Wednesday, February 23, 2011

In My Footsteps: Trip 104: Old Saybrook, CT

In My Footsteps
Christopher Setterlund

Trip 104:  Old Saybrook, Connecticut
January 6, 2011

            Old Saybrook.  The name conjures up images of an historic old New England village and after paying it a visit I can assure you that my initial impressions were accurate.  Originally a short-lived trading post established by the same Dutch settlers who first settled Manhattan the town of Old Saybrook has roots that go back to the second Mayflower voyage.  Saybrook Colony was settled in 1635 and the first Governor of the colony was John Winthrop the Younger, son of the first Governor of the Massachusetts Bay Colony.  I was able to get a taste of the nearly four centuries of Old Saybrook’s history from the moment I got off of the highway.
Deacon William Parker House c.1646
            Only a short drive from the highway exit I took sits the oldest standing house in Old Saybrook.  Deacon William Parker built the house in 1646 and it has stood the test of time very well.  Parker became Deacon of the First Congregational Church in 1670 and was a frequent representative for the town in sessions of the general court.  The house sits on the corner of Middlesex Turnpike and Old Spring Brook Road with parking behind it.
Axles on the tracks at the Connecticut Valley Railroad Roundhouse and Turntable Site
            Immediately after founding Saybrook Colony Governor Winthrop commission that a fort be built.  Located on the shore of the Connecticut River, Fort Saybrook does not look like the earthen forts or granite forts I have seen before.  However, this fort is also two hundred years older than any of those I have visited.  There is basically just a simple border made of wooden posts which surround the majority of the fort.  The series of plaques let you know what the fort was like back in the 1630’s.  There is a statue dedicated to the man who built the fort in 1635, Lieutenant Lion Gardiner, on the western side of the fort.  Gardiner also built a windmill for grinding corn and his son David who was born in 1636 was the first recorded English child born in Connecticut.  After his contract with Governor Winthrop expired Gardiner bought himself Manohonake Island which was later renamed Gardiner’s Island.  It is located off of the eastern coast of Long Island.
Gen. William Hart House aka. Old Saybrook Historical Society.
            In addition to Fort Saybrook there is another interesting piece of history on the grounds.  The Connecticut Valley Railroad Roundhouse and Turntable Site was built in 1871, it was very important for the servicing of locomotives.  The roundhouse could be circular, or semi-circular, in this case it is semi-circular.  It has a few sets of tracks which all end in the same general area.  There are wheels and axles sitting on the tracks to give you an idea as to how the roundhouse would have looked while in use.  I enjoyed perching myself right behind the axles and imagining how the area looked more than a hundred years ago.  Also you only need to take a short walk to get a great view of the Connecticut River which is worth a few extra minutes of your time.
            There is a seemingly endless supply of historic homes on Old Saybrook’s Main Street however I will stick to just one.  The town’s historical society is housed in the General William Hart House.  Built in 1767 it is one of the oldest houses left standing in the town.  Hart was a prosperous merchant who also led the First Regiment of the Connecticut Light Horse Militia during the American Revolution.  Beginning in April the Hart House gardens are opened to the public as well.  Unfortunately I was not able to partake in those but the gardens should be put on any travelers list when visiting in the spring or summer.
            Main Street is a great place to park and walk as well.  There are places such as the Katharine Hepburn Cultural Arts Center to visit in addition to the many other historic houses I mentioned before.  I made sure to take a moment to watch as a man filled a rectangular shape in front of the Town Hall with water to make a public skating rink for the town to enjoy.  Little things like that helped make even the most mundane moments in Old Saybrook special for me.
Lynde Point Lighthouse from a nearby beach.
            The final spot I visited is one that cannot be reached but I felt I owed it to the readers to share all of what I did in Old Saybrook.  Being a big fan of lighthouses I wanted to pay a visit to Lynde Point Light located in the village of Fenwick in the southern part of Old Saybrook.  I drove out across Bridge Street which gives you a great view of South Cove, Long Island Sound, and Lynde Point Light as well.  This was not close enough though.
            What I discovered was that the lighthouse sat deep inside a private neighborhood.  I debated for a few minutes and then decided that since I had already driven two and a half hours to get to Old Saybrook I was going in anyway.  I drove into the private neighborhood and got closer to Lynde Point Light.  However it sits behind a home as well which pretty much ended my journey.  I ended up snapping a few photos from a nearby beach and decided to be satisfied with those rather than push it more.  Not wanting to encourage others to venture out there I will not put directions up below, still you can go if you wish just know the risks.
            An historic New England town complete with an historic sounding name Old Saybrook is filled with beautiful sites to see.  Fort Saybrook and the Connecticut Valley Railroad Roundhouse and Turntable Site are fun and unique and also close to the Connecticut River.  A walk on Main Street will only add to the experience even if you do not stop at every historic home along the way, and trust me there are a lot of them.  Lynde Point Light is a wildcard, while it is deep in private property you can get a nice view if you walk out onto Bridge Street.  There is a small parking area nearby.  Enjoy all of what Old Saybrook 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   Thanks for reading! 

DirectionsFort Saybrook:  From I-95 take Exit 68 for Rt. 1 heading into Old Saybrook.  After a mile turn left at Rt. 154 which is also Main Street.  Slight left keeps you on Rt. 154, follow 2 miles, fort is on left.
            Deacon William Parker House:  From I-95 take Exit 69 to merge onto Rt. 9.  Take Exit 2 for Rt. 154, turn left at Essex Rd.  Take a slight left at Old Spring Brook Rd., Parker House is on right with parking behind it.

ReferencesOld Saybrook

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

In My Footsteps: Trip 103: Groton, Connecticut

In My Footsteps
Christopher Setterlund

Trip 103:  Groton, Connecticut
January 6, 2011

The Groton Monument at Fort Griswold.
            My first journey into Connecticut also coincided with the one-year anniversary of my very first travel trip.  I decided to hit the mid-coast area of Connecticut and ended up being blown away by what I saw in Groton.  Located on the Thames River this city had a lot of things that I look for when choosing places to visit; specifically an amazing lighthouse and an historic earthen fort.  That alone would make Groton a must see, but there was so much more.
            Groton is home to the pharmaceutical company Pfizer as well as a campus of the University of Connecticut.  Established in 1705 it has one of the largest collections of historic sites and monuments in the state which makes it very popular with travelers.  My experience in Groton began with a bang and never let up.
            The first spot I visited was Fort Griswold.  Now a state park the fort was in use during the American Revolution and was attacked during the Battle of Groton Heights by troops led by turncoat Benedict Arnold.  As soon as you get close to the grounds your eyes immediately are drawn about 135 feet up into the sky; this is due to the impressive sight that is the Groton Monument.  Built in 1830 the monument, an obelisk which brought to mind the Bunker Hill Monument in Boston, was dedicated to all of the soldiers who died during the Battle of Groton Heights in 1781.
The rolling hill of Fort Griswold.
            When I passed through the iron gates and onto the grounds of the fort I felt like I was passing into a different time.  Right away there is a stone marker depicting where Col. William Ledyard was killed by his own sword by a British soldier after surrendering the fort.  This was the beginning of the massacre at Fort Griswold.
            I was all alone during my time here and that only added to the aura of this historic spot.  There is a short tunnel through a hill called the ‘Covered Way’ that shielded soldiers as they passed from the fort to the lower battery closer to the Thames River.  I walked through it and could imagine the sounds of gunfire from nearly 250 years ago.  The view down a cascading hill to the edge of the fort’s walls was incredible.  I did not realize how long of a walk it was until I got face to face with a pair of buildings at the bottom that were much larger than I had originally thought. 
The rainbow cloud at Eastern Point Beach.
            After taking in the sights of the river below the walls I walked over to the red Ebenezer Avery House which was where the wounded soldiers were taken during the massacre at Fort Griswold.  The house which was built in 1750 was a fitting end to my time at this unbelievable piece of American history.  However this was just the start of what I saw in Groton.
            A short drive from the fort along the Thames River sits the small Eastern Point Beach.  Obviously it gets its name due to the fact that it is the eastern most point in the town.  There is a unique home which was built on the rocks a couple of hundred feet off shore.  There is a private dock since boats are the only way to get out to the home.  That was not the only unique sight at Eastern Point Beach.
Tyler House c.1904
            Hovering magically above New London Harbor Lighthouse across the river was a rainbow cloud.  It was the first time I had ever seen such a thing.  I read that these phenomena occur when it is so cold that there are ice crystals inside a cloud rather than liquid moisture.  I can vouch that it was absolutely freezing on this day, possibly my coldest trip yet. 
            Besides the house on the rocks and the icy cloud rainbow there was a large house used for restrooms, changing, etc.  The Tyler House as it is known was built in 1904 and is made of wood and stone standing ever so close to the water’s edge.  I was able to get some really nice shots of the back of the building by standing on a rock outcropping.  It was very safe for anybody unlike some of the places I shoot from.
            It was also from this vantage point that I was able to see my final destination during my time in Groton:  Avery Point Lighthouse.  Located on the Avery Point Campus of the University of Connecticut this lighthouse has a very distinct look now but it took a lot of work to make it so.  Avery Point is named for James Avery who was one of the first settlers of New London from which Groton came later.
Avery Point Lighthouse
            Avery Point Light was the final lighthouse to be built in Connecticut completed in early 1943.  After falling into severe disrepair a massive restoration project was undertaken in 2000 to bring Avery Point Light back to its previous luster.  Six years and a half a million dollars later the project was finished and the lighthouse looks amazing now.
            In comparison to most other lighthouse which are conical and white Avery Point Light is a brick octagon.  Also it has more of a light red, slightly pink color to it that when combined with its unique roof make it look either like a candle or a part of a doll house castle.  I was blown away by the appearance and the colors of it especially due to the fact that I arrived as the sun had begun to set.  You have to maneuver your way through a bit of a maze on the UConn campus to find it but this lighthouse is near the top of my list of favorites I have seen thus far.
            My first trip of the new year, and first into Connecticut was hugely successful.  This was all thanks to the simply awesome places I saw in Groton.  There is so much more that you will find there but I shared a few of my personal favorites.  Take your time and find your own favorites, it will not be hard.  Have fun and happy traveling!

              My first book, In My Footsteps: A Cape Cod Travel Guide, is now available at,, and, in stores everywhere!  Follow me on TwitterFor more In My Footsteps items follow my In My Footsteps fan page on Facebook, or visit my homepage at   Thanks for reading! 

DirectionsFort Griswold:  From I-95 take Exit 87 to merge onto Rt. 349.  Turn right at Meridian St. Exd., slight right at Meridian St., follow ½ mile, turn left at Monument St.  Fort is on left. 
            Avery Point Light:  From I-95 take Exit 87 to merge onto Rt. 349.  Follow 2 miles, turn right at Rainville Ave., turn left at Eastern Point Rd., turn right to stay on Eastern Point Rd., continue onto Shennecossett Rd.  UConn is on right, lighthouse is on the water’s edge you must park and walk.

            Avery Point

Monday, February 14, 2011

In My Footsteps: Trip 102: Hanover, Massachusetts

In My Footsteps
Christopher Setterlund

Trip 102:  Hanover, Massachusetts
December 16, 2010

            Named for the first Hanoverian King of England, George I, and settled only after a bridge was built across the North River the town of Hanover is a small town with a lot of history.  The town that was named in his honor was incorporated actually a few days after King George I had died.  It was incorporated on June 14, 1727 while King George died on June 11th; news did not reach the colonies until long after.  Hanover is also where one of the first Tedeschi food shops was built in 1954.  To get a taste of the history of Hanover one only needs to visit the Hanover Historical Society.
Stetson House c.1716
            The Stetson House where the Historical Society resides is the oldest building in Hanover.  So old in fact that when it was built Hanover was not even its own town, it was still a part of Scituate.  The yellow house on Hanover Street was built in 1716 by Samuel Stetson whose family was one of the first to settle in the future Hanover.  The house was the site of the first town meetings, one of which led to the incorporation of the town.  It is amazing to think when I looked at this house that Stetson had nineteen children.  I have no idea how they all fit in the relatively normal-sized home.
The fourth First Congregational Church
            Located a short walk from the Stetson House is the First Congregational Church of Hanover.  I included this church because despite its name it is actually the fourth church built on the site.  Sitting on a small hill across from the town hall the church was founded in 1728.  It was then replaced on the same spot in 1765.  In 1827 a third church was built, facing east this time rather than south, with a separate Town Hall built closely behind the building.  Both the church and Town Hall burned to the ground in 1862; the current ‘First’ Congregational Church was built in 1863 facing south again.  I got some really nice photos as the sun began to sink in the sky.  It made for some great shadows of the iron railings which lead to the church’s front door.
John Curtis Free Library
            As I wrote the original Town Hall of Hanover was built in 1827 directly behind the First Congregational Church before burning down in 1862.  The new Town Hall is right across Hanover Street from the church, completed in 1863.  Shortly after it was opened the Town Hall had a pair of rooms set aside for a high school and library.  I found myself really enjoying the small building on top of the Town Hall.  I don’t know what to call it, but its roof was supported by a group of columns.  It is a really nice touch.
Hanover Town Hall
            Back across Hanover Street is the Hanover Center Cemetery which was established in 1727 the same year that Hanover was founded.  It is here that many of the town’s original settlers are buried and it gives you an up close view of those who started Hanover.  The portion of the cemetery right behind the Congregational Church is the oldest and it is sometimes referred to as ‘God’s Acre.’  A really neat headstone to view is that of Joseph Washington.  He was a born a slave in North Carolina and brought to Hanover.  The inscription on the stone reads ‘Born in North Carolina a SLAVE, died in Massachusetts FREE.’  That will give you chills when you see it up close.  
            The history of Hanover stretches a vast array of time periods and subjects.  From its association with King George I all the way up to its hand in the beginning of the Tedeschi food shops, Hanover has seen a lot in its nearly 300 year history.  The Hanover Center Historic District will give you a lot of great sites to see but it is not all there is.  Take your time and enjoy Hanover, of course you can always pay a visit to the huge Hanover Mall as well!  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   Thanks for reading! 

DirectionsHanover Center Historic District:  From Rt. 3 take Exit 12, turn right at Rt. 139.  Follow nearly 1 mile, take slight left at Water St.  Continue onto Schoosett St., slight right onto Rt. 139, follow 1 mile, slight left to stay on Rt. 139.  Continue 1.2 miles, you will be in front of Stetson House, historic district is all around.     

                Tedeschi Food Shops - History

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

In My Footsteps: Trip 101: Rockland, Massachusetts

In My Footsteps
Christopher Setterlund

Trip 101:  Rockland, Mass.
December 16, 2010

            It was originally settled as a part of neighboring Abington.  With its historic Union Street filled with amazing homes, Rockland has definitely made its own path since separating from Abington in 1874.  Original European settler James Walshie settled Rockland in 1673.  It was used as a camp by Wampanoag sachem, or chief, Metacom, during King Philip’s War in 1675-76 during his raids on the town of Scituate.
Rockland Memorial Library
            Ironically although it shares the name with the town, Rockland Trust neither began in, nor has its corporate headquarters in Rockland.  I went and began photographing the Rockland Trust on Union Street thinking it was the original branch of the bank established in 1907.  I was fortunate enough to get to speak with a man from that branch and he informed me that the first branch of Rockland Trust was actually in Scituate.  The corporate headquarters are located in neighboring Hanover.  The branch I visited was opened in 1917 and actually was the corporate headquarters until 2008, so it was still historic but not exactly what I had thought.
The five soldiers in front of Rockland's Town Hall.
            Union Street is the main drag of Rockland and is the location of many of the historic buildings in the small town of just over 17,000.  Taking a walk along Union Street was great, despite the sidewalk being worked on.  The Rockland Memorial Library, on the corner of Union Street and Belmont Street, is a member of the Old Colony Library Network which accommodates much of the South Shore.  The building was erected in 1874 and has the same classic style as some of the buildings I enjoyed in Easton and Fairhaven that were created by Henry H. Richardson and Henry H. Rogers respectively.
            Up on the right from the library, on the corner of Union St. and North Avenue is a beautiful church, the Holy Family Church.  Established in 1882 it was the first church built after Rockland became a separate town.  It is made of brick which gives it a unique appearance.  There are several ‘block’ buildings as well in Rockland on Union Street.  Those are the buildings I have referenced several times before bearing a name on the concrete fa├žade near the top.  I have been trying to find out who determined the names which adorn these blocks and can only assume they are the folks who fronted the money to have them built.  The Bigelow and Phoenix block buildings are a few such examples in Rockland.   
Lower Union Street Historic District
            Further down Union Street as it closes in on Market Street there is a really nice stretch of historic homes.  There are always historic homes in every town from the 17th through 19th century but the ones which make up the Lower Union Street Historic District were each unique in their own way.  The first home I saw actually caused me to do a double-take; I had to go back.  Built in 1846 it was amazing, yellow with red shutters and what looked like small awnings over the windows.  The colors of the house were only topped by the small fenced in front yard.  The picket fence was a mix of red, blue, pink, and yellow with some one of a kind lawn ornaments including a dresser and a tricycle covered with flowers.
            After that incredible display I parked at the end of Union Street and took a walk to see more of these homes up close.  There was a home from 1874 which was blue with red trim and had two large Christmas wreaths near the edges of the front.  The colors and layouts of these homes made each look like a dollhouse of sorts.  I found myself snapping photo after photo of this great stretch of Rockland’s Union Street.
Lower Union Street Historic District
            One spot that stood out to me was actually the Rockland Town Hall.  It was not so much the building itself but the display in front of it.  There in front of the sign stood five wooden soldiers each about three-feet tall.  They were from each branch of the military and gave the area a special feel as each of them cast a never ending salute to the cars passing by.
            Once a camp for Wampanoag sachem Metacom, Rockland has a rich history which is still quite evident as you walk the streets today.  From the ‘block’ buildings that I have seen to the longtime headquarters of Rockland Trust there is no shortage of sites to see.  Don’t forget to stop and salute the wooden soldiers in front of the Town Hall and check out the impressive stretch of unique historic homes of the Lower Union Street Historic District as it creeps toward Market Street.  That walk will really tie together everything you see in Rockland.  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   Thanks for reading! 

DirectionsRockland Town Hall:  From Rt. 3 take Exit 13, turn right at Rt. 53, left at Rt. 123.  Follow it 4 miles, turn right at Union St.  Town Hall is .2 miles down on right.  Lower Union St. Historic District begins .2 miles further down, just past Vernon St.

            Rockland Memorial

Thursday, February 3, 2011

In My Footsteps: Trip 100: Norwell, Massachusetts

In My Footsteps
Christopher Setterlund

Trip 100:  Norwell, Massachusetts
December 16, 2010

            For all of my travels up and down the coasts of Massachusetts, the South Shore and North Shore, there are still places that are completely unfamiliar to me.  Some of them are very close by to where I live.  One such spot is Norwell; it lies in between the places I have visited along the South Shore and some of the places further inland that I have seen like Easton and Brockton.  I was very interested in finding out what this area was about and I was not disappointed.
Norris Reservation
            Ironically even though it is not along the shore the town of Norwell was originally settled as a part of Scituate and was known as South Scituate up until 1888.  It was then that the name was changed to Norwell after dry goods merchant Henry Norwell who provided funding to maintain the town’s roads.  Norwell was originally settled for agriculture and relied heavily on shipbuilding through the 19th century.  Now the small town of under 10,000 people is a very affluent community.
Stetson-Ford House c.1674
There are plenty of historic homes and buildings inside the borders of Norwell which I always enjoy but it was the conservation lands which stood out for me.  Chief among those was Norris Reservation on Dover Street.  I knew this spot was going to be special from the moment I spotted the small pond on the left hand side about a thousand feet from the parking lot.  The pond was iced over but it was still draining frigid water underneath a wooden footbridge and down a small creek.  With a bright sun in the sky it made for some amazing colors on the rushing water below and some impressive photos of the ice that had collected around the bases of a few trees and rocks partially submerged in the water. 
I don’t recommend what I did next to everyone but I did manage to scale down the small gully to the water’s edge to get some more incredible views of this unexpected surprise at Norris Reservation.  Afterwords I also found a fir tree decorated for the Christmas season complete with colored ball ornaments and some silver streamers.  It definitely got me in the spirit.  There are also other smaller parks in Norwell including Gaffield Park which is only a short drive from Norris Reservation on River Street.  It was established in 1896, has a nice playground area and some interesting names of point of interest such as Hemlock Hollow and Lookout Point.
The North River
There were a few spots that combined the natural with the historical and I was glad to get to experience them.  One particular spot was as nice as it was hard to get to.  Stetson Meadows and the Stetson-Ford House are located in a very remote area of Norwell, although the road to get to it is actually bordered by Rt. 3.  Stetson Meadows is a conservation area with a lot of trails and a marsh on the eastern side.  The Stetson-Ford House located near the dirt parking area of the property was built in 1674 by Thomas Stetson.  His father, Cornet Robert Stetson, was the first colonial resident of Norwell.  From the parking area down to the marsh’s edge is a short walk and it was quite enjoyable thanks to the sun and some tall pine trees which border a field running along the dirt path.
I did however mention that it was a long drive out to Stetson Meadows but that should not deter any potential visitors to this conservation area.  It is about a mile out to the house and conservation area, much of that along a rough dirt road along the highway.  It is worth the bumpy ride; just take your time getting there.
Jacobs Farmhouse c.1726
After leaving Stetson Meadows I stopped at an overpass on Bridge Street to view the North River.  The spot I chose has a small parking area and is located just before the border with neighboring Marshfield.  The North River played a very important role in the economy of Norwell back when it was still known as South Scituate.  This spot on Bridge Street is where most of the boats enter the water and there are scenic foliage tours offered in the fall.
The final spot I visited is the location of Norwell’s Historical Society.  The Jacobs Farmhouse, on the corner of Main Street and Jacobs Lane was built in 1726 and descendants of the Jacobs family lived in the home until 1939 when it was given to the Society for the Preservation of New England Antiques.  The house is across the street from the fifty-nine acre Jacobs Pond.  The pond is man-made, created in 1730 when Third Herring Brook was dammed where Main Street is now. 
It was deserted on this day so I was able to walk around the grounds freely and snap some great photos.  There is an acre and a half field beside the farmhouse which is run by the non-profit Norwell Farms.  There was some farm equipment in a building across the street from the farmhouse including a really neat tractor.  Even though there was nobody around I did not dare get too close to the equipment.  I am sure if you arrive at the Jacobs Farmhouse while folks from the historical society are around they will show you the equipment close up.
Not quite the South Shore, not that far inland, Norwell has a charm all its own.  The historic homes and places are topped only by the amazing conservation areas like Norris Reservation.  It was a virtual unknown area to me before but now it has become a spot I will fondly remember.  I believe that any visitor will enjoy their time in Norwell.  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   Thanks for reading!   

DirectionsNorris Reservation:  From Rt. 3 take Exit 12, turn left at Church St., take 1st left onto Old Oak St.  Continue onto Union St., follow for 3.3 miles, continue onto Bridge St.  Turn left at Rt. 123, follow half a mile, take a slight left at Dover St.  Parking area is on left.
            Jacobs Farmhouse:  From Rt. 3 take Exit 13, turn right at Rt. 53, turn right at Rt. 123, follow half a mile.  Farmhouse is on left on corner of Jacobs Lane.