13 Historical Fun Facts About East Lyme

There’s a strong chance that if you’re reading this, you live in East Lyme. There is also a pretty high chance that you’ve lived in East Lyme your entire life. Yes, you’re a local, but do you know the history behind our little coastal town? Here are 13 facts to add to your database of East Lyme knowledge, along with where to find the best pizza and what back roads to take when summer people slow down the main roads.

  1. The plot of land that houses CVS in Flanders Four Corners used to be Old Caulkins Tavern in the 18th century. This was a popular gathering spot for the Sons of Liberty during the Revolutionary War. So yes, George Washington himself has walked around the same spot where you buy dish detergent.
  2. East Lyme is wrongly referred to as “Niantic” fairly often. You know this if you’re from Flanders, because trying to explain that East Lyme is more than just the beach side of town gets very old very fast.
  3. The name “Niantic” comes from the Nehantic people (Native Americans) who previously occupied present day Connecticut and Rhode Island.
  4. The Children’s Museum downtown is in the same spot that was formerly the original East Lyme Public Library.
  5. We used to have an amusement park! The Golden Spur Amusement Park was an amusement park created in hopes of increasing riders on the East Lyme Street Railway, a trolley system that connected East Lyme and New London (and later Old Saybrook).
  6. Golden Spur included attractions such as a fun house, dance hall, skating rink, and different types of boat and canoe rentals. One of the more eccentric attractions, however, were J. W. Gorman’s World Famous Diving Horses. This sight was a platform lifted above the river from which trained horses would dive. Neat.
  7. As the railroad system came to East Lyme, so did tourism. Starting around 1852, these OG summer people would come to Niantic to enjoy the beauty of the coast and seek release from urban summers.
  8. The fishing industry began to grow in the 1800s and brought more population to the beach side of our town. In turn, commercialization grew, and Niantic became the hub of East Lyme rather than Flanders.
  9. Hole-in-the-Wall beach is named for the entrance to the beach itself, a passageway tucked away underneath railroad tracks.
  10. The infamous “The Seaside” of Waterford, sanatorium turned elderly home turned mental hospital, actually originated in East Lyme. The original “The Seaside” sat near Crescent beach, and was forced to move elsewhere in 1934 when the McCook family refused to sell them land to expand the facility.
  11. The Seaside was the first and only tuberculosis treatment center at the time of its creation in 1920.
  12. The temple in Pine Grove sits on the previous land of the Pine Grove Spiritualist Camp. Spiritualism is the idea that the dead have the ability and drive to communicate with the living, and that lost souls continue to grow and evolve in the afterlife. This camp came to creation as the popularity of Spiritualism grew in the 1900s.
  13. The Ellie Mitchell Pavilion at Rocky Neck houses a tree from every state park in existence in 1934. The trees are used as wooden support pillars.

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