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

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