Willimantic, ConnecticutWillimantic is a town located in Windham County, Connecticut. As of the 2000 census, the town had a total population of 15,823.
According to the United States Census Bureau, the town has a total area of 11.6 km² (4.5 mi²). 11.4 km² (4.4 mi²) of it is land and 0.3 km² (0.1 mi²) of it is water. The total area is 2.23% water.
As of the census of 2000, there are 15,823 people, 5,604 households, and 3,166 families residing in the town. The population density is 1,391.6/km² (3,607.0/mi²). There are 6,026 housing units at an average density of 530.0/km² (1,373.7/mi²). The racial makeup of the town is 70.35% White, 6.25% African American, 0.59% Native American, 1.67% Asian, 0.13% Pacific Islander, 16.87% from other races, and 4.13% from two or more races. 30.19% of the population are Hispanic or Latino of any race.
There are 5,604 households out of which 29.7% have children under the age of 18 living with them, 33.5% are married couples living together, 18.1% have a female householder with no husband present, and 43.5% are non-families. 33.2% of all households are made up of individuals and 12.7% have someone living alone who is 65 years of age or older. The average household size is 2.45 and the average family size is 3.13.
In the town the population is spread out with 22.6% under the age of 18, 22.4% from 18 to 24, 27.3% from 25 to 44, 16.1% from 45 to 64, and 11.5% who are 65 years of age or older. The median age is 28 years. For every 100 females there are 95.0 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there are 91.6 males.
The median income for a household in the town is $30,155, and the median income for a family is $38,427. Males have a median income of $30,697 versus $23,297 for females. The per capita income for the town is $15,727. 19.8% of the population and 14.6% of families are below the poverty line. Out of the total people living in poverty, 25.7% are under the age of 18 and 12.6% are 65 or older.
Willimantic is best known locally for its heroin trade and for its frog legend. Most recently, the Hartford Courant released a series of articles in October 2002 entitled Heroin Town, detailing the history of the drug trade in the city. The series provoked an outraged response from the townspeople, who saw themselves as victims of, at best, yellow journalism.
The "Battle of Frog Pond", essentially, was an incident around the time of the French and Indian War in which the citizens, after a long night of drinking, heard a tremendous racket outside. Assuming the worst, they grabbed their arms, they proceeded to fire into the night, until the noises stopped. Congratulating each other on a job well done, they went to sleep, only to discover the next morning that the Willimantic River had dried up, sending a vast army of bullfrogs in search of water in which to spawn. Thus, the citizens were confronted with a field full of dead frogs, and the legend was born. The story is apocryphal, and most likely well embellished by local color. Nevertheless, the town has recently erected a Frog Bridge to commemorate the incident, featuring frogs atop spools of thread.
The thread spools are included in the bridge's design because Willimantic was, at one time, known as "Thread City". The American Thread Company had a mill there, and was at one time the largest employer in the state as well as one of the largest producers of thread in the world. They brought in a series of immigrant labor groups, including the Irish, French-Canadian, Polish and Puerto Rican. (As an interesting side effect, the town has two Catholic churches, St. Mary's and St. Joseph's, because two of the Catholic groups refused to share a church.) The mill was vacated in 1985, and the town has had no major industry to replace it since then.