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Connecticut

Connecticut is the southernmost state in the New England region of the northeastern United States. Connecticut is bordered by Rhode Island to the east, Massachusetts to the north, New York to the west, and Long Island Sound to the south. Its capital city is Hartford, and its most populous city is Bridgeport. The southwestern portions of Connecticut are often grouped along with New York and New Jersey as a tri-state area. The state is named for the Connecticut River, a major U.S. river that approximately bisects the state. The word “Connecticut” is derived from various anglicized spellings of an Algonquian word for “long tidal river”.

Connecticut is the third smallest state by area, the 29th most populous, and the fourth most densely populated of the 50 United States. It is known as the “Constitution State”, the “Nutmeg State”, the “Provisions State”, and the “Land of Steady Habits”. It was influential in the development of the federal government of the United States. Much of southern and western Connecticut (along with the majority of the state’s population) is part of the New York metropolitan area; three of Connecticut’s eight counties are statistically included in the New York City combined statistical area, which is widely referred to as the Tri-State area. Connecticut’s center of population is in Cheshire, New Haven County which is also located within the Tri-State area.

Connecticut’s first European settlers were Dutch. They established a small, short-lived settlement in present-day Hartford at the confluence of the Park and Connecticut rivers called Huys de Goede Hoop. Initially, half of Connecticut was a part of the Dutch colony New Netherland, which included much of the land between the Connecticut and Delaware rivers. The first major settlements were established in the 1630s by England. Thomas Hooker led a band of followers overland from the Massachusetts Bay Colony and founded what became the Connecticut Colony; other settlers from Massachusetts founded the Saybrook Colony and the New Haven Colony. The Connecticut and New Haven Colonies established documents of Fundamental Orders, considered the first constitutions in North America. In 1662, the three colonies were merged under a royal charter, making Connecticut a crown colony. This colony was one of the Thirteen Colonies that revolted against British rule in the American Revolution.

The Connecticut River, Thames River, and ports along the Long Island Sound have given Connecticut a strong maritime tradition which continues today. The state also has a long history of hosting the financial services industry, including insurance companies in Hartford and hedge funds in Fairfield County. As of the 2010 Census, Connecticut features the highest per-capita income, Human Development Index (0.962), and median household income in the United States.

Connecticut is bordered on the south by Long Island Sound, on the west by New York, on the north by Massachusetts, and on the east by Rhode Island. The state capital and third largest city is Hartford, and other major cities and towns (by population) include Bridgeport, New Haven, Stamford, Waterbury, Norwalk, Danbury, New Britain, Greenwich, and Bristol. Connecticut is slightly larger than the country of Montenegro. There are 169 incorporated towns in Connecticut.

The highest peak in Connecticut is Bear Mountain in Salisbury in the northwest corner of the state. The highest point is just east of where Connecticut, Massachusetts, and New York meet (42° 3′ N; 73° 29′ W), on the southern slope of Mount Frissell, whose peak lies nearby in Massachusetts. At the opposite extreme, many of the coastal towns have areas that are less than 20 feet above sea level.

Connecticut has a long maritime history and a reputation based on that history—yet the state has no direct oceanfront (technically speaking). The coast of Connecticut sits on Long Island Sound, which is an estuary. The state’s access to the open Atlantic Ocean is both to the west (toward New York City) and to the east (toward the “race” near Rhode Island). This situation provides many safe harbors from ocean storms, and many transatlantic ships seek anchor inside Long Island Sound when tropical cyclones pass off the upper East Coast.

The Connecticut River cuts through the center of the state, flowing into Long Island Sound. The most populous metropolitan region centered within the state lies in the Connecticut River Valley. Despite Connecticut’s relatively small size, it features wide regional variations in its landscape; for example, in the northwestern Litchfield Hills, it features rolling mountains and horse farms, whereas in areas to the east of New Haven along the coast, the landscape features coastal marshes, beaches, and large scale maritime activities.

Connecticut’s rural areas and small towns in the northeast and northwest corners of the state contrast sharply with its industrial cities such as Stamford, Bridgeport, and New Haven, located along the coastal highways from the New York border to New London, then northward up the Connecticut River to Hartford. Many towns in northeastern and northwestern Connecticut center around a green, such as the Litchfield Green, Lebanon Green (the largest in the state), and Wethersfield Green (the oldest in the state). Near the green typically stand historical visual symbols of New England towns, such as a white church, a colonial meeting house, a colonial tavern or inn, several colonial houses, and so on, establishing a scenic historical appearance maintained for both historic preservation and tourism. Many of the areas in southern and coastal Connecticut have been built up and rebuilt over the years, and look less visually like traditional New England.

The northern boundary of the state with Massachusetts is marked by the Southwick Jog or Granby Notch, an approximately 2.5 miles (4.0 km) square detour into Connecticut. The origin of this anomaly is clearly established in a long line of disputes and temporary agreements which were finally concluded in 1804, when southern Southwick’s residents sought to leave Massachusetts, and the town was split in half.

The southwestern border of Connecticut where it abuts New York State is marked by a panhandle in Fairfield County, containing the towns of Greenwich, Stamford, New Canaan, Darien, and parts of Norwalk and Wilton. This irregularity in the boundary is the result of territorial disputes in the late 17th century, culminating with New York giving up its claim to the area, whose residents considered themselves part of Connecticut, in exchange for an equivalent area extending northwards from Ridgefield to the Massachusetts border, as well as undisputed claim to Rye, New York.

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