History of Savin Rock from the Net
The Amusement Area Rapidly Begins to Develop By
1870 Savin Rock was becoming more and more popular as a recreational center
for the people of western Connecticut. Promoters chose the location for cock
fights, horse races, and prize fights. Excursions ran to the seaside resort
from near-by cities, and conventions were held in the Grove. The tables beneath
the trees were always crowded, and the beer gardens served capacity crowds
almost every weekend through the season.
The first horse drawn
street cars connected West Haven Center with New Haven in 1867 and extended
service to Savin Rock a few years later. This early transportation aided greatly
in the growth of the community, increased realty values, and made the citizens
proud of their modern facilities.
But it was not until
the 1870s that a mechanical concession was first erected on this natural playground:
a small man powered carousel, the forerunner of the many electrically operated
and resplendent rides of the more modern days. As this business grew, the
man powered outfit was replaced with a horse powered arrangement, a treadmill
with a belt drive, operated by a small chestnut horse, who acquired local
fame because of his fondness for chewing tobacco.
Another force responsible
for Savin Rock's rapid growth during this decade was the ferry service. Ferry
service to and from Savin Rock to New Haven and to Lighthouse Point started
in 1870, when the late George Kelsey erected a 1,500-foot pier and operated
several small steamers. On weekdays there were three boats and on Sunday five
and six at the height of the seasons. Thomas Whelan, yard superintendent at
the West Haven Shipyards, was skipper for "The Cynthia" and "Isabella" and
Charles Whelan was a crew member. A sign on the pier read: "Ferry Boat to
East Shore 10 cents, Take Boat at the End of This Long Pier 'Cynthia.'"
From about 1914 to shortly
before the outbreak of World War I, Charles K. Wedmore was Captain of the
"Zephyr" which carried passengers between Savin Rock and Lighthouse. Joseph
Marinan skippered the steamer "Elm City" between West Haven and Port Jefferson.
It was sunk later in the English Channel during World War I.
Lorraine Wood Rockefeller,
a West Haven historian, once reflected in an article in the West Haven City
News that to her it was "regrettable not to have known that colorful era when
the brilliantly lighted floating palaces passed up and down the Sound at midnight
wafting the strains of band and orchestra music for the gay (happy), passengers
afloat. It was an era of luxury known in our hurried day with deluxe dinners
of quail on toast, truffles under glass, rare fruits and champagne served
this, the new museum web site.
© 2004, 2005 Savin Rock Museum / ThistleGroup.
All rights reserved
All photo images copyright © JCollins
This material may not be published or distributed with out written consent.
Started on: 29 October 2001
24 October, 2006