Attractions - East Haddam

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AMASA DAY HOUSE
33 Plains Road, Moodus section of East Haddam
(860) 247-8996 x12
 
This Federal style home was built in 1816 for farmer, Colonel Julius Chapman. It was acquired at auction by Amasa Day, a successful businessman, in 1841. Three successive generations of Days later lived in the house. It is a two and one half story modified rectangle with gabled roof, three interior chimneys, and modillion cornice. It has a center entrance with fanlight and a small pedimented entrance porch. There are corner pilasters and lunettes in the end pediments. Of special note is a rare stairwell stenciling. Also on display are a selection of photographs taken by pioneering American pictorialist art photographer Dr. Amasa Day Chaffee between 1890 and 1925. The house stayed in the family until 1967 when it was donated to Connecticut Landmarks. Open by appointment only by contacting Connecticut Landmarks at (860) 247-8996 ext. 12 or amasa.day@ctlandmarks.org.
 
 
CONGREGATIONAL CHURCH
499 Town Street, Little Haddam section of East Haddam
(860) 873-9084
 
The prevailing religion in the early settlements of the river valley was Congregationalism. Originally a central meeting house served as the town hall, church and community center. With town growth, the church became a separate structure. The First Church of Christ, Congregational is an architectural masterpiece. Designed by the famed architect Lavius Fillmore, it was built in 1794. The graceful Doric columns surmounted by Roman arches, a Palladian window and star-spangled, domed ceiling add grandeur to the structure. Features such as the high pulpit, handblown glass panes and enormous wrought iron hinges and locks have made this building famous in the area.
 
 
EAST HADDAM HISTORICAL SOCIETY MUSEUM
264 Town Street, East Haddam
(860).873-3944
 
Among the highlights of the museum are a photographic display of the rise and fall of the Industrial Age in Moodus Village, Native American artifacts dating to 1300 B.C. a photographic exhibit of the building of the East Haddam swing bridge, and a collection of changing fashions with period costumes on display.
 
The museum is open Memorial Day through Columbus Day, Friday through Sunday 10am-4pm and by appointment. Tickets are $5 per adult; children under 12 free.
 
 
EAST HADDAM STAGE COMPANY (EHSCO)
P.O. Box 176  East Haddam, CT 06423
(860) 873-3521 (productions at various locations)
 
The East Haddam Stage Company was established in 2001 to produce non-musical theatre events emphasizing character, story and language. EHSCO is a professional company utilizing diverse and creative CT staff and talent. We showcase new works by CT playwrights, established plays and other spoken word art forms such as poetry and staged readings.
 
Past productions include: William Gillette's 'All the Comforts of Home', A.R. Gurney's 'Love Letters', Rick Balian's 'Pictures At An American Exhibition', CT playwright Suzanne Wingrove's 'Flights of Fancy', our biannual 'Plays and Poetry', which combines award winning short one-act plays with works by living CT poets. As well as the on-going touring show 'They Called Me Lizzy... from Slavery to the White House' an original one-woman play about the life of Elizabeth Keckly, a slave who bought her freedom then went on to become dressmaker and confidant to Mary Todd Lincoln.
 
See website or calendar for dates and ticket information about our next production.
 
 
EAST HADDAM SWING BRIDGE
Route 82, East Haddam
 
The river was originally crossed by canoe, later by raft. Eventually a chain and sail scow was employed. Finally, in 1894, the "most modern" river conveyance, a steam ferry, was installed. Today the bridge, which swings to accommodate river traffic, is a local landmark. Built in 1913, the 899-foot long bridge is reputed to be the longest of its type in the world. The bridge opens to recreational traffic on the hour and half hour and on-demand for commercial barge traffic.
 
 
GELSTON HOUSE
8 Main Street, East Haddam
(860) 873-1411
 
Built in 1736 by Jabez Chapman, the Gelston House was originally named "The River Slide Inn". According to town records, Mr. Chapman was granted a tavern license and operated a "dwelling house". In 1776 a Mr. Gelston purchased the inn and the Gelston family maintained the property until 1825 when they sold it to Joseph Goodspeed. In 1853, a number of East Haddam residents formed the Gelston Hotel Company and purchased the inn. George Gelston, son of a former proprietor, headed the corporation. Now owned by the Goodspeed Opera House Foundation, the Gelston House still serves travelers and theatergoers with its restaurant, tavern and guestrooms.
 
 
GILLETTE CASTLE
67 River Road, Hadlyme section of East Haddam
(860) 526-2336
 
Inspired by his love of the Connecticut River, Hartford native William Gillette began construction of his "castle" in 1914. The building, said to be modeled after the Normandy fortress of Robert LeDiable, father of William the Conqueror, was not completed until 1919. Standing 200 feet above sea level, it affords visitors a spectacular view of the river valley.
Best known for his role as Sherlock Holmes, Gillette was hugely successful and having amassed a sizeable personal fortune, he spared nothing in the design of his castle. The imposing granite walls, four to five feet thick, and twenty-four oddly shaped windows are evidence of his individuality. A railroad buff, Gillette even designed and built a three-mile train system to transport guests down to the river. The castle grounds include hiking trails and picnic facilities. The castle and grounds are now a state park and both have recently undergone an extensive renovation. The restoration of the castle interior includes the furniture and paintings, as well as the woodwork and wallcoverings.
 
The Castle is open everyday for tours from Memorial Day weekend through Columbus Day from 10am to 4:30pm. Tours are $4 for adults and $2 for children. Staff are available to assist with questions about the castle and its history. A Visitor's Center offers river views, gift shop, food concessions, and restrooms. Admission to the park grounds is open year round and free.
 
The nearby Chester-Hadlyme ferry operates on a seasonal basis, transporting cars and passengers across the Connecticut River via Route 148.  http://www.ct.gov/dot/cwp/view.asp?a=1380&Q=259724&dotPNavCtr=|40046|#40052 
 
GOODSPEED MUSICALS
SCHERER LIBRARY OF MUSICAL THEATRE
20 Norwich Road, East Haddam
(860) 873-8664 x373
 
Goodspeed’s Scherer Library of Musical Theatre is one of the most extensive musical theatre research facilities in the United States. Dedicated to preserving the rich legacy of the art form, the library maintains a comprehensive collection of scores, sheet music, scripts, original cast recordings, programs, photographs and theatre memorabilia. Established in the 1970s to provide historical research for Goodspeed productions, the library has evolved into a valuable resource for theatres across the country, as well as students, scholars and the public.
 
The materials in the library are available to the public for research and reference by appointment which may be made Monday through Friday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., or by special arrangement.
 
 
GOODSPEED OPERA HOUSE
6 Main St., PO Box A, East Haddam
(860) 873- 8668
 
Built in 1876 for William H. Goodspeed, ship builder, merchant, banker and lover of theatre, this Victorian gem was originally designed for passenger and freight service from the basement river level, with a store, offices and a theatre on the upper level. Goodspeed's death marked the decline of the theater and when river commerce waned, the building was put to a variety of commercial uses including a militia base during World War I and a storage depot for the Connecticut Highway Department in the 1950-60s. The building was acquired by the Goodspeed Opera House Foundation in 1959. After extensive restoration, it was rededicated as a theatre in 1963.
 
Today the opera house serves as Goodspeed Musicals' headquarters and primary performance venue, producing 3 musicals each season between April and December. Goodspeed Musicals pioneered the practice of rethinking, restoring and revitalizing America's musical theatre heritage. A non-profit organization, Goodspeed is dedicated to the preservation and advancement of musical theatre and to the development of new works to add to the repertoire. Nineteen Goodspeed productions have gone on to Broadway, including the premiers of Annie, Shenandoah and Man of La Mancha. Goodspeed itself has received two Special Tony Awards, one in 1980 for outstanding contribution to the American musical and the second in 1995 for outstanding achievement for a regional theatre. The Goodspeed box office, located in the lobby of the opera house, is open 7 days a week or by phone at 860-873-8668.
 
Tours of the Opera House are conducted June through October on Saturday from 11:00a.m. to 1:00p.m. The tour lasts 60 minutes and explore places such as backstage and the actors’ dressing rooms. The cost is $5 for adults and $1 for children under 12. Group tours available by appointment only.
 
 
NATHAN HALE SCHOOL HOUSE
behind St. Stephen's Church on Route 149, East Haddam
(860) 873-3399
 
This one-room schoolhouse was built in 1750. Nathan Hale, Connecticut Revolutionary War hero, served here as schoolmaster from 1773 to 1774. The building was moved from Goodspeed Plaza to its present location on a hill overlooking East Haddam Village and Connecticut River. A bust of Hale at Goodspeed Plaza marks the building's original site. Owned by the Sons of the American Revolution, the schoolhouse has displays of Nathan Hale's possessions and items of local history. During the winter months, eagles can be seen perched in the tall pine trees on the schoolhouse grounds.
 
The schoolhouse is open May through October on Wednesday through Sunday (and Holidays) from noon to 4:00pm or by appointment.
 
 
RAY OF LIGHT FARM
232 Town Street, East Haddam
(860) 873-1895
 
Ray of Light Farm, Inc. is a non-profit animal rescue and animal-assisted therapy center committed to helping people make a positive connection with life through our animals. The public is invited to visit and see the vast collection of animals, including llamas and an alpaca, goats, pigs, rabbits, chickens, ducks, geese, turkeys, guinea pigs, guinea fowl, miniature cows, miniature donkeys, mini horses, mules, and, of course, horses and ponies. Farm and Tack Shop open daily (except closed on Wednesday) from 10am to 3pm. Free self-guided tour.
 
The farm also offers pony rides, horse-drawn wagon rides, riding instruction, educational children’s programs and a party room. See website or call for schedule and fees.
 
 
ST. STEPHEN'S BELL
Route 149, East Haddam
 
The bell now hanging in St. Stephens Episcopal Church, on Main Street, East Haddam is thought to be the oldest bell in the New World. It was originally cast for a Spanish monastery in 815A.D. When Napoleon invaded Spain, the church housing the bell was destroyed and the bell left among the rubble. 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.
 
 
VENTURE SMITH GRAVE
First Church of Christ, Congregational Cemetery
Across from the Old Town Hall, Town Street, Little Haddam section of East Haddam
 
A site on the Freedom Trail, the grave of Venture Smith (1729 - 1805) is located in the First Church Cemetery near the stonewall next to the church about half way back from Town Street. Smith was captured as a child in Africa and brought to Connecticut where he was sold as a slave. Despite being a slave, he was allowed work at other jobs, eventually earning the money to purchase his freedom and that of his wife and children. One of his sons served in the American Revolution. His wife is buried next to him, and near by is the grave of another son, Solomon, who served in the War of 1812. Venture's granddaughter, who died in 1902, is buried here as well. Venture Smith dictated a pamphlet about his experiences that can be read in the book Five Black Lives.