An earlier post examined the history of Litchfield’s hitching posts. A similar reminder of Litchfield’s transportation history are the carriage steps (or mounting blocks) that dot North and South Streets.
Mounting blocks were simple stone blocks – often granite – that allowed passengers and easier way of climbing on board a carriage or stagecoach. Carriage steps were a fancier alternative, with two steps often carved into the stone.
While they were often found outside the homes of the town’s wealthier residents, they speak to the importance of carriages and stages and means of transportation. These conveyances brought students to the Tapping Reeve Law School and Sarah Pierce’s female academy. The wealth and cultural refinement of these students helped establish the cosmopolitan atmosphere of Litchfield in the early 19th century.
Historian Lynn Brickley has written that while stagecoaches were forbidden from traveling at night, advertisements stated that the stage would leave Litchfield at 3 a.m. A stage could travel 4-5 miles per hour, with stops every ten miles to change horses. Still, rugged roads could slow the process, and the stage took 14 hours to travel 24 miles.
Ultimately the arrival of the railroad would make stagecoaches no longer economically viable, and automobiles would do the same to carriages. The implements of horse-drawn travel – hitching posts and carriage steps – remain as testimony to their importance in an earlier age.