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Thursday, March 31, 2011

In My Footsteps: Trip 109: Sharon, Massachusetts


In My Footsteps
Christopher Setterlund


Trip 109:  Sharon, Massachusetts
February 17, 2011


            Located just north of one of my favorite spots, Easton, and even sharing one of the sites I am covering, the town of Sharon is very similar but also very different from its neighbor.  I found it fascinating that the town’s name comes from the Sharon Plain in Israel because of the amount of forest that existed on the land. 
Lake Massapoag
            As with several other towns in this area of Massachusetts there is a great mix of historic and natural beauty.  I tried my best to see as much of both as I could but found myself gravitating toward the natural beauty more.  A spot I enjoyed was Lake Massapoag specifically Memorial Park Beach on the north side.  The name comes from the Algonquin word meaning ‘large water.’
There was only one problem and that was the snowpack which made walking down to the water’s edge pretty tough.  I parked across the street and walked in.  I ended up sinking in up to my knees over and over but eventually made it to the water.  The area used to be a minor summer resort due to its proximity but those old summer cottages are now year-round homes.  I can see why the lake is so popular even in the dead of winter.  The views were spectacular.  I would recommend viewing them when it is warmer, or at least when there is less snow.
Collecting sap at Moose Hill
Another beautiful spot to take in is the Moose Hill Wildlife Sanctuary.  Here the snow made the scenery even better.  I walked through some of the trails but I will admit that the heavy snow pack made it slow going.  The 347 acre conservation area sports the 466-foot tall Moose Hill, second in size only to Great Blue Hill in Weymouth between Boston and Providence.  The hillsides also house some rare American chestnut trees which used to be plentiful until a bark fungus nearly exterminated them.  I also got to see some buckets collecting sap from maple trees, a classic New England scene with the snow adding to it.  I highly recommend checking out Moose Hill when the warmer weather arrives, I think I am going to do the same.
As great as Lake Massapoag and Moose Hill were as far as scenery went there was one place very familiar to me that topped them both.  Borderland State Park which straddles the line between Sharon and Easton is a beautiful area that I was really happy to get to see again.  The 1,782 acre Borderland State Park has a Frisbee golf course, gigantic open fields, horseback riding, and the picturesque Leaches Pond. 
The Borderland mansion
The last time I visited Borderland it was spring and all of the flowers and trees were in bloom.  This time it was the dead of winter but that didn’t take away from it.  On this day it was quite warm and there was a lot of melting snow which made the dirt paths muddy.  Still, that was no deterrent for me as I had another chance to check out the crown jewel of Borderland.
The land on which the park stands was purchased by Oakes Ames and his wife Blanche in 1906.  The name ‘Borderland’ was given to the three-story stone mansion built on the grounds in 1910.  The last time I was there when I visited Easton I did not spend as much time at the mansion as I should have; the fact that everything was in bloom sort of distracted me.  This time I was more of a detective checking out every inch possible of the hundred year old home.
How my favorite tree looks in spring.
For those of you unfamiliar with my Easton article the Ames family is perhaps the most well known in that town.  Patriarch Oaks Ames served in the House of Representatives from 1863 to 1873 and was also a key person in the completion of the Union Pacific portion of the United States Transcontinental Railroad.  Ames was asked to take over the Union Pacific section by President Lincoln who was busy with the Civil War.
Ames was also marred in controversy due to his involvement in the Credit Mobilier of America Scandal of 1872.  Ames sold shares of stock in the Credit Mobilier loan company for well below market value which meant that the profit margins were much less than anticipated and in the end many investors as well as Union Pacific were nearly bankrupt.  The Ames Memorial Hall in Easton was built by his children in an attempt to ease some of the hard feelings against their father.
All of that aside the mansion and the rest of the park is magnificent.  On this day I ventured behind the mansion and was able to get a better view of it.  The rolling hill leading away from the mansion was really cool, looking like a perfect spot for sledding.  I was a little disappointed that my favorite tree, I believe it's a dogwood, was not in bloom.  During the previous spring it had some amazing pinkish-purple blossoms that made for a lot of great photos.
Sharon ended up being a perfect companion to neighboring Easton including the fact that they share Borderland State Park.  There are several nature preserves and conservation areas to see that will probably be even better when the snow is only a memory like Moose Hill.  Still, visiting Sharon should not be predicated on time of year, it can be enjoyed anytime.  Have fun and happy traveling!

   My first book, In My Footsteps: A Cape Cod Travel Guide, is now available at SchifferBooks.com, BarnesandNoble.com, and Amazon.com, in stores everywhere!  Follow me on Twitter!  For more In My Footsteps items follow the In My Footsteps fan page on Facebook, or visit my homepage at ChristopherSetterlund.com.   Thanks for reading! 

DirectionsBorderland State Park:  From I-495 heading north take Exit 7A for Rt. 24 north.  Take Exit 16B to merge with Rt. 106, follow 5 miles and turn right at Poquanticut Ave.  Turn left at Massapoag Ave, follow 2 miles, park will be on right.
Moose Hill Wildlife Sanctuary:  From I-495 take Exit 13A for I-95 N.  Take Exit 8 for S. Main St. toward Sharon.  Follow 1.2 mi. turn left at Walpole St., turn right at Moose Hill St.  Follow 1.3 miles to headquarters.

ReferencesBorderland State Park
            Sharon Historical Society.org
            Town of Sharon - Official Site

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

In My Footsteps: Trip 108: Canton, Massachusetts


In My Footsteps
Christopher Setterlund


Trip 108:  Canton, Massachusetts
February 17, 2011


            Being a huge fan of all things outdoors it surprised me that I had not yet paid a visit to the Blue Hills Reservation.  It is 7,000 acres of amazing views and natural beauty stretching through several different towns.  For my trip I decided to hike up Great Blue Hill which straddles the line between Milton and Canton, the subject of this article.
The otter at the Trailside Museum.
            Great Blue Hill reaches 635 feet up into the sky with the Blue Hills Ski Area on the southern side of the mini-mountain, the Canton side.  I parked at the ski area lot and was immediately sidetracked from my hike up Great Blue Hill by something just as cool.  There is a Trailside Museum run by the Massachusetts Audubon Society at the foot of Great Blue Hill accompanied by a small collection of animals native to the area.
            I was particularly enamored with a pair of white-tailed Deer who were very friendly and came over to the fence to become better photo subjects.  There was also an adorable otter in a circular tank.  It acted relatively normal until it spotted me; then it put on a show by swimming back and forth across the tank making sure to flip upside down to swim once it reached the wall.  I ended up watching it for a while until I realized that there was still a big hike ahead of me.
Boston's skyline from atop Great Blue Hill
            Despite there being a paved road leading up Great Blue Hill to the weather observatory the only way up the hill is by walking.  The scenery was incredible.  It was a weird sort of dichotomy as the temperature on this day hovered near sixty but after a very eventful winter there was a good foot of snow on the ground for the hike.  I was warm and cold all at once.
            Once the climb started getting near the top, much more vertical, I began to get glimpses through the trees of the surrounding landscape.  The stone observatory building at the summit was really neat, the warmth was melting all of the snow on top of the roof and there was the constant sound of water falling.
            There is a tower to climb where the views will blow you away.  The Boston skyline is easily recognizable to the east.  I will not try to name all of the other spots I saw at the summit of Great Blue Hill but it is very likely you will spend a good chunk of time just turning your head side to side to see as much as you can of the surrounding landscape.  It was such a great way to begin my time in Canton.
Brookwood Farm in the shadow of Great Blue Hill.
            Ironically the next spot I visited was made even better by the looming shadow of Great Blue Hill.  The Brookwood Community Farm is another spot that straddles the line between Canton and Milton; it is a working organic farm with amazing scenery as well.  The weather observatory on Great Blue Hill is clearly visible as you walk the grounds of Brookwood and it can distract you a bit from the lush farmland, not that I am complaining.  It gave the farm a different feel.
            The farm is on two different parcels of land.  The one I visited is seventy acres and is on the Blue Hills Reservation.  The other location, a ninety acre farm called the Bradley Estate, is a few minutes south.  Not only does Brookwood sell their produce at the Milton and Roslindale Farmers Markets but anybody can be a volunteer and actually have a hand in creating that very same produce.
            For the history lover in me I made a stop at the David Tilden House at Pequitside Farm.  The red house built in 1725 sits back from Pleasant Street which made for a beautiful scene when coupled with the snow.  Also when you park here you can cross the street and check out Reservoir Pond.  The house is in a bit of disrepair and contributions can be made to help restore it.  It was a little tough getting around the house thanks to the foot of snow but I did get several great photos while trudging through the snow.   
David Tilden House c.1725
            David Tilden was one of the earliest settlers of Canton and the land on which the home stands is the very same tract that Tilden purchased from the Ponkapoag tribe of Native Americans.  The Pequitside Farm is thirty-three acres and owned by the town.  The Colonial Era Main House is available for weddings and other functions.  I imagine it must be an awesome place to have a get together when the weather is warm and the flowers are in bloom.
            The final spot I visited in Canton was something that seemed very much out of place. The Canton Viaduct looks like something straight out of Ancient Rome but in reality it is one of the two oldest multiple arched stone railroad bridges in the United States.  That is a lot of information but all you really need to know is that it is a spectacular site.  I drove under it on Neponset Street to find a better place to park and get a great view. 
The amazing Canton Viaduct
            It literally looks like the aqueducts used in Ancient Rome.  The Viaduct stands out yet somehow fits right in.  It was built in 1835, is over 600 feet in length and crosses over the Canton River.  There are two similar bridges to the Canton Viaduct in Russia and both were designed by a man who had a hand in the Viaduct.  As a side note, the man was George Washington Whistler, his son, James, is the artist who painted the world renowned Whistler’s Mother in 1871.  There is an entirely different article in that fact alone.
            Whether hiking up Great Blue Hill, visiting Brookwood Farm, or standing in amazement next to the Viaduct the town of Canton is a fabulous place to spend the day.  Although it may take longer as Great Blue Hill itself is a day trip.  I highly recommend taking your time to enjoy all of what this small part of Greater Boston has to offer.  Have fun and happy traveling!    

For more In My Footsteps items follow my Twitter Feed, view more photos at the In My Footsteps fan page on Facebook, or visit my homepage at ChristopherSetterlund.com.   Thanks for reading! 


DirectionsGreat Blue Hill:  From Rt. 3 take exit 20A to merge onto I-93 S., take exit 2B to merge onto Rt. 138 N.  Parking for Great Blue Hill is 1.4 miles on right.
            Brookwood Farm:  From Rt. 3 take exit 20A to merge onto I-93 S., take exit 2B to merge onto Rt. 138 N.  After a half mile turn right onto Blue Hill River Rd., Brookwood is .4 mi. on right.
            Canton Viaduct:  From Rt. 3 take exit 20A to merge onto I-93 S., take exit 1 to merge onto I-95 S.  Take exit 11A to merge onto Neponset St. toward Canton.  Follow just over 1.5 miles.  The Viaduct will be ahead of you, parking is the difficult part there are areas a short walk away though.

ReferencesSki Blue Hills.com
            Blue Hill.org
            Brookwood Community Farm.org
            Canton, Ma. Official Town Page

Thursday, March 17, 2011

In My Footsteps: Trip 107: Newbury, Massachusetts


In My Footsteps
Christopher Setterlund


Trip 107:  Newbury, Massachusetts
January 9, 2011


            Newbury should be included in any travels up to the North Shore.  I separated it from Newburyport and Plum Island of my last article so as to make sure that it got its just due.  The village of Plum Island as well as the villages of Old Town, known as Newbury Center, and Byfield are included when one speaks of Newbury.  Newburyport is its own separate town.  The first settlers of Newbury came from the town of Wiltshire, England and landed first in modern day Ipswich, then known as Agawam, before stopping where Newbury currently stands.
Coffin House
            The history in Newbury extends nearly all the way back to the first settlers.  That was apparent with the first place I visited, the Coffin House built in 1678.  Located on High Road the house was originally purported to have been built in 1654 by descendant Joshua Coffin who wrote the history of Newbury in 1845.  Modern science has come up with the more accurate date.  It is set back a bit from the road brown with a blood red door.  Walking up to it proved a bit tough as the snow surrounding the house was deep.
            The house has more than doubled in size since 1712 as pieces were added to accommodate a growing family allowing them all to live under the same roof.  The Coffin House was divided into two separate dwellings by two of the Coffin brothers in 1785.  There are rooms in the home depicting life in the 17th, 18th, and 19th centuries.  It is open to the public on the first and third Saturdays from June through mid-October.
Swett-Ilsley House
            Only a stone’s throw away from the Coffin House on High Road is the Swett-Ilsley House.  Though it does not look the part it is actually older than the Coffin House having been built in 1670.  The reason that this house appears to be more modern is the fact that the original home was only one room and it has been expanded many times with its appearance now of  20th century duplex.
            This property was the first to be bought by the Historic New England group in 1911.  When purchased some of the modern building layers were carefully removed to expose as much of the original parts of the house as possible.  The Swett-Ilsley House can also lay claim to one of the largest fireplaces in New England at an impressive ten feet wide.  Imagine what you could fit in there?
            In keeping with the theme of 17th century homes there is also the Noyes-Hale House on Parker Street.  This home was built in 1646 by Rev. James Noyes, cousin to Rev. Thomas Parker.  Parker was the first pastor in Newbury after originally landing in Ipswich.  As interesting as the historic homes of Newbury were there were a few other items that made this trip stand out.
Milestone 33 in front of Gov. Dummer Mansion
            Located all over Newbury are a series of Milestones, stone mile markers.  Though there are many stones located all over the region there seem to be a cluster of them in Newbury.  The stones were made famous by Benjamin Franklin in the 1760’s as he wanted mile markers at every mile on post roads in Philadelphia and then extending up the coast from New York City  into New England.   Milestones however had been around since the beginning on the 1700’s with the many in Newbury having been carved by John Dummer who was the grandson of the first settler in Newbury.
            Finding all of the stones can be an adventure that would talk all day, I chose a few and was only able to find one located on Middle Road.  Known as Milestone 33 this stone ironically was carved by John Hartshorn and not John Dummer.  The text on the stone is deciphered as ‘N5’ meaning five miles north to the center of Newbury, ‘B33’ meaning thirty-three miles to the center of Boston.  The year of the stone, 1708, is featured near the bottom, unfortunately despite wiping the stone with a towel the snow made it tougher to see all of the carvings clearly.  Still it was a really cool piece of history sitting rather unsuspecting at the edge of the road at a quiet intersection.
The Witch's Stone
            The only thing neater than Milestone 33 was getting a chance to lay my eyes and hands on something that seems very much out of place in Newbury and the United States as a whole.  ‘The Witch’s Stone’ sits out on rural Coleman Road and is one part awe-inspiring and one part creepy.  It is said to have been carved in 1723; visiting the stone as the sun began to sink in the sky only added to the mood around the stone as it was bathed in an orange glow.  The ‘witch’ the stone is named for looks like something that should be on an ancient cave wall rather than on the North Shore in New England.
            Finding information about the origin, history, and carver of the Witch’s Stone has proven to be very difficult.  All I can say is that it is an impressive sight even if it does look like something that was torn from a cave wall and placed in the middle of an old stone wall in Newbury.  Not knowing why the stone is there or where the inspiration came from should not ruin the experience of seeing it.  Historic homes make up a lot of what is unique about Newbury but the Milestones and the Witch’s Stone make for an amazing historic scavenger hunt that not many other towns can offer.  Have fun and happy traveling!

            My first book, In My Footsteps: A Cape Cod Travel Guide, is now available at SchifferBooks.com, BarnesandNoble.com, and Amazon.com, soon to be in stores everywhere!  Follow me on Twitter!


DirectionsCoffin House:  From I-95 North take exit 57, turn right for Rt. 113.  Continue onto Rt. 1A/High St., drive a total of 3.5 miles off highway, Coffin House is on right.
            Milestone 33:  From I-95 North take exit 55 for Central St., continue onto School St., slight left at Elm St.  Follow 1.2 miles, turn left at Middle Rd.  Follow to intersection with Elm St.  Milestone is on the corner of intersection on lawn of Gov. Dummer Mansion.
            Witch’s Stone:  From I-95 North take exit 55 for Central St., continue onto School St., slight left at Elm St.  Turn right at Coleman Rd., the Witch’s Stone is on left .1 miles up.

ReferencesHistoric New England - Coffin House     
            Historical Society of Old Newbury
            Town of Newbury.org
            Stone Structures.org - Milestones

Thursday, March 10, 2011

In My Footsteps: Trip 106: Newburyport & Plum Island, Mass.


In My Footsteps
Christopher Setterlund


Trip 106:  Newburyport & Plum Island, Massachusetts
January 9, 2011


            An amazing area at the very top of Massachusetts’ North Shore Newburyport is filled with beautiful scenery and lots of history as most North Shore towns are.  Plum Island is a little finger of sand sticking out into the Atlantic with a feel much like the Cape Cod National Seashore to me.  It was a beautiful drive as well but not quite large enough to warrant its own article.  Therefore I am wedging Plum Island in with Newburyport since they are very closely connected.
The diminutive Front Range Light
            Located forty-five minutes north of Boston the small town of Newburyport is an historic seaport and also an affluent community with major tourism.  Once you enter its borders it’s easy to see why.  The first spot I visited was the home of the town’s historical society which is housed in the Cushing House on High Street.  The brick mansion built in 1808 was home to Caleb Cushing who was a Massachusetts Congressman from 1835-43 and was Attorney General under President Franklin Pierce.  There are gardens on the grounds as well; they are probably better suited to be seen during the warmer months.
            I love lighthouses and so it was quite obvious once I heard of the pair of lighthouses in Newburyport that I would be paying them a visit.  The Newburyport Range Lights, Front and Rear, sit along the Merrimack River and were used to help guide ships into the harbor.  Despite being a pair they could not be more different. 
Rear Range Light on Water St.
            Front Range Light, on the grounds of a Coast Guard station, is white and stands only fifteen feet in height.  I remarked that it looked like somebody had built a small shed in the shape of a lighthouse as I could imagine doors opening and a lawnmower being pushed out of it.  This lighthouse at one point had a wooden section on top of it making it thirty-five feet tall but it was damaged by fire and the resulting restoration left it in its current shorter stature.  It is hard to gain access to but it is easy to see through and over the surrounding chain link fence.
            Rear Range Light is a little less traditional if I say so myself.  It is a more rectangular shape and made of brick which is not so odd, but the fact that it sits on Water Street in among the shops and restaurants is what caught my eye.  It is painted white on one side which faces the river to help it to be seen and people can pay to have dinner up in the top.  There is a dinner table up there and it is a popular spot for wedding proposals. 
            Despite the original oddity for me Rear Range Light seemed to fit in perfectly with the rest of Water Street and Newburyport as a whole.  Sitting just to the east of the lighthouse is a unique set of shops, unique because of the building they sit in that is.  The collection of five buildings listed as ‘Mills’ contain many stores but to me the buildings were more impressive. 
Mill No. 5 store, very odd and unique.
They looked like a series of telephone poles had been attached together to form the shell of each building.  It is something I had never seen before and even now am having trouble describing.  That’s what photos are for.  Mill No. 5 was the one that I had the most contact with.  That came from the fact that you can climb the internal stairway up to the roof which gives you a pretty sweet view of the Merrimack River, Rear Range Light, and the surrounding area.  Front Range Light is obscured because of its diminutive stature.
For more beautiful scenery there is Atkinson Common on High Street.  Established in 1893 the twenty-one acre park has been slowly restored over the past ten years and looks great as far as I could tell when I arrived there.  The hundred year old gazebo is small and through the restoration is filled with vivid colors again.  It is yellow with a red roof and from what I have read is a well known landmark from post cards all the way back to the 1950’s.
The grounds were covered with snow and I am sure that when the trees and flowers and in full bloom it is even more impressive but Atkinson Common still had some great scenery.  That included a thirty-foot tall stone tower which was neat despite its dilapidated condition.  It is severely in need of work when compared to the rest of the common but I suppose that it all depends on contributions to get that done.  That being said it sort of fit in on the cold wintry day.
The renovated gazebo at Atkinson Common.
A great spot for a broader view of American history is Brown Square.  Moses Brown, the creator of the square in 1802 was a wealthy philanthropist but his money came indirectly from slavery through the ‘Triangle Trade.’  This meant that Brown made his money not from the slaves but from the sugar that they harvested.  I found it ironic that the man who founded the square was profiting from slavery in the early 19th century and that one of the most famous abolitionists, William Lloyd Garrison, was born in Newburyport.  So Brown Square has a plaque for Moses Brown and one for William Lloyd Garrison not far apart as well as the Garrison Inn built in 1850 which is a luxury hotel overlooking the square.
After visiting Newburyport it was time to drive out to Plum Island.  The drive reminded me so much of heading up to the seashore on the Cape, it was like home.  On the northern coast of the island sits a lighthouse so of course I stopped to check it out.  Located on the grounds of the Parker River Wildlife Refuge the lighthouse is easily accessible.  The current lighthouse was built in 1898 after a century beginning with lighting fires on the shore to guide ships and continuing with a pair of range lights that continually toppled and were inadequate. 
At one point in its heyday Plum Island had a trolley line running its eleven mile length.  Today there are many Bed & Breakfasts and other spots to stay.  However much like the seashore on the Cape erosion is a huge problem.  That played a part in the last spot I visited on this day.
Plum Island Lighthouse
I happened to get out to Plum Island just as a house on Annapolis Way was being torn down due to the erosion of the sandy cliffs the house sat on.  There were several news crews on hand as well and I ended up finding myself on a few videos later in the day.  The irony of it was the fact that the person who bought the land where the house stood has plans to rebuild on it.  I wish him good luck as I can only see this process of the cliffs eroding and the new house being torn down happening over the next several years.  It was both exciting and sad to see the house get razed but it reminded me of what erosion can do.
Newburyport and Plum Island are both part of that same amazing section of the great North Shore that I have professed my love for several times.  I highly recommend enjoying a drive along Plum Island, preferably when it’s warmer.  The range lights in Newburyport can be enjoyed any time even if you don’t want to dine in Rear Range Light.  There are many other scenic spots and some good shopping in those oddly beautiful Mill shops.  It is easy to spend a day or more in this absolutely awesome area, so take your time.  Have fun and happy traveling!

 For more In My Footsteps items follow my Twitter Feed, view more photos at the In My Footsteps fan page on Facebook, or visit my homepage at ChristopherSetterlund.com.   Thanks for reading! 

Here is a video of the house at Annapolis Way being razed: YouTube – Plum Island House Torn Down.

DirectionsFront/Rear Range Lights:  From I-95 take exit 57 for Rt. 113, turn right and follow 2.3 miles.  Turn left at Summer St., turn right at Merrimac St., continue onto Water St.  The lighthouses are on the left and the Mill shops are next door.
            Atkinson Common:  From I-95 take exit 57 for Rt. 113, turn right and follow 1 mile, turn left at Plummer Ave.  There is a small parking area on the left.
            Plum Island:  From I-95 take exit 57 for Rt. 113, turn right to continue onto Rt. 1A.  After 3.5 total miles turn right at Rolfes Ln., continue onto Ocean Ave., turn right at Water St.  Continue onto Plum Island Turnpike, follow 2 miles, turn left at Northern Blvd., follow it to Plum Island Light.

            Atkinson Common Newburyport.org
            Newburyport Chamber.org

Thursday, March 3, 2011

In My Footsteps: Trip 105: New London, Connecticut


In My Footsteps
Christopher Setterlund


Trip 105:  New London, Connecticut
January 6, 2011


            Maybe it is something to do with the name but I have now been to two towns named New London, one in New Hampshire and now one in Connecticut and I have been absolutely amazed by both.  Where New London, New Hampshire had mountains its counterpart in Connecticut had lighthouses and granite forts.  I could not go wrong either way.
The waterslide at Ocean Beach Park.
            New London, Connecticut sits on the western side of the Thames River so naturally the water has played a big part in its history and development.  Long Island Sound also plays a big part in the makeup of New London and I found that out with the first place I stopped at.
            Ocean Beach Park is the sort of beach amusement park that hearkens back to the glory days of Coney Island in New York, or at least is something you’d expect to see in a typically warmer part of the country.  Rated one of the best beaches by National Geographic Ocean Beach Park has a huge stretch of beach with a miniature golf course, several covered picnic areas, a huge waterslide, and even a Work Out World gym if swimming is not enough.
            As appealing as all of those attractions are it was a cold winter’s day when I arrived in New London and the Ocean Beach Park was virtually deserted.  I wish I could have taken a ride on the water slide, but that will have to wait for another day.  That did not deter me from the site that had been my real reason for visiting the area.  My eyes were transfixed on a red square sitting out in New London Harbor to the east.
A ship passing by New London Ledge Light.
            New London Ledge Light reminds me in some ways of an old schoolhouse somehow stuck out on a concrete slab in the harbor.  It was built in 1909 and automated in 1987, however it is what happened regularly before the lighthouse was automated that is the lasting legacy of this lighthouse.  The name ‘Ernie’ was given to the purported ghost who haunts New London Ledge Light.  The story of ‘Ernie’ is all about the lonely life of a lighthouse keeper and his family.  John Randolph was the real ‘Ernie’ and the lighthouse keeper.  He took his own life after discovering that his wife had run off with a ferry boat captain.
Knocking, doors opening and closing, sheets being removed from beds, and the television turning on and off by itself were some of the events reported by keepers before the automation.  The television show Ghost Hunters even did an episode from the lighthouse in 2005 with mixed opinions as to whether Ernie was real or not.  For me, safely standing on the sugar sandy beach at Ocean Park it was still an eerie experience to be so close to New London Ledge Light knowing the history of it.
New London Harbor Light
Heading north along the Thames River I met another lighthouse which was also inaccessible.  New London Harbor Lighthouse is the seventh oldest lighthouse in the country and the oldest in Connecticut.  The station was established in 1760 in a different spot with the current lighthouse being built on its current location in 1801.  The eighty-nine foot stone tower sits on the grounds of a private home on Pequot Avenue but I was able to get a few great shots while still respecting the property limits. 
A little further down Pequot Avenue is a site you can get closer to.  The Monte Cristo Cottage is the boyhood home of famed American playwright Eugene O’Neill.  His most well known works are Ah! Wilderness from 1933 and Long Day’s Journey Into Night from 1941.  The cottage was built in the 1840’s and since it was closed on the day I visited I took the time to sit in a wooden rocking chair on the porch and imagine what it would have been like for young Eugene; the view of the river was awesome.  It is open every day from Memorial Day to Labor Day.
Monte Cristo Cottage
The final spot I visited was the amazing Fort Trumbull.  I have seen several old granite forts during my travels but none were in as immaculate a condition as Fort Trumbull.  It was as if I was there on the day it was first opened in 1852.  The fort sits right across the river from Fort Griswold in Groton, both were attacked and captured by traitor Benedict Arnold during the American Revolution.  Of course that was the old Fort Trumbull, the current one was the second construction.
I walked along the water the entire perimeter of the fort ending up face to face with a really cool three masted Coast Guard schooner; something I had never seen before.  The view down river of the Gold Star Memorial Bridge which connects New London and Groton was impressive.  Not as impressive but very cute were the collection of cats roaming the fort grounds.  I was only able to get one photo as they seemed wild and always ran away when I got close.
Fort Trumbull
I scaled a few flights of stairs to get up to where the fort stands on a hill.  The view was great, I could even see the small dot of New London Ledge Light at the mouth of the harbor.  I wish it had been open to visit but the many signs give you a pretty good sense of what the fort is all about.  Keep your eyes peeled through as you get toward the main entrance of the fort.  I was busy snapping photos and caught a glimpse of something across the courtyard and had to do a double take.  I thought it might be a ghost but ended up being a cutout of an old soldier which was part of a display next to a cannon.
I truly loved my time in New London.  It must be something with the name since New Hampshire’s version was just as amazing.  Enjoy some beach fun at Ocean Beach Park before seeing some historic sites like the Monte Cristo Cottage and Fort Trumbull.  It is a great way to spend a day or more.  Have fun and happy traveling!

My first book, In My Footsteps: A Cape Cod Travel Guide, is now available at SchifferBooks.com, BarnesandNoble.com, and Amazon.com, soon to be in stores everywhere!  Follow me on Twitter


DirectionsOcean Beach Park:  From I-95 take exit 84 S toward downtown New London.  Merge onto Eugene O’Neill Dr., turn right at Gov. Winthrop Blvd.  Turn left at Huntington St., 1st right onto Jay St., continue onto Truman St.  Turn left at Bank St, turn left at Ocean Ave.  Follow 2.7 miles, turn right at Neptune Ave., take 2nd left onto Stuart Ave.   
            Fort Trumbull:  From I-95 take exit 84 S toward downtown New London.  Merge onto Eugene O’Neill Dr., turn right at Gov. Winthrop Blvd.  Turn left at Huntington St., 1st right onto Jay St., continue onto Truman St.  Turn left at Bank St., sharp right at Howard St.  Follow ½ mi. turn left at Walbach St., right at East St.

ReferencesOcean Beach Park.com