The time is not far off when the last remaining open area on Connecticut’s shoreline is usurped for some private purpose.~Governor John Dempsey, 1961.
Today someone in Hartford, Ct. wanting to go to the beach is probably thinking about driving to Cape Cod or Rhode Island or even the Jersey shore. They’re not thinking about driving 50 minutes south to Old Lyme or Saybrook or Milford and any other coastal town in Connecticut. The shoreline is pretty much closed off to all but the lucky few whose grandparents or great-grandparents bought cottages at private beach clubs and associations many decades ago. The privatization of Connecticut beaches began around 1917 and was the work of one real estate company with fixed ideas about who should have access to the shore. In The Cottage Industry, I imagined a story in which a troubled WWI pilot returns to Connecticut, three years after the war ended, and takes a job with such a company. It’s Prohibition and he soon finds trouble with bootleggers and crooked deputies. He has to turn away potential buyers who are the wrong ethnicity or religion. And the Old Lyme Art Colony isn’t happy about having their bucolic landscapes razed for summer beachgoers.
A 1934 aerial view of the Old Lyme beachfront. The cottages in the lower right are part of a private beach called Edge Lea. The four streets to the left are Old Lyme Shores (OLS). My grandfather’s cottage won’t appear until after 1951. Then there is the Old Colony Beach and Sound View. Beyond the marsh and Mile Creek is Hawk’s Nest. The OLS water tower is up; it was still there in the 1970s. The Sound View train station is there, but by the early 1960s only bits of wood and concrete will remain. Today, you’d need an archeologist to find any hint of it.