An Important Place
North Haven’s highest point is 373 feet in elevation and is located at the top of Peter’s Rock Park. The actual park is approximately 14 acres and has been owned by the town as common land since 1718. This land has been known as “Great Rock,” “High Rock,” “Rabbit Rock,” “Rabbit Hill Rock,” and presently “Peter’s Rock.” Over decades and now centuries, various landowners have come and gone. The endless farmlands and orchards have turned into light forestland over the years. Even in the early settler years the rock was designated as an important landmark. Sharing volcanic and ice age history with it’s sister rocks of East Rock, West Rock, Sleeping Giant and Meriden Mountains, Peter’s Rock is the one site where one can see the waters of Long Island Sound as well as across the Quinnipiac Valley and up into the hills of central Connecticut. Today the park exists as a passive recreational property with the purpose of preserving the land for all generations to come. In the past it was used for hunting, cleared for farming, and used for recreation. Area settlers gathered rocks for their foundations and stonewalls. They cleared the trees and used the timbers for their homes, their firewood and their fences.
Although the name “Peter’s Rock” is derived from the Revolutionary War soldier, Peter Brockett, more recently the park has been associated with the term “Hermitage.” In 1901, Sheldon B. Thorpe documented and established the importance of the landmark. Within his article on Peter’s Rock, he notes Peter Brockett to be a hermit who had a shelter near the summit. He also notes that in the late 1800’s the land at the top was leased to a group of wealthy New Haven businessmen and that a structure was erected at the summit and was known as “The Hermitage.” This became a popular site for an outing on a hot summer day and a recreational shelter for the huntsmen until it was destroyed by fire in the early 1900’s. Photos from the North Haven Historical Society show a rather comfortable accommodation. Curtains hung on the windows and a cozy fireplace was adorned with photographs and a clock. Rustic wooden chairs and tables draped with tablecloths, drapery covered sleeping berths and carpets on wooden floors speak of warmth and caring. Each generation has found a use for Peter’s Rock by either appreciating its bounties of trees, rocks and wildlife or enjoying its beautiful vistas. The Peter’s Rock Association has been busy marking trails, building bridges and constructing a park entrance. The entrance has a parking lot, picnic tables, the flagpole from the old North Haven High School and a modest pavilion. This pavilion is a tribute to the “Hermitage” that once stood at the summit. With some patience and time and the help of many caring people the pavilion will imitate the old structure. Brick by brick we are writing a new history for the park and the one thing that stays the same over the years is that this “common land” is deemed to be important.
The land surrounding the park is now designated as Open Space. Those seeking answers to the mysteries of the park lands uncovered documents naming familiar names such as Eaton, Brockett, Culver, Beach, Button, Cooper, Thompson, Grannis, Pierpont, Tuttle, Yale, Dickerman, Sherman, Thorpe, Blakeslee, Hemingway, and Bradley just to name a few. Today these names are known as street names or areas where people live. Seldom do we relate our house address to those citizens of Muddy River, Montowese or New Haven Colony, but each and every name listed has a connection to the park that we now know as Peter’s Rock. Thanks to the many Montowese citizens such as Sheldon Thorpe, George Barnes, Philomena Gambardella, Lester Goodrich, the Brocksieper family and most importantly the North Haven Historical Society there is a satisfying amount of historical documentation on the town’s finest property.
Ann White Lombardi, Newsletter Chairperson