This pristine inlet looks like it might be somewhere in downeast Maine. An old farmhouse sits in a grassy field that runs down to the water. Dense trees line the cove and another body of water and a barren hillside are in the background. There isn’t a sailboat or a motor yacht in sight—of course not, since this lovely watercolor was painted in 1860 by Charles DeWolf Brownell, an artist who is best known for his iconic painting of the Charter Oak before its fall. Brownell was a keen yachtsman who spent summers exploring the Connecticut River and Long Island Sound. This watercolor depicts Hamburg Cove, a popular gunkhole in Old Lyme, Connecticut. Today on summer afternoons, the boats are rafted up four and five deep on the docks and moorings, with laughter and music and lots of people having a good time. The surrounding area has built up, too, though the lower Connecticut Valley retains much of its natural beauty and has been designated an American Heritage River and one of the Western Hemisphere’s Last Great Places.
This watercolor is one of over two hundred watercolors and oil paintings from the Connecticut Historical Society and other Connecticut institutions that are being digitized with support from the National Endowment for the Arts. Look for them soon in Connecticut History Online.