Day Trips: Stonington, a town defined by its access to the ocean

Published on Monday, 5 March 2018 20:56
Written by Marty Podskoch

Stonington’s history has been shaped by being situated on Long Island Sound. It comes with a storied past of a Native American legacy, a maritime heritage, and its part in two wars against the British.

The land that is Stonington was originally inhabited by the Pequot tribes Pawcatuck and Mistack. The first European settlers arrived in 1649, with a trading post on Pawcatuck River set up soon after. In 1658, the area of Stonington, called Southerton, became part of Massachusetts but it reverted back to Connecticut four years later.

It was first known as Mistick with a name change to Stonington in 1666. Stonington’s boundary is marked by the Pawcatuck River, which straddles the Connecticut border with Rhode Island, and the Mystic River, which separates it from Groton. The Town of North Stonington was officially incorporated in 1807, although it had been the northern parish of Stonington since 1724. Stonington is divided into villages including the Stonington Borough, Pawcatuck, Lords Point, Wequetequock, Mystic, and Old Mystic. The last two are both in Stonington and Groton..

Stonington’s character is defined by its access to the Atlantic Ocean, especially in reference to the presence of the British Navy in its harbor during the American Revolution in 1775 or during the War of 1812. In August of 1814 the British sent demands for the surrender of the town. They bombarded Stonington with canon fire, but instead of surrender, a small group of citizens banded together to fight off the enemy. Although shelled, the town remained without traumatic damage or lives lost. Industries such as seal hunting, whaling, and fishing became vital to the Stonington’s economy. It welcomed a large influx of Portuguese immigrants who settled in Pawcatuck, as well as Stonington Borough, with many becoming fishermen. Also, its tourist industry is centered on its waterside location.

Interesting places

Mystic Seaport. This living-history museum is the finest of its kind in the country. Its exhibits focus on New England’s maritime past and feature an array of seasonal activities, including the annual Sea Music Festival in June. 75 Greenmanville Ave. in Mystic.

Mystic Aquarium. The most heralded aquarium in New England houses an array of marine life including beluga whales, penguins, and sea lions. 55 Coogan Boulevard in Mystic.

Downtown Mystic. The quaint New England seaside community welcomes visitors with a smorgasbord of restaurants and shops.

Olde Mistick Village. This outdoor shopping center is set in a 1700s New England village and even includes a working waterwheel, a church, as well as a movie theater. Look for the annual Cabin Fever Festival and Chowder Cook Off each February. 27 Coogan Boulevard in Mystic.

Stonington Historical Society. Founded in 1895, it consists of the Capt. Nathaniel B. Palmer House Museum, a National Historic Landmark, the Old Lighthouse Museum at Stonington Point, and the Richard W. Woolworth Library and research center. Located at 40 Palmer St., Stonington.

Denison Homestead Museum. Built in 1717 by a grandson of Captain George Denison, who settled in Stonington in 1654, also called Pequotsepos Manor. Listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Operated by the Denison Society. 120 Pequotepos Rd., Stonington. www.denison

Stonington Borough. Another enclave of restaurants, shopping, and galleries in a seaside setting. Make sure to visit the Old Lighthouse Museum at the end of Water Street.

Wequetequock Burial Ground. Founded in 1650, called the Founders Cemetery, as four of the founders of Stonington are buried within its walls: William Chesebrough, Thomas Stanton, Thomas Minor, and Walter Palmer, as are many of their descendants. Palmer Neck Rd., Stonington.

Beer’d Brewing Company. When first opened in 2012, Beer’d was the smallest in the state. Five years later it had made its mark on the regional beer scene with such well-regarded libations as their Hobbit Juice and Frank & Berry Double IPAs. 22 Bayview Ave. in Stonington (in the Velvet Mill).

Zachary Lamothe, author of Connecticut Lore and More Connecticut Lore and Fred Burdick, Stonington Historian

This is an excerpt from the book, The Connecticut 169 Club: Your Passport & Guide to Exploring CT. It was written by local residents to encourage people to visit the beautiful 169 towns and cities in Connecticut. The 8.5 x 11 hardcover book contains 368 pages and over 180 illustrations, maps, and photos. It was edited by Marty Podskoch, author of eight books including the Conn. Civilian Conservation Corps Camps, Catskill & Adirondack fire towers, Adk CCC Camps, Adk 102 Club, and Adk illustrated stories. The travel book will be available in late summer 2018. One can pre-order a signed book with free shipping by sending $24.95 plus CT sales tax $1.58 to: Podskoch Press, 43 O’Neill Lane, East Hampton, CT 06424 Also available in late summer 2018 at local stores, Amazon, and Barnes & Noble. Information (860)267-2442 or

Posted in The Bristol Press, General News on Monday, 5 March 2018 20:56. Updated: Monday, 5 March 2018 20:58.