New London County Historical Society, Inc.

11 Blinman Street, New London, CT 06320

Phone: 860-443-1209

306, 2009

Nathaniel Shaw 13-Star Flag – National Treasure

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Sometimes it just takes new eyes to help you “discover” treasure.  We’ve written in the past about the 13-star flag in our collection that was restored, reframed and hung for the exhibit that marked the 225th anniversary of the Burning of New London.  Late in the summer 2007, a new member, Gary Gianotti, visited the Shaw Mansion to do some research on Norwalk privateers.  Seeing the flag and hearing of its history he was very impressed because he was aware of just how rare that flag might be.  In the following weeks he contacted national-level flag experts and became even more excited.

When the historical society purchased the Shaw Mansion to be its headquarters in 1907, the 13-star flag was discovered in the attic of the house.  Jane Perkins, who sold the house to us, was the great-great granddaughter of the original builder, Capt. Nathaniel Shaw.  Miss Perkins told Mrs. Dudley Bramble, Regent of the Lucretia Shaw Chapter of the DAR, that the flag belonged to the Naval Agent, Nathaniel Shaw (Jane’s great-great uncle), and Mrs. Bramble documented the conversation.

The flag was on exhibit for a long time on the landing to the second floor, framed and sandwiched between two panes […]

306, 2009

Baseball Fever 1866

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Some discussion regarding the growth of baseball in the post Civil War period inspired some delving into New London County newspapers to see what was happening locally.  The evidence is clear that New London County caught base ball fever in 1866.

Reading through the New-London Daily Star issues for the summer and fall of 1865 only one small reference could be found.  The editor, Mr. Ruddock, had reported on a number of sail boat races and regattas, and on the 16th of June, reported considerable “interest in the college regatta which is to take place at Worcester” between Yale and Harvard.  In addition to the boat races on Friday afternoon, the glee clubs of both colleges would give a joint concert and, “Friday morning the Harvard nine will play the Yale nine at base ball.”

Moving ahead to early 1866, the Mystic Pioneer, reports on June 2, an account of a match in Worcester, “from a correspondent:” “Mr. Editor: – As the young men of Mystic are much interested in the game of base ball, I send you the particulars of the match game between the Nicean nine of Amherst College and the University nine of Brown University which was played this […]

306, 2009

Benedict Arnold

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Benedict Arnold Turns and Burns New London

September 6, 1781 was a brutal and terrifying day for Connecticut citizens living on both sides of New London harbor, along the Thames River. On that day 1,700 British, Hessian, and Loyalist troops, under the command of General Benedict Arnold, achieved the last British victory of the Revolutionary War, committing acts of urban terrorism and slaughter that would define those communities for years to come. “Arnold’s Raid on New London,” as it was later called, had more to do with spite than strategy. But the raid, occurring almost exactly one year after the discovery of Arnold’s plot to turn George Washington’s army and headquarters over to the British and Arnold’s subsequent escape to the British, cemented Arnold’s reputation as America’s most notorious traitor.

But the events leading to the burning of New London were rooted in circumstances far deeper than simple spite. A confluence of geography, world trade, and wartime economics turned New London (and neighboring Groton) into hotspots of historic import.

A Bustling Port Turns to Privateering

The Thames River provides New London with an excellent harbor. It is wide and deep, the bottom has excellent mud for anchoring, it hardly ever freezes over, and its […]

306, 2009

Captains Walk

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Installed in 1973, Captain’s Walk was a bold attempt to revitalize State Street as shoppers began to abandon downtown stores in favor of automobile-oriented malls.  From Washington Street to Main Street (renamed Eugene O’Neill Drive), this pedestrian mall was fitted out with planters, benches, kiosks, and awnings all carefully designed to enhance the shopper’s experience.

Within a few years, however, there were serious concerns about the mall’s efficacy.  A 1977 poll found most city residents in favor of reopening the street to automobile traffic—something that eventually happened in 1990.  Although many of its traces are still visible today—especially in street paving—Captain’s Walk is often blamed for having “killed” State Street.

If Captain’s Walk looms large in State Street’s history, it was not the first attempt to manage the impact of vehicles on the urban environment.  From the 1920s on, city officials implemented a wide range of technologies to control the presence of automobiles on State Street.

306, 2009

20th Century

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Long residential in character, the upper end of State Street was transformed into a green and leafy bower in the second half of the 19th century.  While lower State Street accommodated the commercial activities and avenues of vice that Victorians associated with the masculine realm of the city, upper State Street was devoted to respectable pursuits that complemented the female sphere.  Religion (in the form of the First Congregational and First Baptist churches), culture (in the form of the Public Library of New London and the Lyric Hall) and genteel recreation (housed in the private Thames Club, the YMCA, and the YWCA) were all well represented on upper State Street.

In the early 20th century, this character began to change, as commercial blocks continued to march steadily up the hill.  While structures like the Plant (now Dewart) Building housed professional offices, they nonetheless brought a distinctly urban character to upper State Street, a process that reached its peak in 1926 when the Williams house was demolished to make way for the Garde Theater.
 

306, 2009

Upper State Street

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The New London County Historical Society has collections in several areas of interest to those wishing to learn more about the county in earlier days. The largest collection is of photographs, both of people connected with the county and of various scenes in it.

Information on this area of our collection will be updated soon.

A Sample of Pictures of Upper State Street