and New London Connecticut: Seafaring a Cut Above
Central Connecticut: Castles and Submarines
Are More Places To Visit In The Connecticut
Vacation in Connecticut
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Tree in Autumn, Litchfield Hills, Connecticut, USA
Central Connecticut: Castles and Submarines by John Pelley
Drive through the country
side of South Central Connecticut. The country is very rolling, with many
field stone fences. In East Haddam is St Stephen's Episcopal Church, which
has a bell dating from 815 A.D. It is said to be the world's oldest church
bell still in use. The Spanish monastery, from which it comes, was destroyed
by Napoleon and the bell was salvaged. It arrived here on a shipload of
metal and found a home in this parish church to toll again.
Also in East Haddam is the
Goodspeed Theater, in which are performed musicals. Victorian in architecture,
the theater overlooks the Connecticut River.
Also overlooking the river
is the Gillette Castle. Built between 1914 and 1919, this building built
entirely of fieldstone (six million on the property) is an example of the
post Victorian Movement, reminiscent of the Prairie School of Chicago.
William Gillette (no relation to Gillette Safety Razor Company), once a
neighbor of Mark Twain in Hartford, ignored the wishes of his father and
became an actor. During his career he wrote and stared in over twenty plays,
most notably bringing the role of Sherlock Holmes to the stage. Around
the turn of the century he was earning over $200,000 per year. He fell
in love with the overlook of the river, which he called the Seventh Sister
and proceeded to build this home. Consisting of 24 rooms, the house contains
many ingenious inventions thought up by Gillette. Every door and lock is
of a different design. He had a special lock on his liquor cabinet that
even Albert Einstein or Mark Twain could not figure out how to open. He
would silently laugh at them by viewing their frustrations in strategically
placed mirrors. He had a small scaled railroad erected on his grounds with
over three miles of track, including trestles and a hundred yard tunnel.
The house itself has undergone extensive reconstruction and has now reopened
to much of its former glory. At five dollars per person it is a bargain
to see the tribute of William Gillette. Did I mention the view? Overlooking
the Connecticut River and the surrounding countryside, you can see the
small ferry crossing the River with passengers and cars.
Saybrook is at the tip of the Connecticut River and Long Island Sound.
Once the home of Yale University before it moved to New Haven, it is now
a quiet community. In the memorial park are the remnants of an old train
roundhouse, a building in which maintenance was performed on the engines.
A boardwalk leads out to an estuary and marsh lands with a description
of the flora and fauna found there. An interesting plaque gives the history
of the Pequot Wars. The tale told that the Pequot started the war with
the British and the British finished it off. Is there a third side to the
Across the river is Old Lyme,
purported to be the home of many ship captains. There is no map designating
the historical homes. The locals claim that the town residents want to
live in anonymity and keep the tourists away. On the Northern edge of town
is Florence Griswold Museum with a collection of American Impressionists.
Adjacent is an art academy and museum, which accepts tourists. Today Lyme
has the dubious distinction of being the name of Lyme disease carried by
the deer tick. There goes anonymity.
Further East is Groton, the
home of the USS Nautilus, the first nuclear submarine, launched in 1954.
She and her crew were the first ones to sail under the North Pole. Audio
guided tours are available for free aboard the sub. She is the only nuclear
submarine on display in the world. Groton is also the home of the Coast
On the grounds is the submarine
museum, with displays of submarines used since Bushnell invented the Turtle
during the revolutionary war. Hand propelled he drove the sub into New
York Harbor to blow up the English ship Eagle, but was unable to attach
the charges. The museum has many hands on displays on life in a submarine,
from the attack room, the conning tower with periscope, torpedo room, sonar
and radar. Outside are one man and two man subs used by Italy, Japan, and
other countries in war.
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