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Fort Saybrook

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Joined: 29 Aug 2007
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PostPosted: Wed May 20, 2009 6:10 pm    Post subject: Fort Saybrook Reply with quote

The following article and link to it appeared recently in The Hartford Courant.

Fort Saybrook,0,3869255.story

Way To Go!
Fort Saybrook Monument Park Packs In A Lot Of History
PETER MARTEKA | The Hartford Courant
May 10, 2009

The statue of Lieutenant Lion Gardiner watches over Fort Saybrook Monument Park in Old Saybrook. Gardiner built the first fort in the state at Old Saybrook in 1636. The 18-acre park includes views marshes and the Connecticut River as it reaches the end of its journey to Long Island Sound. (PETER MARTEKA / HARTFORD COURANT / May 6, 2009)

OLD SAYBROOK - Sure everyone knows about Saybrook Point with its beautiful marina, popular throw-back miniature golf course and fishing off the pier where the Connecticut River meets Long Island Sound.

And most people know of the panoramic views of Long Island Sound from the causeway that cuts across South Cove connecting Old Saybrook with the prestigious section of Fenwick the former home of Katharine Hepburn.

But if you want history both human and natural check out Fort Saybrook Monument Park off Route 154 before making that turn into Saybrook Point or the causeway. From the site of southern New England's first military fortification to the location of the Connecticut Valley Railroad's turntable and roundhouse to its views of the Connecticut River, this park packs a lot into its 18 acres. And more than half of that acreage is marsh.

Although what remained of the fort was leveled when the Connecticut Valley Railroad came to town, it's easy to imagine Lieutenant Lion Gardiner standing here in March of 1636 preparing what would become the first fortification in southern New England at the mouth of the Connecticut River. The land was originally an Algonquin Nehantic Native American village known as Pashbeshauke the "place at the river's mouth."
Gardiner erected the fort and built a town complete with a windmill for grinding corn. Earthen embankments and moat with movable drawbridge helped to defend the fort. Cannon platforms were put on each corner to guard against attacks from Long Island Sound and upriver. Pequot warriors constantly harassed the fort, butchered livestock and burned storehouses and haystacks outside the palisades.

The original fort burned to the ground in 1647 and a new fort was built north of the original. In 1812, the fort was renamed Fort Fenwick and was armed and manned for battles during the War of 1812. Valley Railroad bought the property in 1870, leveled what remained of the fort and built a railroad causeway to Fenwick. In 1981, the state transferred the property to Old Saybrook and today, the Fort Saybrook Monument Park Association maintains the property.

In addition to the storied history of the fort, the park is also home to an elevated boardwalk that give visitors panoramic views of a marsh and the Connecticut River. The marsh is classified as tidal and estuarine with tides going in and out daily. On a recent visit, a snowy egret was doing a little fishing in the muddy expanse. With most of the town private property, it's nice to be able to visit an area that has a nice view for anyone to see.

There are also numerous informational boards with interesting facts that detail the history of the fort, Connecticut Valley Railroad, a ferry that once docked nearby and the natural history of area. The train ran 45 miles from Hartford to Fenwick five times a day taking two to three hours to reach each destination. The ferry that ran before the railroad and bridges were built once tried using four horses on a treadmill to power the boat across the Connecticut River. But the journey took several hours, so that idea was tossed. As spring heads into summer, head down to Old Saybrook and take in some views and learn about the interesting history packed into a small park on the banks of New England's mightiest river.

To reach the park, take Route 154 through Old Saybrook to Saybrook Point. There is a large parking area and access road near the three-way stop sign.
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