Taft Park 400 N. Water Street
Nestled in the heart of downtown along the Wolf River. Taft Park is a .04 acre park and Veterans Memorial honoring heroes from New London and the surrounding area. Boaters may dock here to pay respect at the Memorial, share a quiet family picnic or gathering, shoreline fishing, or take in the sights of beautiful downtown New London.
In 1848, William Johnson established a trading post at the junction of the Wolf and Embarrass Rivers. In 1851, Lucius Taft from Vermont made New London his home. In July, 1851, Mr. Taft commenced to build the first frame house in New London, the lumber for it having been floated down the river from Hortonville. During that winter the house was occupied by a Mr. Price and wife, with whom Mr. Taft boarded. When the village site was platted soon afterward, it was found that the house stood in the middle of a street; it was consequently moved to the present site of the Lipke Block. He was joined by Ira Millard in 1852, who moved to the area from Ohio. These two men became partners in 1852 when they bought the trading post from Mr. Johnson.1853, Mr. Taft secured a patent from the federal government for tracts of land that now surround the north side of the city. The second plat was also laid out in 1853, south of the Wolf River by the Rev. Reeder Smith (City of Appleton and Lawrence University founder).
Unofficially, the city of New London was known by many names. Some of the early names used were Johnson's Trading Post or Landing, The Mouth of the Embarrass and Taft's Landing. By 1854, the residents of the community realized they needed an official name. A meeting was held at McMillen's Store with Lucius Taft and Ira Millard representing the north side of town, and Reeder Smith representing the south side. The name New London was suggested by Reeder Smith in honor of his father who was born in New London, Connecticut. Mr. Taft and Mr. Millard relented and the application for a federal post office under the name of New London was made that year.
Mr. Taft resided in New London until 1897 and, in numerous ways, was active in its development; in fact, for years he was considered its good father. He died at the home of his son in Columbus, Ohio, on the 21st of July, 1899. In 1915 Taft Park was dedicated in his honor and in affectionate remembrance of his character and activities. His aged widow passed away soon afterward, and shortly before her death wrote an interesting letter to Charles F. Carr, of the New London Press, and an old family friend. An excerpt reads: "When I read in your issue of the 10th of September the notice regarding the naming of a park you have in contemplation, I thought I must express to you our thanks (my own, as well as my son's) for your kind expression to the public; that is, naming it in memory of my husband. What he did for New London can hardly be realized by the present inhabitants."
The village grew rapidly. In 1852, there were only two families living in New London. By 1854, the population had grown to 150 inhabitants. In 1857, New London had 800 citizens, twelve stores, factories, three hotels, a printing office, churches and schools, which when combined with the residential housing numbered over 200 buildings.