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Monday, October 5, 2015

THE CITY POINT YACHT CLUB, the longest continuously-operating yacht club in the nation

Speranza

The building is “Hallock’s cottage, now owned by the railroad (and soon to be demolished). 

It originally was located one block north on Cedar, across from the beginning of Cassius Street, on the side now filled with the rail yard (all of which was part of New Haven's harbor until the late 1860s). 
The enclosed roundhouse was once the site of a beach resort: “The Cedars”. 

Continue southward past the turntable–which looks and functions like a roundhouse but is unenclosed–passing First St.. 

The large building on the right is Seamless Rubber Co. (later called Seamco; in the 1980s it will be called One Long Wharf, and the portion of harbor behind the factory, along the right of your screen, will become One Long Wharf’s parking lot. 

And the rear of the factory will become its front entrance.

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Continuing down Hallock, four buildings south of Seamless (just past Third St.), the long dock jutting into the harbor is none other than the famous City Point Yacht Club. 

The last buildings on the right are Model Family Laundries, occupying the same facility once owned by American Oyster Co. 

Notice the sandy beach that extends from Seamless to Bayview Park. 

This is the harbor’s last remaining piece of original western beach.

Let’s continue down Hallock through the park. 

On the right (where Park Drive takes a sharp southward bend) you barely can make out Mr. Post’s ice cream stand. 

The bare spots south of this mark the playground: swings, chutes, seesaws, etc.

 And south of that lies the centerpiece of the “lower park”: the duck pond. 

To the left is the “upper park”, the white spot being the Civil War monument. 

Now continue almost to the end of Hallock. In the wooded area along the southern edge of the park, slightly left of center, you barely can see part of the basketball/badminton court that neighborhood kids have just finished building themselves. 

The city supplied materials. (In four years all of these trees, as well as those we just passed lining Hallock, will be toppled in the ’38 Hurricane.)
Now follow Sea St. to the right. 

Carl Bishop’s house is still standing on its triangular lot, surrounded by trees. 

In less than a decade it will be demolished.

At the junction of Sea & South Water the sewer pipe is discharging raw sewage directly into the harbor. However, this doesn’t deter people from fishing off the pipe. 

In a few years a sewage treatment plant will be built here on infill jutting eastward into the harbor, the site later to be occupied by the Sound School’s aquaculture building. 

The sewer pipe will be disconnected, a pier built upon it– and people will continue to fish there.

Between gracefully curving Park Drive and the harbor is a badly deteriorated wooden bulkhead, built in 1891. 

Aldermen have been complaining for years that it needs to be replaced. 

And soon it will be, with a stone seawall backed with an iron fence.
Now let’s walk along the heart of the old oyster village: 

South Water Street. 

People who live elsewhere in City Point call this street The End. 

The street itself was built on infill, circa early 1860s, also originally held in place with a wooden bulkhead and paved with oyster shells. 

Prior to the 1860s the original beach came within a few feet of the houses on the north/odd-numbered side of the street.  

The major business we see, beginning near the sewer pipe and working our way to the left, are Anderson’s boatyard (“naval architect”), Wedmore, Thomas & McNeil oyster companies. 

Between these oyster companies and Howard Ave. is a long stretch of beach: Lane’s Shore. 

Across the street is the Lane mansion, now Mrs. Perry’s convalescent home. 

Soon it will burn to the ground. 

A few years later Erwin Bradley will move the old Lane garage forward, turn it around and transform it into a modern gambrel-roofed Colonial Revival house.

At each corner of Howard & S. Water Charlie Eaton & Morey Libson operate small grocery stores. 

Charlie doesn’t have an electric meat slicer, so his baloney sandwiches are thicker than Libson’s. 

Continuing to the dead-end of S. Water, City Point’s oldest houses are on the right. 

The two principal oyster companies at this end are Sea Coast (occupying the old Smith Bros. building) and Law (the latter being the sole survivor of the earliest companies to be established on the Point when Gerard Hallock began selling the southern tip of his property in the late 1840s).


Passing the last two houses on South Water, Nos. 121 & 123 (which will be torn down in the 1980s to build a gated condominium fortress), follow the footpath that goes behind the houses on Howard up to Sea St. 

The clear area to the left of this path is several feet below street level. 

Residents along this block use it as a dump. 

Next year the City Point ACs [Athletic Club] will build a baseball diamond here, the boys hauling wheelbarrows of sand up from the beach to level the area.

Take the path back down to South Water St. Where the path meets S. Water is a long building, parallel to S. Water, numbered 125 to 131. 

People call this “The Barracks”. 

Workers for the oyster companies and poor folk live here.  

From here take the path that goes west, ending at the shore with two buildings. 

These are actually houseboats on which the owners live year round. 

A boy who lives on one of the houseboats can be heard playing his bugle every evening. 

The locals come to this beach to swim, have picnics and roast potatoes.
Let’s turn around and head up Howard Ave. 

The white strip you see down the center of the road is the single trolley track, serving both northbound and southbound cars. (At Fourth St. it divides into separate tracks for North & South, which is why the white strip appears wider at that point.) 

At the first intersection, go left onto Sea St. Where Sea St. ends, a dirt road angles sharply northward toward Kimberly Ave. 

Officially this is the beginning of the Boulevard, but everyone calls it “Dump Road”. 

A road was planned for here as far back as the 1880s, appears in the 1888 city atlas as a dotted line, and is listed in the city directory beginning in 1895 as starting at Sea St., since this is when the sewer line for the future road was installed. 

Residents used the sewer pipe as a footbridge to cross the salt marsh between Sea St. and Kimberly Ave.

However, the dirt road you see here wasn’t built until 1929, using mud hauled up from the mouth of the West River as it was being dredged. Almost immediately it became an impromptu dump, as residents began tossing everything from old furniture to junked automobiles down the embankment between the road and the shore. Now the city has taken it over. (During the Urban Renewal of the 1950s much of the Oak Street neighborhood will end up here as demolition rubble.) 

Today in 1934 it’s been five years since Dump Road was created, cutting off and draining the West River salt marsh -- so City Point is no longer a “point”.

The former salt marsh–which everyone called The Mud Flats–is now just about dry enough to begin playing football and baseball here. 

Only the area around Dump Road actually was filled with dredging spoils.

St. Peter parish already had filled the upper end of the West River salt marsh to build a school in 1911and, just three years ago, a new  church. This left a noticeable depression in the center of the field. So even though its official name is Kimberly Field, everyone calls it “St. Peter’s Oval” or simply “The Oval”. (About five decades later the depression will be filled, leveling the field.)
Let’s turn around and head back to Howard Ave. 

As you pass the beginning of Greenwich Ave., you’ll notice there are still a number of empty lots on the first block of the Avenue. (Some of the neighborhood’s newest houses will be built here.) The first two blocks of Howard include mansions built by oyster company owners, and farther up, mansions built by other successful businessmen. 

Yet the two-family house is the predominant type in the neighborhood. 

Nevertheless, the well-to-do had no qualms about building their fine homes right in the midst of humbler dwellings. 

And, from both a sociological and architectural standpoint, it all somehow seems to work. 

In the late 20th century city planners will “rediscover” the merits of this concept, dubbing it “mixed income housing”–and require it of new developments.

A few of the mansions have been divided into apartments. 

In a few decades nearly all will become multi-family houses, but most will survive. 

A notable exception will be the Fresenius Mansion at Second St. and Howard, on the northeast corner. 

In six years Seamless will demolish it to make a parking lot. 

Four decades later the city will replace the parking lot with pre-fab “infill” housing, making no attempt to create homes that are architecturally compatible with the surrounding houses.)
As Howard passes by the upper park, take a long look at the houses on your left. (In sixteen years most of this row will be doomed, as the priorities of highway department bureaucrats will supersede the needs of humans.) 

The soldier on your right stands on the very spot where the 9th Regiment Connecticut Volunteers (the “Irish Regiment”) encamped. 

In sixteen years this hallowed soil will be carried away by earth-moving machines and dumped into the harbor, as a highway splits what’s left of  the park  in two.

At the end of the park, at Fifth and Howard, stop at Mr. Post’s for a piece of candy: it’s your last chance to see the old man. He’s about to sell the place to a fellow named Balber.
Continue across the railroad tracks. We’re definitely in the Hill now, but everyone in City Point goes bowling at the Howard Bowling Alleys and watches movies at the Howard Theatre. 

Turn around and head down Kimberly Avenue. No one can agree on how to identify this place, which is understandable. For much of its history it’s been cut off from the rest of the city by a rail road cut, and separated from the Point by a salt marsh.  

Yet it’s always been the area where City Point residents shop, have a drink, get a haircut, send their kids to St. Peter or Kimberly Ave. schools and, if their kids attend Truman School, they walk down Second St. or across the Oval to get to the Grant Street foot bridge over the tracks. Some residents here say they live in the Hill, others say they’re part of City Point. 

A few residents even say, regardless of where you live, if you attend St. Peter’s you live in City Point, if you attend Sacred Heart you live in the Hill. 

This “identity crisis” begins with the area’s centerpiece, Kimberly Square which, despite its name, is not a square–but a triangle! Prohibition was repealed just last year, but most people still call the square by its nickname “Prohibition Square” since everyone knew you could buy a drink at any of the square’s “restaurants”, as long as the owner knew you. 

During Prohibition the West River at the end of Kimberly was a primary entryway for smuggled hooch. 

The wreckage of a rum runner that had been shot up by federal agents will continue to lie on the beach near the mouth of the West River into the 1970s. 

When the Boulevard finally is completed with a bridge over the railroad tracks in 1978, city planners will try to resolve the identity issue by calling the area the “Kimberly Square Neighborhood”, in an effort to revitalize it.

Before we end our tour, be sure to check the 1934 city directory for the many shops lining Kimberly, and note the huge number of people residing on a single block of Plymouth.

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