About East Haddam

History of East Haddam East Haddam is a rural town with a population of approximately 9,000 inhabitants located in Middlesex County, Connecticut, United States. The town spans a total area of 56.6 square miles (147 km2), 54.3 square miles (141 km2) of which is land and 2.2 square miles (5.7 km2) of which (3.96%) is water. The land was inhabited by at least three tribes of Indians: the Wangunks, the Mohegans and the Nehantics and was purchased, along with the town of Haddam, in 1662 by settlers for thirty coats – about $100. Due to the occurrence of numerous earthquakes that caused loud rumblings that could be heard for miles surrounding the epicenter near Mt. Tom, the Indians called the area “Machimoodus,” the place of noises. East Haddam was incorporated as a separate town from Haddam in 1734. Early commerce included blacksmiths, agricultural and timber farming, tanneries and shipbuilding bringing a surge of population to the area. By the nineteenth century, the community of Moodus became known as the “Twine Capital of America,” with twelve mills in operation. Many were drawn to the area’s rural charm and scenic views, including actor William Gillette, who constructed a castle overlooking the Connecticut River. The town also is home to the Goodspeed Opera House and Devil’s Hopyard State Park, along with several other historical landmarks.
General Information
Town of East Haddam
East Haddam in Pictures
East Haddam Historical Society and Museum
The East Haddam Historical Society and Museum houses a fine collection of local and Lower Connecticut River Valley historical objects, and prides itself on its kid-friendliness. Located on Town Street, near Gillette Castle, the museum is open Memorial Day through Columbus Day weekend, Saturdays and Sundays 10am-4pm and by appointment at any time. Tickets are $5 per adult; children under 12 free.
East Haddam Public Schools
The East Haddam School District is comprised of three schools [Nathan Hale-Ray High School (grades 9–12), Nathan Hale-Ray Middle School (Grades 4–8) and East Haddam Elementary School (Grades Pre–K3)] and one Private School [Franklin Academy].
Historical Sites
Chester-Hadlyme Ferry
The original Chester-Hadlyme Ferry, began service in 1769 and was pushed across the river using long poles. Operated by Jonathan Warner, who owned the land on both sides of the Connecticut River, Warner’s Ferry, as it came to be known, was often used throughout the Revolutionary War to transport needed supplies across the river. The present ferry is operated by the Town of Chester and accommodates 8 to 9 cars and 49 passengers.
Goodspeed Opera House
Located in an historic building on the banks of the Connecticut River, the Goodspeed Opera House opened in 1963 as a professional musical theatre. The Opera house has produced over 250 musicals, including over 70 world premieres, and exported 21 productions to Broadway and is the first regional theatre in America to earn two special Tony Awards, one in 1980 for outstanding contributions to the American musical and a second in 1995 for distinguished achievement for a regional theatre. The theatre is at the forefront of producing and preserving the American musical, simultaneously reinventing the classics and inventing new ones.
Nathan Hale Schoolhouse
Originally located on the green at the junction of Main Street and Norwich Road, the restored red schoolhouse served as a school from 1750 to 1799. In 1800 it was moved north on Main Street, where it remained until 1899 as a private residence for Captain Elijah Attwood and his descendants. In 1899, Judge Julius Attwood presented the schoolhouse to Colonel Richard Henry Greene of New York, in trust, to be turned over to the Connecticut Sons of the Revolution and was relocated, again, in 1900, to its current location atop the hill in back of St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church. The land and building was deeded in 1974 by the Connecticut Sons of the Revolution to the Connecticut Society of the Sons of the American Revolution who maintain it to this day. It has been authentically furnished by the Daughters of the American Revolution, with desks, tools and tables popular during the mid-seventeen hundreds. The Schoolhouse is one of two Nathan Hale School Houses in the State.
Venture Smith Gravesite
The cemetery located next to the First Church contains the graves of Venture Smith (1728-1805) and several members of his family. Smith was captured as a child in Africa and brought to Connecticut, where he was sold as a slave. He dictated a pamphlet about his experiences that can be read in the book Five Black Lives. Despite being a slave, Smith was able to work at other jobs, enabling him to buy his freedom, and later, the freedom of his wife and children. The site is located along the Connecticut Freedom Trail.
Amasa Day House
The Amasa Day House is an historic museum located on Plains Road
Boardman House
Built in 1860, the Boardman House, now a luxury inn, was built by Silversmith Norman Boardman. The Boardman Family is known as the original founders of the Connecticut Silversmith industry.
East Haddam Bridge
Built in 1913, the 899-foot long steel, movable (swing) truss bridge was reputed to be the longest of its type in the world at the time of its construction. The bridge is composed of three spans crossing the Connecticut River between Haddam, Connecticut and East Haddam and has an average daily traffic of 11,600.
First Church of Christ
Located on Town Street, the Congregational Church was built in 1704, with the addition of a Meetinghouse in 1794. The Meetinghouse is the oldest surviving example of the trend-setting, fully-evolved Federal-period meetinghouse style, whose basic design was duplicated extensively across New England and the Midwest for the following 35 years.
Gelston House
Located adjacent from the Goodspeed Opera House, the 1736 tavern and boarding house is now a restaurant and bar.
Gideon Higgins house
The Gideon Higgins house is located on the Underground Railroad, on Route 149.
Johnsonville Village
Once a thriving mill community, then a Victorian Era tourist attraction, the Village is now an abandoned ghost town.
St. Stephen’s Bell
St. Stephen’s Bell is thought to be the oldest bell in the New World. It was cast in a Spanish monastery in 815 A.D. and was left among the rubble of a the church housing the bell when Napoleon invaded Spain. In 1834, a Yankee sea captain loaded the bell as part of the scrap metal used as ballast for the voyage home. Thus the bell began its trip to Connecticut. Discovered in New York, it was sent by a ship chandler to his wife’s hometown of East Haddam. It now hangs at St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church on Main Street.
Scenic Sites
Babcock Pond Wildlife Management Area
A magnificent preserve with easy walking trails located at the East Haddam and Colchester border.
Brainard State Park
Brainard State Park provides a 24.65 acres of walking trails through fields with views of the river during the winter season and wildflowers and birds.
Devil’s Hopyard State Park
A number of myths revolve around the origin of the name, “Devil’s Hopyard”, an 860 acre parcel of land features Chapman Falls, a 60 foot waterfall over a series of steps in a Scotland Schist stone formation. The Park offers 21 campsites, hiking and biking trails, picnic areas and an excellent source of brook trout for fisherman. It is also listed as one of the ten best birding sites in the State by the Connecticut Ornithological Association.
Eightmile River Wildlife Management Area (Firestone Property)
Includes 312 acres of property located in East Haddam and Lyme.
Gillette Castle State Park
Personally designed by noted actor, director, and playwright William Hooker Gillette, the Park boasts a 24 room mansion reminiscent of a medieval castle located on a 184 acre estate. The mansion is constructed of local fieldstone, supported by a steel framework, and hand-hewn southern white oak and has built-in couches, movable table, and light switches of carved wood. The exterior boasts walking trails, vegetable cellar, railroad station, and a goldfish pond. Gillette is best known for his portrayal of “Sherlock Holmes”. The Estate was purchased by the State of Connecticut in 1943.
Lake Hayward
Once known as Long Pond and Shaw Lake, this 1.5-mile (2.4 km) long, 0.5-mile (800 m) wide spring-fed private lake is located on 174 acres in northern section of East Haddam. The Lake, which serves as a tributary of the Eight Mile River, is stocked each Spring with brown and rainbow trout.
Machimoodus State Park
Originally an Echo Farm dairy farm, the Park is a public recreation area located on the Salmon River managed by the Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection. Deriving its name from the Native Americans who referred to the area as “the place of bad noises,” the park was created when the was purchased by the state for $2.1 million in 1998. Visitors may enjoy hiking, fishing, picnicking, and horseback riding as well as scenic views of the Salmon, Moodus, and Connecticut rivers from lookout located on Mount Tom.
Salmon River State Forest
The State Forest offers moderate walking trails with steep slopes as well as views of the salmon migration in May at the Leesville Dam Fishway.
East Haddam Land Trust
The East Haddam Land Trust is a volunteer, non-profit, member-based corporation whose mission is to preserve and protect land in perpetuity for the public interest. The Trust currently owns 230 acres of land, 143 acres of easements on its preserves, many of which have marked hiking trails open to the public.
The Nature Conservancy Properties
Several of the organization’s key conservation areas are located in East Haddam, including Chapman Pond Preserve (500 acres) and Burnham Brook Preserve (900 acres).
Davison Memorial Walking Park
The Park offers an easy to moderate walk to the ridge top of Cave Hill, where one can view Moodus.
Nichols Field
Town Beach
Town of East Haddam Recreation Areas
Eagle Viewing Site
Migrating bald eagles can be viewed along the Connecticut River where they congregate and feed on the fish. Eagles remain in Connecticut from, generally, December through mid-March, when the food supply is abundant and the water remains free of ice.
Featured in Popular Culture
East Haddam has been used as a filming location for many different films and TV shows including:
Billy Joel, River of Dreams, 1993, Music Video features several locations around East Haddam, including the chapel in Johnsonville Village.
Gilmore Girls, Season 1, Episode 2, features the Gelston House and the Goodspeed Opera House.
Something Whispered, starring Cuba Gooding, Jr. was filmed partially on location in Johnsonville Village.
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