Remembering Savin Rock
Today, many who stroll the Savin Rock “Boardwalk,” are quite unaware of the area’s colorful history. Some of us, though, can close our eyes and hear the sounds and smell the smells and see the wondrous sights that used to be…
It is a pity indeed that anyone born after the mid-1950s will be unable to remember the days of old Savin Rock and all that it had to offer. The Rock, even until the early 1960s was an exciting old-time amusement park, where children and adults alike could find adventures, foods and activities of all types—enough to fill a hot summer day and evening.
Who can recall the days of White City, Peter Franke’s Fun House, The Thunderbolt, The Sky Blazer, The Virginia Reel, Laff in the Dark and the Flying Horses? Who recalls the baseball field, or stock car racing at Donovan Field? Who remembers the raucous, endless laughter of the mechanized Laughing Lady?
Among notable Savin Rock lore, the split hot dog was invented at Jimmies one summer day in 1925: a visitor, seeing his trolley car approach, told the grill man cooking his hot dog to “hurry it up”, and an idea became a Savin Rock tradition. Who can remember dining on hot dogs and seafood at the old Turk’s, Jimmie’s, Jim’s, Phyllis’, or Raffelli’s? And then for dessert, savoring a “brick” of Terry’s Strawberry Honey-Dew popcorn?
Actually, Savin Rock’s history extends way back into pre-history: long before the coming of the white settlers, the Quinnipiac Indians would summer in the area of the ancient shale monolith now known as The Rock; the climate was agreeable, the fishing and shell-fishing were good, and so there they set up their wigwams near present-day Bradley Point.
By the time of the American Revolution, Savin Rock was already an early form of resort for those few who came to enjoy the water, the scenery, the breezes, and the seafood. An inn had been established there, for those who wished to rest and dine near the beautiful shoreline.
Savin Rock’s initial period of real growth came at the hand of George Kelsey, who came to West Haven from Middletown in 1855, and eventually built his home on the property now occupied by the American Legion Hall and the now-defunct Silvers Drugstore. By 1867, Kelsey owned a controlling interest in the New Haven and West Haven Horse Car Company. Thanks to Kelsey, by that year, the centers of New Haven and West Haven as well as Savin Rock were connected by horsecar service. At that time, a trip from one town to the other took two hours, but this was still a great convenience for the average person, who had no other means of transportation.
Without a doubt, the horsecar line and the Savin Rock amusement area—both were Kelsey’s endeavors—relied greatly on one another for the prosperity that they enjoyed together.
To Be Continued,