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The area surrounding Savin Rock in West Haven followed a traditional New England path that began as farmland for colonists. After the Civil War, however, that path took a new turn when entrepreneur George Kelsey constructed seaside attractions. After nearly a century of being home to the Savin Rock Amusement Park, once a popular tourist destination, the site had seen better days. The buildings were blighted and business had slumped as automobiles gave people the opportunity to visit attractions farther away. In 1964, Pres. Lyndon B. Johnson imagined a Great Society and declared a War on Poverty. West Haven took advantage of federal money to reclaim the Savin Rock, creating a mix of business, residences, and open, public space. This transition was not without growing pains as locally owned park concessions were eliminated, long-standing businesses were displaced, and residents were uprooted. When plans were proffered to reconstruct the area and line the shore with residential housing, this spurred a grassroots effort by local citizens who worked to keep the shore open to the public. Consequently, West Haven is home to Connecticut's largest stretch of free, public beach, which is used by thousands every summer.
About the Author
Edith Reynolds is a resident of West Haven and owns the John Bale Book Company antiquarian bookstore and café. Suzanne Peters Reynolds is a lifelong resident in West Haven who is an avid photographer.