in New Haven for his workers and other Black people, including runaway slaves, to rent and live in. This area, called New Guinea or Negro Lane -- which today is State Street -- was integrated where white and Black people lived next to each other. Lanson was called “The king of the colored race of our town” by other Black New Haven residents. He was the superintendent of the Farmington Canal, founder of Dixwell United Church of Christ, he also owned stores and hotels that both white and black people used.
Lanson’s properties were subsidized by some of his white business partners. So, when the economy began to change and Lanson’s land in New Guinea began to catch the eye of carriage makers and other shops, the White business owners changed on Lanson and the New Guinea residents.
The white business men and racist out of towners began to claim that the community was filled with noise, crime, and plagued with drunkenness, though that was far from true. New Guinea was filled with many hardworking black and white people. However, eventually Lanson was forced to sell all the properties.
He went on to buy more land on the Quinnipiac river but sadly, he died in poverty in 1851.