DOWN IN THE VALLEY – NAUGATUCK RIVER, CONNECTICUT

The lower Naugatuck River Valley, also known simply as “The Valley,” was once the state’s most prosperous region. In the 19th and 20th centuries industry ran swiftly through The Valley, just like the river that made it possible. These quintessential mill towns led the way in the manufacturing of brass and rubber as well as shipbuilding. The borough of Naugatuck gave us the modern wonder of artificial leather known as Naugahyde. These communities were key in helping change the perception of “Made in the USA” from one of inferior workmanship to the world standard of high quality that it is today.

As towns grew and industry increased in The Valley so did the amount of sewage and pollution that poured into the river. After enduring centuries of abuse the river could take no more — and in came The Great Depression as punishment. It brought economic downturn, a shrinking population and urban decay. The Valley was Connecticut’s localized version of the nation’s larger Rustbelt — with its empty storefronts and abandoned buildings. 

In 1955 Hurricane Diane came calling to finish the job, washing away any fortune still remaining and decimating entire neighborhoods. These are now commuter towns for some, with pockets of luxury homes serving as a bedroom community to New York City and lower Fairfield County. However, no one would mistake this area for anything other than the working-class towns they have always been.

You can travel quickly through this region on Route 8 as it snakes north and south like The Valley’s namesake river. The highway offers distant glimpses of some towns while it slices straight through others. To get off the highway and onto the local streets is a reminder that these are river towns as there is a constant slope to navigate as you make your way either down to the Naugatuck River or up and away from it.

Away from the town centers, the old neighborhoods and brick buildings start to thin as they give way to farmland. Barns and farmhouses dot the countryside and where the road rises you can catch sight of the indigo hue of the Litchfield Hills in winter. Out here you can forget about hydropower and all that talk about industry and manufacturing and remember there was once a simpler life along the river that didn’t belch smoke and dust. It belonged to the Algonquian peoples who originally spoke the word “Naugatuck” to mean “lone tree by the fishing place”. The river is cleaner now, and the fish have returned, but more than one way of life is gone forever in The Valley.

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Guide to the Northeast Brett Klein lives in Connecticut and works in New York, but prefers small town life and his home state of Maine. Any chance to get rural is a mental vacation. Follow Klein on Tumblr at The Coast is Clear. His curatorial collection of Americana, rural life, other artists and ephemera can be seen on Tumblr at Tons of Land.

SAILFEST - NEW LONDON, CONNECTICUT

There was a brief moment in the past week when we worried we wouldn’t get word from Connecticut. Luckily, Pearl came to our rescue with this beautiful dispatch for Field Assignment #4: Folk Festivals, Pageants, Celebrations and Customs

Sailfest is a yearly street fair that takes place in New London, CT in July. The festival ends with fireworks over the Harbor that can be enjoyed from land and sea.

These images were taken at Sailfest 2013 with a Pentax K1000 loaded with expired Fuji 400.

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Find Pearl on Tumblr at pearlmsqueaks.tumblr.com.

LAKE WARAMAUG - NEW PRESTON, CONNECTICUT

North from New Preston Village on State 45 is Lake Waramaug (L), 0.6 m., one of the most beautiful natural bodies of water in the State. Bordered by many summer residences, hotels of the better type, a private country club, and, agh the head of the lake on the west shore, a State Park of 75 acres offering camping, bathing, fishing, and picnic facilities, this pure lake is a favorite vacation spot for New York and Connecticut people.

Connecticut, A Guide To Its Roads, Lore, and People (WPA, 1938)

Chief Waramaug summered in this area and used it as his winter hunting grounds. While he supposedly had a 20,000 square foot longhouse, your weekend accommodations are no less noble, and involve refrigeration. Currently an 8-mile drive takes you around the 680-acre lake. While you make that loop you’ll pass through the Connecticut towns of Kent, Washington and Warren. You’ll pass new homes and old, some teardowns and renovations, some 1900 Adirondack classics still relevant, some artistic and beautiful studios built on the grandfathered foundations of old boathouse footprints. Not a longhouse in sight, but you can camp at the state park on the lakeshore.

You can make a day trip, just a half hour off the I-84 east-west corridor northeast of Danbury, to a place that feels a bit like somewhere else—someplace not so close. Or you can celebrate your parents’ 50th Anniversary in style, only do it two plus years later because of hurricanes and the erratic schedules of all involved.

This would be true for probably any lake, that when you go there you don’t want anything to take you away. You just want to be on the lake. Or on the porch staring at the lake. Although if an emergency room visit for stitches and a tetanus shot is required because someone manhandled that metal canoe a bit too roughly, then you’ll make that trip, too.

On that last day (not so ironically it is Labor Day), when you see your 12-year-old niece snapping early morning pictures of the lake with her new iPhone, you know you’re not the only one that could chuck it all for a simpler life.

But you leave it all behind for someone else and their security deposit.

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Guide to the Northeast Brett Klein lives in Connecticut and works in New York, but prefers small town life and his home state of Maine. Any chance to get rural is a mental vacation. Follow Klein on Tumblr at The Coast is Clear. His curatorial collection of Americana, rural life, other artists and ephemera can be seen on Tumblr at Tons of Land.

LITCHFIELD COUNTY, CONNECTICUT

Connecticut’s largest county, Litchfield, is also its least populous. Tucked in the northwest corner of the state, bordering both New York and Massachusetts, Litchfield is fairly rural with lots of farmland and small town centers that look and feel like they were plucked from a Norman Rockwell painting—which they certainly could have been, as Rockwell’s home was not far away in Stockbridge, Mass. 

Connecticut has over 500 miles of dirt roads and you’ll find the majority of them here in Litchfield. In the summer this is an area that city people retreat to, to breathe the fresh air of the outdoors that the county offers with its camping and hiking; taking advantage of the Berkshire Mountains, the Housatonic River, the antique stores and the farmers markets. 

In the winter, Litchfield seems more isolated and it becomes apparent why private schools like Kent and Hotchkiss are situated in an area that is so quiet, removed from anything that might distract from their studies. It’s a quiet time of year; the farmers’ fields seem larger and the woods seem deeper without their foliage, and the deer have fewer places to hide.

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Guide to the Northeast Brett Klein lives in Connecticut and works in New York, but prefers small town life and his homestate of Maine. Any chance to get rural is a mental vacation. Follow Klein on Tumblr at The Coast is Clear. His curatorial collection of Americana, rural life, other artists and ephemera can be seen on Tumblr at Tons of Land.

OYSTERTOWN - CONNECTICUT

NORWALK (Ind.: Norwaake, or Naramake) is an industrial city, spreading across both sides of the island-fringed harbor of the Norwalk River.

— Connecticut, A Guide To Its Roads, Lore, and People (WPA, 1938)

Norwalk, once nicknamed Oystertown, is part of Connecticut’s Fairfield County, also referred to as “The Gold Coast” because of the immense wealth of its residents who live in the various storybook towns and houses dotting the Atlantic coastline. Norwalk, however, doesn’t quite share the same qualities as most of these towns. It still very much reflects its blue-collar history, the opposite of the town’s white-collared neighbors Westport, Darien, New Canaan, and Wilton. 

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Guide to the Northeast Brett Klein lives in Connecticut and works in New York, but prefers small town life and his homestate of Maine. Any chance to get rural is a mental vacation. Follow Klein on Tumblr at The Coast is Clear. His curatorial collection of Americana, rural life, other artists and ephemera can be seen on Tumblr at Tons of Land.

ALL ROADS LEAD TO NEWTOWN

…this route passes through level country to Danbury, winding up hills to Newtown with its fine views over valleys and rolling hills from the hilltop main street.

— Connecticut, A Guide To Its Roads, Lore, and People (WPA, 1938)

In the days after the school shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary the whole world seemed to be streaming into Newtown, Connecticut, as fast as they could. All roads led there, like a network of veins feeding a heart.

Waves of people and intensity broke over the hamlet. Traffic from every direction was a one-lane parking lot of cars at a dead stop.

I’d been through Newtown years ago and there was no particular attraction that would have warranted my return except maybe its quaintness and its general store, so the enormity that was now dwarfing this town was a striking reminder of how small Newtown really is. That flagpole you can see at the top of the hill is the best example of this: there are few towns in America that could have a flagpole literally in the middle of the road in the center of their town at a four way intersection that has no stop signs. On a normal day there is so little traffic it’s effortless to navigate this landmark, but now it was gridlock.

In contrast with that old flagpole, which has stood since 1876, was the makeshift one freshly planted in the middle of a farmer’s cornfield. It was there because nobody knew what to do with their grief. So to compensate, there were temporary memorials wherever you looked: in the town center, on the side of the highway, in front of the tall pine tree in Sandy Hook. Piles of flowers, mounds of stuffed animals, handmade signs to pray. And those signs were everywhere: “Pray for Newtown” — “Pray for Sandy Hook” — “Pray.” 

Editor’s note: Pictures were taken in Newtown, Connecticut, on December 16 and 17, 2012.

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Maine State Guide Brett Klein lives in Connecticut and works in New York, but prefers small town life and his homestate of Maine. Any chance to get rural is a mental vacation. Follow Klein on Tumblr at The Coast is Clear. His curatorial collection of Americana, rural life, other artists and ephemera can be seen on Tumblr at Tons of Land.


MYSTIC, CONNECTICUT








For generations Mystic was the home of daring mariners and fishermen and was feared by the British during the Revolution as “a cursed little hornet’s nest.” 







—Connecticut: A Guide To Its Roads, Lore, and People (WPA, 1938)
Today, Mystic is home to the Mystic Aquarium, where one of our New England guides, Brittany Marcoux, stopped for a visit:







I am not from Connecticut by any means…but one of the best parts of living on the south coast of Massachusetts is that almost every state on the east coast is only a short road trip away. These photographs are from a trip to Mystic, CT - home of the Mystic Aquarium and the famous Mystic Pizza! 







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Brittany Marcoux is a Guide to Rhode Island and an At-Large Guide to New England for The American Guide. She’s a photographer and a native New Englander. Follow her work on Tumblr or via her website. 
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MYSTIC, CONNECTICUT








For generations Mystic was the home of daring mariners and fishermen and was feared by the British during the Revolution as “a cursed little hornet’s nest.” 







—Connecticut: A Guide To Its Roads, Lore, and People (WPA, 1938)
Today, Mystic is home to the Mystic Aquarium, where one of our New England guides, Brittany Marcoux, stopped for a visit:







I am not from Connecticut by any means…but one of the best parts of living on the south coast of Massachusetts is that almost every state on the east coast is only a short road trip away. These photographs are from a trip to Mystic, CT - home of the Mystic Aquarium and the famous Mystic Pizza! 







* * *
Brittany Marcoux is a Guide to Rhode Island and an At-Large Guide to New England for The American Guide. She’s a photographer and a native New Englander. Follow her work on Tumblr or via her website. 
Zoom Info

MYSTIC, CONNECTICUT








For generations Mystic was the home of daring mariners and fishermen and was feared by the British during the Revolution as “a cursed little hornet’s nest.” 







—Connecticut: A Guide To Its Roads, Lore, and People (WPA, 1938)
Today, Mystic is home to the Mystic Aquarium, where one of our New England guides, Brittany Marcoux, stopped for a visit:







I am not from Connecticut by any means…but one of the best parts of living on the south coast of Massachusetts is that almost every state on the east coast is only a short road trip away. These photographs are from a trip to Mystic, CT - home of the Mystic Aquarium and the famous Mystic Pizza! 







* * *
Brittany Marcoux is a Guide to Rhode Island and an At-Large Guide to New England for The American Guide. She’s a photographer and a native New Englander. Follow her work on Tumblr or via her website. 
Zoom Info

MYSTIC, CONNECTICUT








For generations Mystic was the home of daring mariners and fishermen and was feared by the British during the Revolution as “a cursed little hornet’s nest.” 







—Connecticut: A Guide To Its Roads, Lore, and People (WPA, 1938)
Today, Mystic is home to the Mystic Aquarium, where one of our New England guides, Brittany Marcoux, stopped for a visit:







I am not from Connecticut by any means…but one of the best parts of living on the south coast of Massachusetts is that almost every state on the east coast is only a short road trip away. These photographs are from a trip to Mystic, CT - home of the Mystic Aquarium and the famous Mystic Pizza! 







* * *
Brittany Marcoux is a Guide to Rhode Island and an At-Large Guide to New England for The American Guide. She’s a photographer and a native New Englander. Follow her work on Tumblr or via her website. 
Zoom Info

MYSTIC, CONNECTICUT

For generations Mystic was the home of daring mariners and fishermen and was feared by the British during the Revolution as “a cursed little hornet’s nest.”

Connecticut: A Guide To Its Roads, Lore, and People (WPA, 1938)

Today, Mystic is home to the Mystic Aquarium, where one of our New England guides, Brittany Marcoux, stopped for a visit:

I am not from Connecticut by any means…but one of the best parts of living on the south coast of Massachusetts is that almost every state on the east coast is only a short road trip away. These photographs are from a trip to Mystic, CT - home of the Mystic Aquarium and the famous Mystic Pizza! 

* * *

Brittany Marcoux is a Guide to Rhode Island and an At-Large Guide to New England for The American Guide. She’s a photographer and a native New Englander. Follow her work on Tumblr or via her website