Thames River Heritage Park: Life on Groton Bank

Groton, CT, United States
Est. 3.3km / 1 hr 6 mins / Map

Thames River Heritage Park: Life on Groton Bank - Cya On The Road

When the Pequots built a palisaded village on top of the ridge, perhaps as earlier native peoples had done, this would have been a wooded area, with small, stony beaches between granite ledges. With fish and shellfish along shore, game in the woods, and small garden patches near the village, it was a good place to live.When John Winthrop arrived with his English settlers in the 1640s, they chose the far bank, with its sheltering coves and freedom from the prevailing wind, to establish their new London. With its exposure to the winds and its abrupt shoreline along deep water, this side was less suitable for settling a town, but excellent for tilling crops, grazing livestock, and building ships. Until the town of Groton was established in 1705, this remained part of New London.After Cary Latham built his ferry tavern in 1655, and the King’s Highway headed east up the hill from the ferry, a few farming and shipbuilding families lived here in scattered houses through the 1700s, under the guns of Fort Griswold after its construction between 1775 and 1778. The British burned about 15 houses and shops after the Battle of Groton Heights in 1781. Thereafter, farmers, mariners, and shipbuilders began to align their houses along the roadway that became Thames Street.By the 1830s, shops and workshops, a couple of shipyards, and an expanding residential neighborhood lined Thames Street and began to spread up the hill. The towering monument to the defenders of Fort Griswold was finished at that time.In the 1840s the old King’s Highway became the heart of a new residential district. Eventually renamed Broad Street, it was lined with the stylish homes of farmers, mechanics, and mariners. Monument Street was a lane for construction of the Groton Monument in the 1820s, and began to be populated in the 1850s. School Street and other uphill routes followed old stonewalls. Ramsdell Street was laid out in the 1880s, as were the streets north of Broad Street. The railroad entered Groton Bank in 1858, crossing the river by ferry until a bridge was built upstream in 1889. Road travellers continued to cross the river by ferry until 1919. By 1870 farmers and mariners, brewers and quarrymen, tradesmen and shopkeepers lived and worked on Groton Bank.A whole new industrial scale came to the Groton shoreline in 1900 with the Eastern Shipbuilding shipyard a bit downstream. The yard launched two immense steamships in 1903 and 1904. During this time Groton Bank was incorporated as a borough of the Town of Groton and acquired aspects of an urban center, including a public water supply, electricity, and even a trolley line. It developed further during World War I shipbuilding activity, and especially when the Electric Boat Company shipyard began building submarines here, expanding greatly in the 1940s and again in the 1970s.Great changes have occurred here over 360 years. As you follow this audio tour you will encounter many sites and structures that represent the fascinating individuals and rich history of Groton Bank.

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