Old Bacon Academy, Colchester, Connecticut

The Bacon Academy building at 84 Main Street in Colchester, around 1896. Image from Connecticut Quarterly.

The building in 2020:

Bacon Academy is one of the oldest public high schools in the United States, and the second oldest in Connecticut. It was established in 1803 following the death of Pierpont Bacon, a Colchester resident who bequeathed $35,000 to maintain a school for the town’s residents. At the time, a high school education was rare in the United States, and few towns had a high school, even here in the relatively well-educated northeast. For Bacon Academy, the main purpose was to prepare boys for college, so the school offered what was, at the time, regarded as a well-rounded education. An 1803 newspaper advertisement declared that students would “be accommodated with suitable instruction in Reading, Writing, Arithmetic, the learned Languages and Sciences.” Tuition in 1803 was $2.00 per quarter in the summer, and $2.50 per quarter in the winter.

The school opened on November 1, 1803, here in this brick, three-story Federal-style building. It is situated right in the center of Colchester, on Main Street directly opposite Norwich Avenue. Behind the school, visible in the distance on the left side of the scene, is the town’s old burying ground, which dates back to 1713. The opening of the school was widely reported in newspapers across the region, and the New York Morning Chronicle provided the following description of the building and its location:

A large and elegant brick building is erected for the accommodation of the scholars; being 75 feet in length, 34 feet in breadth, and three stories high. It is divided into a large hall, and convenient apartments for the different branches. . . . Colchester is a very healthy and pleasant town situated on the turnpike road leading from Hartford to New-London, being nearly equi-distant from each. A more eligible situation for an institution of this kind, could not have been chosen.

The first principal of the school was 31-year-old John Adams, a Connecticut native and Yale graduate who had previously taught at Plainfield Academy in New Jersey. He went on to become a prominent educator, serving here in Colchester until 1810, followed by 23 years as principal of Phillips Academy Andover. Later in life he moved west, serving from 1836 to 1843 as principal of Jacksonville Female Seminary, a school that would eventually be incorporated into Illinois College in the early 20th century.

During its first year, Bacon Academy enrolled 206 students. The majority of these were from Colchester, but 63 of them were from out of town. In its early years, the school even attracted students from out of state. Perhaps most notably, this included 11-year-old Stephen F. Austin of Missouri, whose father Moses Austin enrolled him in the school starting in the fall of 1804. Stephen Austin attended the school for the next three years, and he would eventually go on to become one of the founders of Texas and the namesake of its capital city.

Aside from Austin, Bacon Academy saw a number of its other students go on to achieve prominence in the 19th century. These included at least five future governors: William Larrabee of Iowa, Edwin D. Morgan of New York, Lyman Trumbull of Illinois, and William A. Buckingham and Morgan Bulkeley of Connecticut. With the exception of Larrabee, all of these men also served as U.S. senators, and Trumbull had a particularly distinguished career in the Senate, serving from 1855 to 1873. During this time, he co-authored the Thirteenth Amendment, which outlawed slavery. Other distinguished Bacon Academy students included Eliphalet A. Bulkeley, who became the first president of Aetna Insurance Company, and Morrison Waite, who served as chief justice of the United States from 1874 to 1888.

By the mid-1830s, the school had grown to 425 students, including 137 who were from out of town and 32 from out of state. For the first few decades, the student body consisted of white males, with a separate school here in Colchester to educate African American children. However, at least one African American, the prominent educator Prince Saunders, was associated with Bacon Academy only a few years after it opened. He ran the African American students, and he is said to have taken courses at Bacon Academy, although it does not seem clear as to whether he was formally enrolled at the school, or was taught outside of school by some of its teachers.

In any case, by the 1840s Bacon Academy was racially integrated, and it had begun to enroll female students. This period in the mid-19th century was a high point for the school, which had aspirations of becoming a top-tier college preparatory school similar to Phillips Academy. However, the school ultimately saw a decline in enrollment, in part because of this deviation from its original mission. Unable to compete with the more established private schools, by the late 19th century Bacon Academy had settled into the role of the public high school for residents of Colchester.

The first photo was taken around the mid-1890s, showing the main academy building in the foreground. On the far right side is Day Hall, an Italianate-style building that was completed in 1858 as a church hall for the adjacent First Congregational Church. By this point, the exterior of the academy had seen a few changes from its original appearance, including the door hood above the main entrance and the octagonal cupola atop the building. The photo shows shutters on the windows and a balustrade along the roof, although these may not have been original either; an 1836 engraving of the building does not show either of these features.

This building remained in use by Bacon Academy until 1962, when the school relocated to a new facility. The school subsequently moved again in 1993, to its current site a few miles to the west of here on Norwich Avenue, where Bacon Academy remains the town’s public high school nearly 220 years after it was first established. In the meantime, the old building here on Main Street is still standing, as is the neighboring Day Hall, which was acquired by the school in 1929. The exteriors of both buildings have remained well-preserved over the years, and the only noticeable difference to the academy building in this scene is the lack of shutters or balustrade. Because of its architectural and historic significance, the building was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1982. In addition, both it and Day Hall are contributing properties in the Colchester Village Historic District, which was added to the National Register in 1994.

Judges Cave, New Haven, Connecticut

The Judges Cave on West Rock in New Haven, around 1901. Image courtesy of the Library of Congress, Detroit Publishing Company Collection.

The scene in 2019:

 

The immediate origins of the American Revolution can be traced back to the 1760s, when colonists began protesting taxes that were being levied on the colonies in the aftermath of the French and Indian War. However, this was hardly the first time that the colonies had defied the British crown. A century earlier, following the English Civil War and the eventual restoration of the monarchy, the colony of New Haven protected several regicides who had signed the death warrant of Charles I in 1649. This ultimately helped lead to the downfall of the colony and its merger with Connecticut in 1664, but none of the regicides were ever captured, and the incident has lived on in New England lore.

John Dixwell, William Goffe, and Edward Whalley were three military officers who had fought on the side of Parliament during the English Civil War in the 1640s. Following the defeat of the Royalists, King Charles I was captured put on trial for treason, and was found guilty of being a “tyrant, traitor, murderer and public enemy.” These three men were among the 59 commissioners who signed his death warrant, and he was subsequently beheaded on January 30, 1649.

This led to a decade-long interregnum, during which time Puritan leader Oliver Cromwell took on the title of Lord Protector of the Commonwealth of England. However, this government collapsed soon after Cromwell’s death in 1558, and in 1660 Charles II, the son of Charles I, returned from exile became king. That same year, Parliament passed the Indemnity and Oblivion Act, which pardoned most of the people who took part in the war but specifically excluded the 59 regicides and other high-ranking leaders who were connected to the trial and execution of Charles I. Over the next few years, royal officials tracked down many of these people, who were then imprisoned or executed. Even those who were already dead could not escape punishment; the bodies of Cromwell and several other dead regicides were exhumed from their graves, publicly executed, and then beheaded.

In the meantime, Dixwell, Goffe, and Whalley fled to the New World, to seek shelter among the Puritans. The exact date and location of Dixwell’s arrival is unknown, but he was presumed dead by the British and was not actively pursued by royal authorities. As for Goffe and Whalley, they arrived in Boston in July 1660, and they lived openly in Cambridge, before news of the Indemnity and Oblivion Act reached the colony in the fall. Over the next few months, the colonial leaders debated what to do about the two men. Although many were sympathetic to them and their cause, they feared the consequences to the colony if they continued to shelter them. So, on February 26, 1661 Goffe and Whalley left Cambridge for New Haven, where they arrived on March 7.

Here in New Haven, the men initially lived with the Reverend John Davenport. However, within a few months they were again in danger. News of their formal arrest warrant, dated March 5, reached New Haven around the end of April. This was soon followed by the arrival of royal officials in nearby Guilford, where they met with Governor William Leete. He managed to delay them in Guilford for several days, allowing Goffe and Whalley to quite literally take to the hills in order to escape arrest.

Goffe and Whalley spent several nights in temporary lodgings, aided by local farmers, before they were brought here to this rock formation on May 15. Although commonly referred to as Judges Cave, it is a cave in only the most generous sense of the word. In reality, it is a pile of boulders that, in a few areas, overhang enough to provide minimal shelter from the elements.  It is located high atop West Rock, a traprock ridge located about three miles northwest of the center of New Haven. At the time, this was a remote, sparsely-settled area, and they were able to live here for nearly a month without being detected.

Throughout this month, Goffe and Whalley received food every day from Richard Sperry, a local farmer who lived about a mile from here. They spent several nights at a nearby house during periods of inclement weather, but otherwise they lived here on the hill, which they named Providence Hill. In the meantime, royal officials were diligently searching for them in New Haven, offering generous rewards for their capture while also threatening Reverend Davenport for having aided them. The two regicides considered turning themselves in, in order to spare the colony any further trouble, but Governor Leete convinced them to remain in hiding. Within a few years, though, New Haven’s aid to the regicides would be a contributing factor in the demise of the colony, which was absorbed by the neighboring Connecticut colony in 1664.

According to legend, it was ultimately not royal officials who drove Goffe and Whalley from this cave, but rather a mountain lion that made an appearance at the entrance to the cave and frightened the two men. They left here on June 11, and lived at two other locations in the vicinity of West Rock for the next few months before finding more permanent lodgings at a house in Milford. They remained at this house for the next two or three years, before eventually moving to Hadley, Massachusetts, where they spent the rest of their lives in safety.

Because of the obvious need for secrecy in the movements of the regicides, there are few contemporary sources to corroborate these events. Perhaps the only primary source document was a diary that Goffe kept from 1660 to 1667, which he wrote in an easily-decipherable shorthand. This diary is now lost to history, but in the mid-1700s it was owned by Thomas Hutchinson, the royal lieutenant governor and later governor of the Province of Massachusetts Bay.

Aside from his role in colonial government, Hutchinson was also a historian, and in 1764 he published The History of the Colony of Massachusetts Bay. This book included an account of the regicides, which was based largely on Goffe’s journal. However, as a loyalist in the years leading up to the American Revolution, Hutchinson took a dim view of the regicides, and this bias is evident in much of his narrative. For example, he emphasizes the role that colonial officials had in trying to apprehend them, in an effort to portray the majority of 17th century New Englanders as having been loyal to the crown

Regardless of the biases, and the fact that it was written a century after the events happened, Hutchinson’s book provides the earliest significant account of the regicides and their flight through New England. The section relevant to their time here at Judges Cave, which is part of a lengthy footnote, reads as follows:

About that time, news came to Boston that ten of the judges were executed, and the governor received a royal mandate, dated March 5, 1660, to cause Whaley and Goffe to be secured. This greatly alarmed the country, and there is no doubt that the court were now in earnest in their endeavours to apprehend them; and to avoid all suspicion, they gave commission and instruction to two young merchants from England, Thomas Kellond and Thomas Kirk, zealous royalists, to go through the colonies, as far as Manhados, in search of them. They had friends who informed them what was doing, and they removed from Mr. Davenport’s to the house of one Jones, where they lay hid until the 11th of May, and then removed to a mill, and from thence, on the 13th, into the woods, where they met Jones and two of his companions, Sperry and Burril, who first conducted them to a place called hatchet-harbor, where they lay two nights, until a cave or hole in the side of a hill was prepared to conceal them. This hill they called Providence hill; and there they continued, from the 15th of May to the 11th of June, sometimes in the cave, and, in very tempestuous weather, in a house near to it. During this time, the messengers went through New-Haven to the Dutch settlement, from whence they returned to Boston by water. They made diligent search, and had full proof that the regicides had been seen at Mr. Davenport’s, and offered great rewards to English and Indians who should give information that they might be taken, but, by the fidelity of these three friends, they remained undiscovered.

Goffe’s journal remained in Hutchinson’s possession until 1765, when his house was ransacked by a Patriot mob in protest of the Stamp Act. The journal was either lost or destroyed in the process, making Hutchinson’s book the only surviving description of its contents. However, at least one other prominent historian, future Yale president Ezra Stiles, had the opportunity to examine the journal before its disappearance. He saw it during a 1763 visit to Hutchinson’s house, and he subsequently wrote his own history of the regicides.

Unlike Hutchinson’s description of the regicides, which fills just seven pages in his massive multi-volume history of the colony, Ezra Stiles published an entire book about their exploits in 1794. Titled A History of Three of the Judges of King Charles I, the book is over 350 pages long, and it relies heavily on oral traditions that were passed down to the descendants of the men involved in helping the regicides. Like Hutchinson’s account, Stiles’s book also has a political slant, although in the opposite direction. Writing just a decade after the American Revolution, in the midst of republican, anti-monarchical sentiment, Stiles viewed the regicides in a positive light, and he even included a chapter in which he justified their actions.

Stiles’s seemingly uncritical use of oral tradition in his book would come under criticism from later scholars, including biographer Edmund S. Morgan. Writing in his 1962 book The Gentle Puritan: A Life of Ezra Stiles, 1727-1795, Morgan asserted that it “represents Stiles at his worst. It is a tedious hodgepodge of fact and fancy, compounded mainly out of dim recollections by old men and women of things their grandfathers had told them fifty years before.” One such recollection, which relates to the Judges Cave, came from an interview with Joseph Sperry, whose grandfather Richard Sperry had aided the regicides in 1661. Stiles provided the following account in his book, including a description of this cave:

In 1785 I visited aged Mr. Joseph Sperry, then living, aged 76, a grandson of the first Richard, a son of Daniel Sperry, who died in 1751, aged 86, from whom Joseph received the whole family tradition. Daniel was the sixth son of Richard, and built a house at the south end of Sperry’s farm, in which Joseph now lives, not a half a mile west from the Cave, which Joseph shewed me. There is a notch in the mountain against Joseph’s house, through which I ascended along a very steep acclivity up to the Cave. From the south end of the mountain for three or four miles northward, there is no possible ascent or descent on the west side, but at this notch, so steep is the precipice of the rock. I found the Cave to be formed, on a base of perhaps forty feet square, by an irregular clump or pile of rocks, or huge broad pillars of stone, fifteen and twenty feet high, standing erect and elevated above the surrounding superficies of the mountain, and enveloped with trees and forest. These rocks coalescing or contiguous at top, furnished hollows or vacuities below, big enough to contain bedding and two or three persons. The apertures being closed with boughs of trees or otherwise, there might be found a well covered and convenient lodgement.

After this description of the cave and its surroundings, he wrote of what he learned from Joseph Sperry:

Here, Mr. Sperry told me, was the first lodgment of the Judges, and it has ever since gone and been known by the name of the Judges’ Cave to this day. Goffe’s Journal says, they entered this Cave the 15th of May, and continued in it till the 11th of June following—Richard Sperry daily supplied them with victuals from his house, about a mile off; sometimes carrying it himself, at other times sending it by one of his boys, tied up in cloth, ordering him to lay it on a certain stump and leave it: and when the boy went for it at night he always found the basons emptied of the provisions, and brought them home. The boy wondered at it, and used to ask his father the design of it, and he saw no body. His father only told him there was some body at work in the woods that wanted it. The sons always remembered it, and often told it to persons now living, and to Mr. Joseph Sperry particularply [sic].

They continued here till 11th of June. Mr. Joseph Sperry told me that the incident which broke them up from this Cave was this, that this mountain being a haunt for wild animals, one night as the Judges lay in bed, a panther, or catamount, putting his head into the door or aperture of the Cave, blazed his eye-balls in such a hideous manner upon them, as greatly affrighted them. One of them was so terrified by this grim and ferocious monster, her eyes and her squawling, that he took to his heels, and fled down the mountain to the Sperry’s house for safety. They thereupon considered this situation too dangerous, and quitted it. All the Sperry families have this tradition.

Aside from the events here in New Haven, the subsequent lives of Goffe and Whalley in Hadley are shrouded in mystery and legend. They lived at the home of the Reverend John Russell, but it appears that most townspeople were unaware of their identities. At some point around 1664, they were reunited with John Dixwell, the third regicide who had fled to New England. He eventually moved to New Haven, where he lived under the name John Davids until his death in 1689. Because the authorities believed that he was dead, he was able to live in relative security, and does not appear to have required the use of this cave or any other improvised shelters.

In the meantime, Edward Whalley died in Hadley around 1675 of natural causes, but Goffe lived long enough to become the subject of perhaps the most memorable regicide legend. According to tradition, at some point in either 1675 or 1676 the town of Hadley was facing an attack by Native Americans during King Philip’s War. The townspeople started panicking, but then an elderly man, identified in the legend as William Goffe, emerged and began to take charge. Some 30 years after he fought the Cavaliers on the battlefields of the English Civil War, he rallied the people and led their defense, and succeeded in saving the town. Then, as suddenly as he had appeared, the “Angel of Hadley” was gone.

As is the case for nearly all of the regicide-related stories, the first published account of the Angel of Hadley did not appear for nearly a century, until Thomas Hutchinson included it in his book in 1764. He included it at the end of his lengthy footnote on the movements of the regicides, writing:

The town of Hadley was alarmed by the Indians in 1675, in the time of publick worship, and the people were in the utmost confusion. Suddenly, a grave elderly person appeared in the midst of them. In his mien and dress he differed from the rest of the people. He not only encouraged them to defend themselves; but put himself at their head, rallied, instructed and led them on to encounter the enemy, who by this means were repulsed. As suddenly, the deliverer of Hadley disappeared. The people were left in consternation, utterly unable to account for this strange phœnomenon. It is not probable, that they were ever able to explain it. If Goffe had been then discovered, it must have come to the knowledge of those persons, who declare by their letters that they never knew what became of him.

Writing in his book 30 years after Hutchinson, Stiles repeats essentially the same account of the incident, although his wording tends to be more explicitly favorable to Goffe. Rather than describing him as “a grave elderly person,” Stiles writes of “a man of a very venerable aspect.” He copies Hutchinson’s wording by saying “the inhabitants could not account for the phœnomenon,” but then added “but considering that person as an Angel sent of God upon that special occasion for their deliverance; and for some time after said and believed that they had been delivered and saved by an Angel.”

Stiles’s romanticized description helped to solidify the idea of the “Angel of Hadley,” and by the early 19th century the story had become a part of early American folklore. In his 1823 novel Peveril of the Peak, Scottish writer Sir Walter Scott alluded to the incident, and in 1829 James Fenimore Cooper included it in his novel The Wept of Wish-ton-Wish. Nathaniel Hawthorne, who was never one to pass up a good story about the Puritans, also took inspiration from it. As a young man, he visited Judges Cave here in New Haven, and one of his early short stories, “The Gray Champion,” was loosely based on the Angel of Hadley legend. In the story, the title character is a shadowy, mysterious figure who embodies the Puritan ancestors of New England. Instead of defending a town against Native Americans, Hawthorne’s hero challenges the authoritarian rule of Edmund Andros in the 1680s. The Gray Champion disappears once the threat to the colony is over, but over the years he continues to make appearances whenever American liberty is at stake, including nearly a century later on the battlefields at Lexington and Bunker Hill.

Although Hutchinson’s and Stiles’s accounts provided plenty of material for 19th century authors, many historians began calling into question the accuracy of these tales, especially the ones that were handed down to Stiles through multi-generational hearsay. Legends such as the Angel of Hadley might very well have some basis in reality, but at this point it is difficult to sort out fact from fiction, given the inherent secrecy involved in the regicides and their activities here in New England. As for the tradition that the regicides spent a month hiding here in this rock formation, it is impossible to state with certainty that this is true. However, this belief does not seem to have been seriously questioned, and it seems plausible that this was, in fact, their hiding place during the spring of 1661.

The first photo was taken around 1901, showing the south side of the rock formation. By this point, the surrounding land was owned by the city of New Haven as part of West Rock Park. In the early 1890s a road was opened up here to the Judges Cave, and then in 1896 a plaque was installed here on the rocks. This plaque, which is visible here on the right side of the scene, commemorates the role that this site played in sheltering the regicides, and it was presented to the city by the Society of Colonial Wars. The formal dedication occurred on October 14, 1896, and it was attended by dignitaries such as Mayor Frederick B. Farnsworth, state adjutant general Edward E. Bradley, future governor Simeon E. Baldwin, and writer Charles Dudley Warner. Along with providing a short description of the regicides, the plaque features the phrase “opposition to tyrants is obedience to God,” which had apparently been inscribed on the rocks here as early as 1803.

Today, more than a century after the first photo was taken, the Judges Cave still looks essentially the same. It is still preserved as parkland, although it was acquired by the state in 1975, and it is now named West Rock Ridge State Park. The Judges Cave remains an important landmark within the park, and the only real difference between these two photos is the loss of the plaque, which was evidently stolen at some point. Its replacement is a somewhat larger plaque on the left side, although it bears the same inscription as the original one. It includes the same closing line about how “opposition to tyrants is obedience to God,” reflecting the beliefs that had led two Puritans across the Atlantic Ocean and to this secluded cave on the fringes of European settlements in the New World.

 

Five Mile Point Light, New Haven, Connecticut

The Five Mile Point Light at the entrance to New Haven Harbor, around 1900. Image courtesy of the Library of Congress, Detroit Publishing Company Collection.

The scene in 2021:

New Haven Harbor has been marked by a lighthouse since 1805, when the first one was constructed here on this site at the southeast edge of the harbor. It was commonly known as Five Mile Point Light, because of its distance from downtown New Haven. The original tower was 30 feet tall and built of wood, but by the late 1830s both it and the keeper’s house were badly deteriorated. Both buildings were replaced in 1847, and the new lighthouse was substantially larger than the older one. As shown in these two photos, it is octagonal in shape and constructed of local brownstone, and it stands 80 feet above the ground. Its design is very similar to many of the other early 19th century lighthouses in Connecticut, including New London Harbor Light, Lynde Point Light, Black Rock Harbor Light, and Falkner Island Light.

The new lighthouse was constructed by local builder Marcus Bassett, and the work evidently progressed quickly. Congress appropriated funds for it on March 3, 1847, and it was nearly completed by September, when an article appeared in the New Haven Journal, praising the new lighthouse:

New-Haven harbor during easterly storms, is the refuge of an immense number of craft, but its entrance from the east has always been difficult, if not dangerous, because the light-house cannot be seen until near the rocks upon which it stands. The government erected a new house for the keeper recently, but the new light-house, which is nearly ready for use, is the object of special admiration. Standing but a few rods from the old one, it rises in towering majesty by its side, and now may be seen in every direction where the other was wholly concealed. It will be of immense benefit to New-Haven harbor and also add to the security of the navigation of the Sound.

As was the case with most other American lighthouses of the era, Five Mile Point Light was maintained by a keeper who resided here on the property. Lighthouse keepers were primarily responsible for lighting and extinguishing the lantern, but other routine duties included maintenance and repairs to the buildings and equipment. However, because of their locations at hazardous points along shipping routes, keepers were also occasionally called upon to assist sailors in distress. Here at Five Mile Point, keeper Merritt Thompson, who served from 1853 to 1860, was often involved in such rescues, with his 1884 obituary noting that “when he was keeper of the lighthouse it was his good fortune to be instrumental in saving lives on a number of occasions when boats would be upset in the harbor,” and that “many stories are told of his daring and humanity in emergencies calling for personal risk and quick action.” 

The 1860 census shows Thompson living here at the lighthouse with his wife Julia and their six children, who ranged in age from 11 months to 14 years. However, he was subsequently dismissed from the post, and went on to work as a harbor pilot here in New Haven. An 1861 letter to the editor, published in the Columbian Register, suggested that this was a political move, and that he was replaced by a Republican partisan because of Abraham Lincoln’s electoral victory in 1860. The writer questioned the qualifications of any replacement, and observed that “the removal has caused a burst of indignation among all our citizens,” and concluded the letter with some sarcasm, saying “I trust none of our citizens will allow themselves to be capsized in the vicinity of the light house, for the next four years.”

The new lighthouse keeper was Elizur Thompson, who was not related to his predecessor. Despite this anonymous writer’s doubts about his abilities, he go on to serve here for many years, first as a keeper and later as an employee of the United States Signal Service. His family also helped maintain the lighthouse, including his wife Elizabeth and two of their sons, each of whom received assistant keeper salaries at various times over the years. He was dismissed in 1867 by the Andrew Johnson administration, for reasons that were evidently as political as his initial appointment had been, but he was subsequently reappointed in 1869, after Republican Ulysses S. Grant became president.

During the 1870 census, Elizur and Elizabeth were 61 and 59 respectively, and they lived here at the lighthouse with their 24-year-old son George and their 18-year-old daughter Ella. However, Elizabeth died a year later, and in 1877 Elizur remarried to Ellen Pierce, a widow who was about 30 years younger than him. She had a son, Burton, from her first marriage, and he was 13 years old and living with them during the 1880 census.

In the meantime, in 1873 the federal government began construction of Southwest Ledge Light, located on a rocky ledge about a mile offshore from here. Because this new lighthouse was much closer to the main shipping channel, it rendered Five Mile Point Light obsolete, and the light was deactivated after Southwest Ledge was completed in 1877. Elizur Thompson was then appointed as the first keeper of the new lighthouse, and his son Henry became the assistant keeper. He remained there for four more years, until his retirement in 1881, and Henry then became the main keeper of Southwest Ledge.

Following his retirement, Elizur and Ellen returned to the old Five Mile Point Light, where he was allowed to live, rent-free, for the rest of his life. During this time, he worked for the United States Signal Service, displaying flags from the old lighthouse to provide weather reports for passing merchant vessels. Both Elizur and Ellen faced health scars in the mid-1880s, beginning with a head injury that the elderly Elizur suffered in 1884, when he slipped and hit the back of his head on a rock while trying to launch a boat here on the beach. Then, in June 1885 Ellen underwent major surgery in New York to remove a large tumor. Newspaper reports described her as being in critical condition and doubted whether she would survive, but she ultimately recovered and returned to New Haven in early August.

Elizur carried out his duties here at the lighthouse until his death in 1897, when he was 87 years old. Ellen had taken over these responsibilities during his final illness, and after his death she was formally appointed as his successor. As described in the Morning Journal and Courier following her appointment, the signal station “has been a great boon to the sailors, since it has warned them of impending storms and furnished them the opportunity to come within the shelter of the harbor.” The article described how the weather reports arrived in downtown New Haven and were then telephoned to the lighthouse, where Ellen would hoist the appropriate flags. The article then concluded by remarking that “the task is anything but an easy one for a woman, especially in stormy weather.” She would retain this post until her death in 1901, at the age of 60.

The first photo was taken around 1900. Assuming this date is accurate, Ellen Thompson would have still been living and working here, and the tall pole atop the lighthouse was likely where she hoisted the flags. The photo also shows the keeper’s house on the right side, connected to the lighthouse by an enclosed wooden walkway. On the other side of the lighthouse, in the center of the photo, are four Civil War-era Rodman cannons that were installed here during the Spanish-American War in 1898. These obsolete guns were evidently more for show than anything else, and were likely more effective at reassuring locals than at dissuading Spanish warships. In any case, these guns were never tested in combat during the short-lived war, and within a few years they were removed and incorporated into several different local Civil War memorials.

No longer necessary for either navigational aids or civil defense measures, this area around the old lighthouse subsequently became an amusement park, known as Lighthouse Point Park. Like many other early 20th century amusement parks, it was developed by a local trolley company as a way of increasing ridership on otherwise quiet weekend trolleys. The park featured attractions such as a carousel, along with a beach and fields for athletic events. Even prominent baseball stars such as Babe Ruth and Ty Cobb made appearances here at Lighthouse Point and participated in exhibition games.

The amusement park was subsequently acquired by the city, but it began to decline after the 1920s, and most of the park buildings were demolished by the mid-20th century. The site has continued to be used as a public park, though, and it continues to be a popular destination for its beach and for other recreational activities, including its restored carousel. However, the most prominent landmark here at the park continues to be the historic lighthouse. Despite not having been used as a lighthouse for nearly 150 years, both the tower and the keeper’s house are still standing, with few major changes since the first photo was taken, aside from the loss of the covered walkway.

Governor Buckingham Statue, Connecticut State Capitol, Hartford

The statue of Governor William A. Buckingham in the west atrium of the Connecticut State Capitol in Hartford, around 1891. Image from Hartford Illustrated (1891).

The scene in 2019:

William A. Buckingham served as governor of Connecticut from 1858 to 1866, including for the entire duration of the Civil War. During that time, he was instrumental in recruiting soldiers for the state regiments, in addition to raising money to equip them. In several instances, he even took out personal loans in order to ensure that Connecticut soldiers were paid in a timely manner. Because of his actions, he earned the respect of the state’s veterans, and he was subsequently elected to the U.S. Senate, where he served from 1869 until his death in 1875.

The current Connecticut State Capitol was completed in 1878, and the west atrium was designated as the Hall of Flags, to display the battle flags of the state’s various Civil War regiments. These flags were placed here on September 17, 1879—the anniversary of the Battle of Antietam—with a celebration that included a parade of more than ten thousand veterans. Then, five years later, the state installed this statue of Governor Buckingham, which was designed by Olin L. Warner, a prominent sculptor from Suffield, Connecticut. It was unveiled here on June 18, 1884 with similar fanfare, including a large parade of veterans and speeches by state dignitaries.

The first photo was taken around 1891, and very little has changed since then. The atrium is a little more crowded now, because of added security at the entrance, but the statue of Governor Buckingham is still here, as are most of the regimental flags. The capitol building was extensively restored during the 1980s, and during this time many of the flags were also restored. After being on display for well over a century, most were badly deteriorated, with some even falling off of their poles. Of the 110 flags, 73 were restored in the 1980s. Funding has been a challenge since then, but more flags have continued to be conserved over the years, and have been put back on display here in the Hall of Flags.

South Entrance, Connecticut State Capitol, Hartford

The view just inside the south entrance of the Connecticut State Capitol, around 1891. Image from Hartford Illustrated (1891).

The scene in 2019:

These two photos show the entryway at the south entrance of the Connecticut State Capitol. The building was completed in 1878, and it features a highly ornate interior comprised primarily of marble, along with polished granite columns. This entrance is located directly beneath the House of Representatives chamber, which can be accessed by either of the two staircases here. In between the staircases is the rotunda at the center of the building, underneath the dome.

Today, this particular scene has hardly changed in about 130 years since the first photo was taken. The building has been well-maintained and preserved over the years, and it stands as an important architectural landmark. The only significant difference between these two photos is the replica Liberty Bell to the right of the west staircase. This was one of 55 produced by the Department of the Treasury in 1950 as gifts to each of the states and territories, and it even features a painted-on crack to mimic the one on the original Liberty Bell.

Staircase in the Connecticut State Capitol, Hartford

A staircase in the Connecticut State Capitol in Hartford, around 1891. Image from Hartford Illustrated (1891).

The staircase in 2019:

The Connecticut State Capitol is an architectural masterpiece, on both the interior and exterior. It was the work of prominent architect Richard M. Upjohn, and it was completed in 1879 with an ornate High Victorian Gothic design comprised largely of marble and granite. At the center of the building, beneath the dome, is a large rotunda that is flanked on either side by marble staircases. This particular staircase is on the east side of the rotunda, and in the distant center of the scene, on the second floor, is the door to the House of Representatives chamber.

Today, around 130 years after the first photo was taken, there are hardly any differences between these two photos. The building underwent a major restoration from 1979 to 1989, and on the interior this included cleaning grime off of the marble floors and other stonework, along with restoring the intricately painted details throughout the building. As a result, the building now looks the way that it did when it first opened nearly 150 years ago, and it remains an important architectural landmark while also continuing to serve as the seat of the Connecticut state government.