It’s the Fourth of July. An American flag is flying from Fort Trumbull, and a stately procession of tall ships is leaving New London harbor. The monument commemorating the Revolutionary War Battle of Groton Heights is visible in the background. It could almost be a snapshot taken during OpSail, but this drawing was made by an artist more than one hundred years ago, and the ships are contemporary working vessels, not museum relics. The artist, Reynolds Beal, was part of an artists’ colony at Noank, Connecticut, where he spent his summers in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century. Some summers he chartered a sailboat, cruising up and down Long Island Sound, making sketches along the waterfront. A sketchbook from 1899, which he spent on the yawl Starfire, and a few other drawings of Connecticut coastal scenes are in the collections of the Connecticut Historical Society. Beal made his drawing of Fort Trumbull on July 4, 1887. That was just one year after my grandmother was born, and one year before my grandfather’s family immigrated from Ireland. Yet the view doesn’t look much different than it does today.
Tag Archives: Sailing ships
On the Road with Richard Welling: Along the Maine Coast
When I was growing up, my family spent two weeks in Maine every summer, and those were probably the best two weeks of my entire year. Later on, when I was grown up and living in the Boston area, I went to Maine frequently, both on weekend day trips and for extended vacations, exploring parts of the state that I hadn’t known as a child. When CHS was given the Richard Welling Collection in 2011-2012, I was delighted to discover that Richard Welling had drawn many of my favorite Maine landmarks, including the Hesper and the Luther B. Little, two derelict schooners on the waterfront in Wiscasset. In fact, he made this drawing one summer while he was traveling with his daughter, just as I used to travel up the Maine coast with my parents long ago. The old schooners are gone now; after decades of vandalism and decay, their remains were moved to a local landfill in 1998. What I didn’t realize when I used to stop to admire the old ships was that such abandoned wrecks were once not an uncommon sight throughout New England, even right here in Connecticut. For many years, the old wooden whaler Colgate could be seen rotting away in Winthrop Cove in New London. To see more pictures by Richard Welling, visit the Richard Welling Collection in the CHS online catalog. To see pictures of Colgate, before and after it was abandoned in Winthrop Cove, look in Connecticut History Online.