Avery Point

9.15.10 ~ Beach Pond

Yesterday Janet and I decided to take a walk around the Avery Point campus of the University of Connecticut, here in Groton. On our way to the entrance of the campus we spotted a white heron and I tried to get a picture of it… When I inadvertently got too close, it decided to fly over to the other side of the salt pond.

Avery Point was named for Captain James Avery (1620-1700), who was born in England, came to the colonies with his father, fought in King Philip’s War, and was an early settler of New London and Groton, Connecticut.

The college campus itself was originally a 70 acre seaside estate owned by Commodore Morton F. Plant (1852-1918), a yachtsman and financier, who in 1915, was noted for giving $1,125,000 to the founding of Connecticut College for Women (now Connecticut College) in New London. Plant’s property on Avery Point was eventually acquired by the University of Connecticut in 1969.

Besides his home at 1051 Fifth Avenue [NYC], Commodore Plant owned Branford House, a magnificent estate at Eastern Point Colony, three miles from Groton, opposite New London, on the east bank of the mouth of the Thames [River].
(The New York Times, November 5, 1918)

9.15.10 ~ Avery Point
9.15.10 ~ Avery Point

First we strolled along the Sculpture Path by the Sea, where we took in the sparkling views of Eastern Point, New London, New London Ledge Lighthouse (above), Pine Island, Bluff Point and Groton Long Point.

9.15.10 ~ Avery Point
9.15.10 ~ Avery Point

The path led us by an impressive view of the 31-room mansion called Branford House, which was built in 1903, and then on to the Avery Point Lighthouse, the last lighthouse built in Connecticut in 1943. The lighthouse stopped being used in 1967 and fell into disrepair. Funds were raised by the Avery Point Lighthouse Society and in 2001 restoration began and in 2002 it was added to the National Register of Historic Places.

Now I’ve lived in Groton for several decades and I knew there was a little art gallery somewhere in Branford House, but since it is open only for a few hours on only a few days of the week, and because there are no signs indicating where one might enter the building, I have never managed to visit it.

9.15.10 ~ Avery Point
9.15.10 ~ Avery Point

Well, as we were examining all the architectural details on the outside of the building we discovered an unlocked door. Pent up curiosity pulled me in and Janet followed. There were several huge empty rooms, which I believe people have rented for functions like weddings… We poked around, admired the breathtaking views, enormous fireplace, and dark, intricately carved paneling, and eventually came to a grand staircase. Even the white ceiling (see last picture) had detailed paneling! Climbed the stairs and, what-do-you-know? We were in the lobby of the well hidden Alexey von Schlippe Gallery of Art! Alexey von Schlippe (1915-1988) was a painter and a professor of art at UConn’s Avery Point campus.

The current exhibition is a collection from the Latin Network for the Visual Arts. After viewing the colorful artwork of various current Latin artists, we noticed a very narrow staircase with marble steps! Again curiosity pulled me to go down them to what seemed to be a coat closet and another doorway to the main rooms again. Came away wishing I could get a floor plan somehow – I think it would be fascinating to see how the rooms and hallways were arranged and what each room was used for.

9.15.10 ~ Avery Point
9.15.10 ~ Avery Point
9.15.10 ~ Avery Point
9.15.10 ~ Avery Point

I should add as a footnote that Project Oceanology is also located on the Avery Point Campus. This marine science and environmental education organization offers lighthouse expeditions, oceanographic research cruises and seal watches to the public, other things I’d love to do one of these days.

9.15.10 ~ Avery Point
9.15.10 ~ Avery Point

10 thoughts on “Avery Point”

  1. This is a brilliant walk around Avery Point! Thank you so much for the adventure in words and Photos!!! I once spent the night and afternoon in New London, taking in the down town , hanging in coffee shops. My friend was up the Naval Academy for graduation, this was many years ago!
    I miss so much because I did not know where I was. Thank you sharing!

    I am Love, Jeff

    1. Thanks, Jeff! New London was known as the Whaling City but these days the downtown is an artsy place, with lots of unique little shops and of course, the Hygienic Art gallery. Who knows – you may have crossed paths with my husband and daughter – they used to meet in the coffee/book shops there for some father-daughter time. With the Coast Guard Academy in New London and the Naval Submarine Base across the Thames River in Groton, there is a strong military presence in the area.

  2. Again, I am impressed with what you can do with your “little, inexpensive camera”! Wonderful shot capturing the departure of the waterbird (I want to call it an egret, is that synonymous with white heron?). Hope the shot of the tree in the wind makes a future entry!

    1. Thanks, Janet! I’ll try and put that picture up next time around… 🙂

      Decided to look up heron and egret – still not sure… an egret is a type of heron?
      Herons – “Any of various wading birds of the family Ardeidae, having a long neck, long legs, a long pointed bill, and usually white, gray, or bluish-gray plumage.”
      Egrets – “Any of several usually white herons of the genera Bubulcus, Casmerodius, Egretta, and related genera, characteristically having long, showy, drooping plumes during the breeding season.”

  3. The white heron is so beautiful! I loved following you on your walk and imagining all the hidden passageways and discoveries in the historical building. The whole area sounds like a place you could spend a long time exploring.

    1. I’m glad you enjoyed exploring with us, Cait! It made me realize (all over again) that local history can be pretty fascinating if one takes a little time to delve into it and do some research. I’d love to investigate that little red lighthouse one of these days…

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