The word Hermitage seems to be synonymous with Peter’s Rock. Wikipedia defines a “hermitage as a place where an individual lives in seclusion from the world,” although hermitage was more commonly used to mean “a settlement where a person or group of people lived in religious seclusion.” It often meant, “a small building ascetic in nature where its inhabitants lived an isolated life.” From that description one can understand why Hermitage is used in conjunction with North Haven’s Peter’s Rock.
Peter’s Rock, aka High Rock, Grate or Great Rock, Rabbit Hill Rock, Rabbit Rock and finally Peter’s Rock, is a unique geological ridge of trap rock surrounded for centuries by farmland. Its highest point at the summit is 373’. It is understandable that native Indians used this spot as a lookout as the vista is incredible. Numerous families owned land around the rock as historical documents note. Since it was recognized and designated “common land,” Montowese settlers quarried rock for their homes and cut timber for firewood. One of those families was that of Peter Brockett. Although Peter was a real person, his claim to fame has become one of the legends or folklore of North Haven. Legend has it that he was a wounded Revolutionary war soldier and that he lived an isolated life in a hut just below the summit of the rock. Historically, he may have just been another Montowese settler. In the late 1800’s this “common land” was leased from the town of North Haven to four businessmen who erected an elegant sportsman’s club. The North Haven Historical Society has several photos of this handsome structure. These sportsmen and their associates used the club for recreation and hunting deer and cottontail rabbit, said to be numerous at the time. This clubhouse was used for several years before it came to disrepair and was destroyed by fire in the early 1900’s. This clubhouse has become known as the Hermitage. The only remains of the Hermitage is the ruins of the wine cellar that may be seen on one of the trails leading up to the summit.
What is history, folklore or legend, we may never know. Today there is evidence of the numerous cottontail rabbits, if you ask any of the community gardeners’s as they try to outsmart those pesky critters. Most school children learn about Peter’s Rock, the geographical unique property that sits in the Montowese section of town. Most maps will label the area either Peter’s Rock or Rabbit Rock. The Peter’s Rock Association was formed to protect this property and make it available for all to enjoy its beautiful trails and vistas. Providing a “Main Entrance” to the park was a priority of the group. It therefore, was appropriate to make this entrance significant. With the help of the town of North Haven, the Rotary and many volunteers, a parking lot, picnic area and a small pavilion was erected. The PRA intends to finish this structure with a cupola so that the pavilion resembles the clubhouse, which stood at the summit. Although the new Hermitage now sits at the base of the property, a walk though it’s woods or a brief respite at the summit will reward the hiker with the same feeling of seclusion and isolation that defines the word Hermitage. Hence, the “Hermitage View” is an appropriate name for our newsletter.