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Sunday, November 13, 2011

Heritage Trail, New London, Connecticut

Union Railroad Station (30) with whale sculpture in foreground.

New London was founded in 1646 by John Winthrop, the younger, who chose this shore-ringed "plantation" for its excellent harbor. This land, with its great natural assets, became one of the largest whaling ports in the country in the mid-19th century. As this industry waned, manufacturing flourished bringing an influx of foreign labor.

A heritage walk of 30 bronze plaques, which can be found in the sidewalks, celebrates the rich history and important buildings and sites in downtown New London. Following the plaques takes visitors on a tour from Colonial times to the early 20th century. Along the way, highlights include stories of Captain Bulkeley, who sailed with American Naval hero John Paul Jones, and buildings designed by several of America's greatest architects.

Harris Building (1)
The walk is laid out starting at the Harris Building, 156 State Street. The path then goes up the street to the courthouse. From there visitors turn right to see Whale Oil Row, before returning down the south side of State Street. The tour continues on Bank Street heading up the west side, and finishing on the water side of Bank Street.

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  1. 165 State Street, Harris Building, 1885. By Leopold Bidlitz, born in Prague and educated at Viennese Polytechnic for Jonathan Newton Harris who made his fortune in patent medicine.
  2. New London City Hall (2)
    181 State Street, City Hall, 1856.
     Built in the Italianted style. Completely redesigned and enlarged in 1911 in the Beaux arts style by local architect James Sweeney.
  3. Lyric Hall (3)
      243 State Street, Lyric Hall, 1897.
      By New London architect James Sweeney. Originally built to house a theater, which later became a dance hall.
    1. 281 State Street, Mohican Hotel, 1897.
    2. Whale Oil Row (5)
      105-119 Huntington Street, Whale Oil Row, ca. 1835.
      Greek Revival styled homes built by prominent whaling captains. Legacy of wealth generated by New London whalers from 1820 to 1850.
    3. Dewart Building (6)
      310 State Street, Dewart Building, 1914.
      By new London architect Dudley St. Clair Donnelly for Morton T. Plant, a railroad and steamship magnate of Groton. 
    4. The Thames Club (7)
      290 State Street, The Thames Club, 1905.
      Built in the Italian Rococco architectural style. Originally a private men's club. The marquee side entrance overlooked an elegant garden.
    5. National Bank of Commerce Building (8)
      250 State Street, National Bank of Commerce Building, 1922.
      The 5th bank to establish itself in the city relocated from the Crocker House into this Classic Green Revival style building.
    6. Crocker House, 180 State Street (9)
      180 State Street, The Crocker House, 1873.
      Opened on New Year's Eve as New London's first modern hotel. Patronized by U.S. presidents and playwright Eugene O'Neill.

    7. 158 State Street (10)
      158 State Street, Timothy Greens, 1771.
      Oldest building on State Street. Originally Timothy Green's print shop, which published one of the colony's earliest newspapers.
      140 State Street (11)
    8. 140 State Street, ca. 1873. Originally the site of L. Lewis Co., a crockery and glassware store. Local architect James Sweeney, designer of 143 and 181 State Street, had his offices here.
    9. 128 State Street, Bacon Marble Block, 1868.
    10. 80 State Street, Cronin Building, 1892.
    11. 54 State Street, The Marsh Building, 1916.
    12. 15 Bank Street, Lawrence Hall, 1920.
    13. 57 Bank Street, Royal Hotel, 1897.
    14. 111 Bank Street, Bulkeley House, 1790.
    15. 133 Bank Street, 1900.
    16. 181 Bank Street, 1790.
    17. 243 Bank Street, 1867.
    18. 258 Bank Street, 1833.
    19. 194 Bank Street, 1800.
    20. 150 Bank Street, U.S. Custom House, 1833.
    21. 138 Bank Street, Franklin Smith Home, 1840.
    22. 90 Bank Street, 1876.
    23. 74 Bank Street, Exchange Building, 1848.
    24. 42 Bank Street, 1833.
    25. 16 Bank Street, 1900.
    26. 2 State Street, 1844.
    27. 35 Water Street, Union Railroad Station, 1888. By Henry Hobson Richardson, inventor of Romanesque Revival in America and architect of Trinity Church in Boston and Harvard University's Sever Hall.

    Other Sites to Consider for Inclusion on Heritage Trail

    There are several additional sites of great significance not located on the Heritage Trail, though that could be possible contenders.

    St. James Episcopal Church,
    New London

    St. James Episcopal Church. Organized on September 27, 1725, and seat of Samuel Seabury, America's First Bishop who served as rector from 1785-1796 and was buried here in 1849. This third church building was designed by Richard Upjohn and consecrated on June 11, 1850. Noted for impressive stained glass windows and listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

    The Public Library of New London
    The Public Library of New London. This was the gift to the city of Henry Philemon Haven, one of New London's most prosperous whaling merchants. Construction was completed and the building opened to the public in 1892. The well-known architect Henry Hobson Richardson is credited with the spirit of the style of the building although actual construction was supervised by his successors Shepley, Rutan & Coolidge of Boston. Construction of the addition to the south began in 1974 and was made possible through funds donated by the city, state, foundations, and public subscription.

    Garde Arts Center, 325 State Street
    Garde Arts Center, 325 State Street. This Art Deco building was a historic movie/vaudeville house built in 1926 during the golden era of motion pictures and vaudeville theaters. The theater and several adjacent buildings sit on the site of the baronial mansion of whaling merchant William Williams. The Moroccan interior provided a touch of the exotic for patrons. The theater was named after Walter Garde, a Hartford and New London businessman. Warner Brothers purchased the theater for $1 million in 1929 and continued to operate it through 1978 when it was sold. The Garde Arts Center purchased the theater for $300,000 in 1985. In 1994 a $15.75 million campaign to restore the Garde Theater began. In 1998 the new lobbies and storefronts opened, and one year later in 1999, the theater opened with a restored interior.

    Unitarian Church

    Unitarian Church (existing marker, faded).

    The 19th Century Port (existing marker).

    The Submarine Industry (existing marker).

    The Atlantic Trade (existing marker).

    The Roots of the US Coast Guard (existing marker).

    The Amistad Incident (existing marker).

    Native Americans (existing marker). Connecting to the Sea for Centuries. The Mohegan and Pequot people of southeastern Connecticut and their ancestors have used the coastal resources of eastern Long Island Sound for thousands of years. Native people made ocean-going canoes to harvest fish, trade, and visit with their neighbors and relatives throughout the region. The resources of Connecticut's coastal waters allowed Native people to develop year-round villages thousands of years before agriculture. After European contact, quahog and whelk shells from local waters made into beads known as wampam quickly became central to the growing fur trade. Native Americans continued to participate in New London's maritime economy working on whaling, merchant, and naval vessels. More recently, the Mohegan and Pequot tribes have invested in maritime-related businesses such as the Pequot River Shipworks and the Mohegan Aquaculture project. Where can you go to learn more? Mashantucket Pequot Museum, Mystic Seaport Museum, Tantaquidgeon Indian Museum.

    Whaling in New London (existing marker). Human relationship with sea mammals has evolved through the past 300 years. Oil from whales and seals was exploited, yet essential to developing our industrial revolution in the 19th century. The wealth accumulated from whaling was invested in railroads, industrial development, the hospital and the creation of cultural institutions still in use today by the New London community. Growth of environmental awareness in the 20th century has led to 21st century recognition of the need to save the whales and preserve a sustainable ocean environment for the health of our planet. This life size sculpture represents a sperm whale sounding - diving back into the ocean after coming to the surface to breathe. Sperm whales can reach 59 ft in length, weigh up to 45 tons, dive to 10,000 ft below the ocean's surface and swim at a speed of 23 miles per hour.

    Nathan Hale Schoolhouse

    Interior of Nathan Hale Schoolhouse.
    Nathan Hale Schoolhouse, 19 Atlantic Street. Where Nathan Hale taught from 1774 to 1775, several years after graduating from Yale. In 1775, Hale enlisted in the American Revolution and was promoted to the rank of Captain. he was the only soldier to volunteer to spy on the British who had taken control of Long Island when George Washington needed valuable information. "I only regret that I have but one life to lose for my country." Nathan Hale's immortal last words on being hanged as a spy by the British in New York on September 22, 1776.

    16 Bank Street. Figureheads adorn the cornice.

    36 Bank Street. Present storefront built around a mansion.

    United States Post Office
    United States Post Office, 27 Masonic Street. The post office was built in 1932 in Classical Revival architecture and was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1986.

    Saturday, November 12, 2011

    Mashantucket Pequot Museum and Research Center, Mashantucket, Connecticut

    Striking tower of the Mashantucket Pequot Museum and Research Center upon approach. 
    The Mashantucket Pequot Museum and Research Center that was opened in 1998 is one of those rarities in life - a well-funded cultural institution! The extensive planning and preparation and lavish amount of money spent is evident from the view of the soaring tower and atrium upon the initial approach. This sense is only strengthened while walking through beautifully curated exhibits on several floors.

    The offerings inside are so immense that visitors are handed an illustrated guide with the title, "Making Your Way Through the Pequot Museum," that shows illustrations and descriptions of 15 different highlights of the collection.

    Canoe in The Gathering Space.
    1. The Gathering Space. This large glass covered atrium has some exhibits, though is mostly used for public events and visiting school groups. The gift shop is on one end, and restrooms and the restaurant are on the floor above.

    2. A ramp leads down to level 2 where the exhibit starts.

    3. At the bottom of the ramp a scale model of the reservation and examples of modern-day tribal life are on display.

    4. Visitors continue by escalator to Level 1 and the World of Ice exhibits. The escalator passes through an 'ice tunnel' to designate the passage to an earlier time. Displays of Native art and a short film featuring storytellers are on display.

    5. Life in a Cold Climate exhibit shows large animals like mastodon, giant beaver, and dire wolves that once roamed the North American continent.

    6. Depiction of an ancient caribou hunt from 11,000 years ago.

    7. A life-size diorama and touch-screen computers detail the natural habitat of Connecticut.

    8. Exhibits on the four seasons, ancient tools, and a short film on creating archaic period tools.

    9. An exhibit on the Three Sisters and how they were grown. From there guests are instructed to pick up an Acoustiguide.

    10. One inside the Pequot Village, side galleries provide more information about life in southeastern Connecticut 450 years ago. A Palisaded Fort near the exit sets the stage for discussion and interpretation of the Pequot War that follows.

    11. Leaving the village, visitors enter the Clash of Cultures exhibits. Particularly striking are a time-line of critical events leading up to the Pequot War interpreted from perspectives of the Pequot, English, and Dutch. Similar video narrations by Pequot, English, and Dutch re-enactors interpret events from the perspective of each. The exhibits on this floor culminate with a showing of the half-hour film The Witness, that presents a dramatic portrayl of the 1637 Pequot War. 

    12. Travelling by escalator to Level 2 takes visitors to galleries describing what it meant to be Pequots in centuries to follow the Pequot War. Particularly striking are descriptions of excavation efforts.

    13. Photos of the present-day members of the Mashantucket Pequot Tribal Nation are on display in the portrait gallery.

    14. The Mashantucket Gallery provides changing exhibits that highlight Native art and culture. 

    15. A visit to the observation tower in encouraged as a culmination of the visit.

    View of Foxwoods Resort and Casino from the observation deck in the museum tower.
    The conceptual design for the permanent exhibits was created by tribal members, consultants and DMCD Incorporated, and the exhibit design by Design Division, Inc., of New York, Michael A. Hanke, principal.

    One of the minor irritations of this museum is the policy against taking pictures. In the case there are artifacts that could be damaged by flash photography, then certainly, yes, prohibit taking pictures with flash. By prohibiting conscientious guests from taking pictures altogether makes it difficult for visitors to share their experience with other people who may be unable to visit themselves. The stories contained in this museum and the stunning interpretive exhibits deserve exposure to a much broader audience. Allowing guests to take photographs is one way to accomplish this.

    Lantern Hill while driving along road to the museum.

    Captain Mason statue at original locationintersection of Pequot Avenue and
    Clift Street in Mystic, Connecticut, before being removed.
    Source: http://www.panoramio.com/photo/17450131

    Mashantucket Pequot Museum and Research Center

    Battlefields of the Pequot War, 1636-1638, The Mystic Fort Campaign

    Pequot War Map, 1636-1638

    View Pequot War Map, 1636-1638 in a larger map For Additional Reading...

    Fort Saybrook, Old Saybrook, Connecticut

    "These are they who arranged the settlement from which we are sprung. Little except anxiety, toil and financial loss came to them from it. But they were honoruable men: they played a conspicuous part in the great events of a great time, and wrought for that liberty under law which both England and America  today enjoy. It is fitting that we should remember and give thanks for them." 
    - Rev. Edward M. Chapman, November 14, 1910
    At the mouth of the Connecticut River stood the first English for in the colony of Connecticut built in 1635. It was destroyed by fire in 1647. Beyond it, on the bank of the river stood a second fort built in 1648. The earthworks of this fort were demolished in 1870.

    The Connecticut River is the only river that flows the length of New England, 400 miles from the Canadian border to Long Island Sound. The river has withstood intensive development mainly because of the sandbar blocking entrance to large vessels.

    Efforts to improve navigation along the Connecticut River date back to 1773 when the legislature approved a lottery for marking the Saybrook bar. Today the Army Corps of Engineers maintains a 15-foot channel. For three centuries the river served as a ready-made highway for trade and travel. Ferry service between Saybrook and Lyme began in 1662. Shipbuilding along the river was once a major industry, accounting for over 1,000 vessels. By 1824, there was regular steamboat service between Hartford and New York. The eight-town Gateway Commission protects the estuary as far as 17 miles upstream by means of a conservation zone.

    Panoramic photo of the Fort Saybrook Monument Park.
    English Efforts at Settlement
    The Earl of Warwick, President of the Council for New England, received from King James I, the right to settle the area from Narragansett River to the Pacific. In 1631 he conveyed the Patent to 15 Puritan Lords and Gentlemen for refuge in case the Puritan Revolution failed and King Charles I was restored to the throne. Three leading Patentees were William Flenner, Lord Brooke, and Colonel George Fenwick.

    John Winthrop, Jr., son of the Governor of Massachusetts, was commissioned Governor of the River Colony by Patentees. He arrived in Boston in October, 1635 and learned that the Dutch were planning to occupy the mouth of the river. So he dispatched a small bark with 20 carpenters and other workmen under Lieutenant Edward Gibbons and Sergeant Simon Willard to the mouth of the river with directions to take possession of the place and raise a building.

    They landed November 24, 1635, and tore down the Dutch Coat of Arms and mounted a shield on which the painted a grinning face. In a few days a Dutch ship approached but when they saw the soldiers and two well-placed cannon they withdrew. Winthrop changed the name of the point to Sayebrooke in honor of Viscount Saye and Sele (William Fiennes) and Lord Brooke.

    Map of Saybrook Point showing improvements through 1790.

    Artist's rendering of Lionel Gardiner's fort.
    Monument to Lion Gardiner near the site
    of the fort he had built.
    In 1635 Lieutenant Lion Gardiner, a tall redheaded military engineer, was engaged by Governor John Winthrop, Jr. to build a fort and lay out a town for the Warwick Patentees. His contract was for a period of four years at an annual salary of 100 English pounds. Gardiner arrived in the bark BATCHELOR with his wife Mary in March of 1636 and began to build a stout palisade fort and a windmill for grinding corn. The next month his son David was born the first recorded birth of an English child in Connecticut.

    Gardiner designed a fort at Saybrook in the European tradition as a square, palisaded fortification containing several structures, surrounded by an earthen embankement and moat. A movable drawbridge crossed the moat at the entrance on the western side. Cannon platforms were placed in each corner. The fort was well positioned to guard against an attack from upriver or from Long Island Sound. Its cannon could fire a mile away as far as Poverty Point on the opposite side of the river.

    The English settlers found it impossible to pacify the Pequots, who in 1633 murdered a party of nine Englishmen at the mouth of the River. After Fort Saybrook was built, three hundred Pequot warriors constantly harassed the Fort, wounded Lion Gardiner, butchered livestock and burned storehouses and haystacks outside of the palisade. In May 1637, the Hartford and Saybrook colonies declared war on the Pequots. A force of ninety men under Captain John Mason was joined by Uncas, a renegade Pequot chieftain and his braves. They launched an attack by sea from Fort Saybrook and destroyed the Pequots' main encampment near Groton. Following his service in the Pequot War Captain Mason was named the second Commander of the Fort.

    When Gardiner's contract expired in 1639, he bought the island between the north and south forks of Long Island, that later became known as Gardiner's Island. Gardiner himself died in Easthampton, New York.

    The burial place of Lady Fenwick.
    George Fenwick, who was the only Warwick Patentee to settle in Saybrook, arrived here in 1639 to become its second Governor and to replace Lion Gardiner. With his wife and son, two sisters and servants, he took up residence in the great hall within the fort. Lady Alice Fenwick was a lovely auburn-haired widow of a nobleman. Governor Fenwick sold the Saybrook Colony to Hartford in 1644. The terms were an annual payment to him of 180 pounts - one-third in good wheat, one-third in peas, and one-third in rye or barley. The Saybrook seal eventually became the official seal of the State of Connecticut.

    Lady Fenwick died in 1648. She was the daughter of Sir Edward and Lady Elizabeth Apsley, the widow of Sir John Boltier, and wife of George Fenwick who was the Governor of Saybrook Colony from 1639 to 1644. The brownstone monument over her grave was made by Mathew Griswold, a stonecutter. In return for agreeing that his family would perpetually care for the grave, Griswold received a large gift of land across the Connecticut River in Old Lyme. Lady Fenwick was moved to the Cypress Cemetery when the railroad was built in 1870.

    In 1647, Gardiner's fort burned to the ground, and a new, less elaborate fort was built nearer the river. George Fenwick returned to England the next year and died March 15, 1657.

    Panoramic shot showing the original site of Yale University, founded in 1701.
    Yale College was founded on this storied peninsula in 1701. This makes Yale the third-oldest institution of higher education in the United States, after New College (later Harvard University) that was founded in 1636, and The College of William & Mary that was founded in 1693. Later the college pulled up roots and relocated to New Haven, leaving their original campus behind. 

    Coming of the Railroad to Saybrook
    The Connecticut Valley Railroad obtained their State Charter on July 17, 1868. Surveys for the route along the Connecticut River from Hartford to Saybrook Point were completed in 1869. Track construction followed and was completed in the summer of 1871. The early earthwork fortifications at Saybrook Point were leveled during the construction of a turntable, a roundhouse, and railroad yards at the Point. The first ceremonial train traveled forty-five miles from Saybrook to Hartford on July 29, 1871.

    Remains of the de-commissioned turntable tracks.
    In 1882, the Valley Railroad was acquired by the New Haven Railroad. Five trains daily provided service each way between Saybrook and Hartford with running times of two to three hours. Service was terminated in 1922 on the tracks from Saybrook Junction to Saybrook Point.

    Prior to the construction of a railroad bridge in 1862 and an automobile bridge in 1911, ferries provided the only passenger service from Saybrook across the Connecticut River. The ferry was chartered in 1662 by the General Court at Harford. John Whittlesey and his brother-in-law William Dudley were the first ferrymen, a business that the two families maintained for several generations. When the railroad opened in 1872, the ferry SHAMPISHUE carried the railroad cars across the River. By 1888, the steam-powered LADY FENWICK had replaced the old sail-bearing ferries. The COLONIAL was the last Saybrook ferry to cross the Connecticut River and made her final run in 1911.

    The Monument and Memorialization Phase
    The heirs of Alfred E. Wolcott purchased the land where Yale College got its start and donated this to the Town of Old Saybrook on April 1914 with the stipulation that it never by used for burials.

    Stones commemorating the original site of Yale University.
    Fort Saybrook Monument Park consists of nearly 18 acres, about eleven of which are marshland. The park adjoins the mouth of the Connecticut River, a major New England estuary and tidal river. It has been recognized by an international convention as globally significant and contains one of the least developed or disturbed large-river tidal marsh systems in the U.S., and the most pristine large-river tidal marsh system in the Northeast. The lower Connecticut River has been identified by the Nature Conservancy as one of the 40 Last Great Places in the Northern Hemisphere. This site has great ecological, historical and cultural significance and is presently maintained by the Fort Saybrook Monument Park Association. Fort Saybrook Monument Park offers a rare opportunity for all visitors to learn about the rich and varied past of this important place in the world.

    If anything the park suffers from its relative anonymity being just far enough off the beaten path to be overlooked and lacking clear directional signs to attract visitors there. Secondly, the many interpretive markers with overlapping content and themes, make it challenging for visitors to fully grasp the significance of the site and what it is all about. Lastly, complex stories such as the Pequot War and the struggle between the English, Native Americans, and Dutch for control of this area, go largely untold. This site has amazing significance on many levels from the 17th century forward. Hopefully thoughtful efforts will be made to give this important site its rightful place among similar attractions lining Long Island Sound.