Groton’s summer resort hotels are a thing of the past

Editor’s Note: This is the first of two articles providing historical information on four major summer resort hotels once located in the Eastern Point area of ​​Groton.

This photograph, taken before 1885, shows the first hotel in the Eastern Point area of ​​Groton. The three-story house in the center of the photograph was built before 1845 and was called the Fisk house. After additions were added to the left and right of the house in 1846, it became known as Ocean House.

A few months ago, John Steward, a good friend and contributor to The Times, contacted me while gathering information for an article he was writing about the Hotel Griswold and a small nightclub called Prospect Ville, both of which were once located in the Eastern Point section of Groton. While recounting some of the history and my personal recollections of these settlements, I could not help but recall the vast amount of history that has probably been overlooked regarding the early development of the Eastern Point area. at Groton. From the mid-1800s and for a period of around 100 years, it was considered one of the most popular summer resorts on the Atlantic coast.

This circa 1870 photograph shows the Edgcomb House, the second hotel built at Eastern Point in Groton.

One of the major contributors that made Eastern Point a popular attraction for summer vacationers were four hotels that once graced the shoreline of the Thames River near Long Island Sound.

The earliest historical accounts of Groton, dating back to the late 1700s, show that for the most part the large area of ​​Groton in the southwestern part of the town, adjoining the River Thames, was mainly agricultural land undeveloped. In the early years most, if not all, of the land was owned by the Avery family.

In 1837, newly married Albert L. Avery, son of Asa L. Avery, built a house on property he had obtained from his father at Eastern Point. In 1842, with a vision to establish a watering place and resort there, he purchased an additional 600 acres of land from his father. At the time, there were only two houses in Eastern Point: the one Avery had built for himself and his wife, and a kind of small “rooming house”, owned and operated by whaler captain Silas W. Fisk.

Continuing his quest to develop a resort at Eastern Point, Avery persuaded Captain Fisk to purchase additional land to add two additions to his rooming house to accommodate more people seeking accommodation. ‘a quiet place to spend a vacation by the sea. In 1846, the Fisk rooming house, formerly called Fisk House, could now accommodate between 60 and 70 people and was renamed “Ocean House”. The (mostly) three-story hotel was located by the river, facing Long Island Sound, and was located on the west side of what is now called Shore Avenue. There was a small gazebo in the front yard of the house where many occupants spent the evening enjoying the cool breezes from the Sound.

A promotional letter, which appeared in the August 2, 1851, edition of the Hartford Courant, best describes Mr. Fisk’s hotel this way: “The Ocean House is ideally situated for sea breezes, swimming, sailing and the Peach. His table is laden with enough of every type of food from sea and land that the markets of this city offer – People looking for a quiet retreat away from the hustle and bustle of business, to rest and find their energy and their health, cannot find a better place than this house.

In August 1850, Fisk married Julia A. Edgcomb of Groton, who quickly became an able co-maid of the seasonal Ocean House.

In an interesting turn of events, in 1854 Captain Fisk’s passion for whaling had taken precedence over his management of the Ocean House and he agreed to command a whaler in the Pacific Ocean. Records indicate that he remained captain of the whaler North Star until he was drowned at sea in February 1861. His wife Julia ran the seaside hotel during the summer months, assisted by her parents, her brother and sister, as well as her husband’s parents and siblings, all of whom lived nearby.

Out of extreme loneliness and devotion to her husband, Julia accompanied him on two long whaling trips – the first for two years in 1855 and 1856, and the second from 1859 to 1861. Care of the captain’s three young children and Julia’s, as well as the management of Ocean House, were left to members of Julia’s and the captain’s family.

By the early 1870s a large number of summer cottages had been built at Eastern Point. The addition of these cottages, in conjunction with the construction of a new and improved road along the river leading to Eastern Point, quickly realized Albert Avery’s dream of turning Eastern Point into a resort town.

Shortly after Captain Fisk’s death, Roswell Edgcomb, brother of Julia Fisk, became the owner of the Ocean House and Julia, as far as can be determined, had no longer any active interest in the running hotel daily.

With the ever-increasing popularity of summer vacations at Eastern Point, the Ocean House, with its limited number of rooms, and nearby summer cottage rentals were consistently booked to capacity throughout the months. of summer. It became apparent that there was a definite need to increase the inventory of rental space to meet the demand from summer vacationers in Eastern Point.

Roswell Edgcomb then proceeded with their idea of ​​building a new, larger hotel a short distance southeast of the Ocean House. Work on his mansion, which was to be called Edgcomb House, began in September 1871 and it was ready for occupancy the following June.

The new hotel, which was twice the size of the Ocean House and could accommodate more than 125 people, had four floors with larger rooms than the Ocean House. The front of the new hotel faced the River Thames and the windows of every room offered views of the River Thames.

The wording on a publicity card reads: ‘Edgcomb House offers the public a first class home, with gas, telegraph, fine sea bathing, good boating, fishing and romantic walks.’ To this author’s amazement, I was surprised to see the ad boast in bold letters “AND NO MUSQUITOES”. After all, I’ve personally spent a lot of time in the evenings along the Thames River at Eastern Point and on several occasions have had my stays cut short by these pesky little creatures.

Roswell Edgcomb continued to operate both Edgcomb House and Ocean House until the summer of 1885 when they were both purchased by the wealthy AP Sturtevant of Norwich.

After selling the hotel, Edgcomb, for a period of 10 years, commanded the Uncas and Ledyard ferryboats across the Thames. In 1897 he was appointed Postmaster of Groton and held this position for 15 years until the Groton Post Office was closed and taken over by the New London Post Office.

Shortly after purchasing Edgcomb House and Ocean House, AP Sturtevant conceived and pursued their own ideas for a new hotel. This hotel would become the third to be located at Eastern Point. Details about his new hotel and a fourth and final one, The Griswold Hotel, will be discussed in detail in a future article.

Jim Streeter is Groton Town’s historian.

About Brad S. Fulton

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