Peter's Rock - A Brief History
Peter’s Rock is the highest point, 373 feet above sea level, and largest parcel of forested land, at 196 acres, in the Town of North Haven. It is located in the southern portion of North Haven on the East Haven border in Montowese. The town of North Haven took 182 acres in recent years by eminent domain and at an annual town meeting back in 1875, 14 acres at the summit, was purchased for $31.78. The 360 degree view from the peak has been compared to the mountains of Vermont and New Hampshire. It is unsurpassed in beauty! To the North you will see the Sleeping Giant, and the Hanging Hills of Meriden. Eastward you will see, Branford and North Branford, the trap rock quarry of Tilcon Tomasso and to the South, the QBridge, U.I. Tower, New Haven Terminal and New Haven Harbor. On a clear day on the Western front, with binoculars, you can see Long Island, West Rock, the Hamden North Haven Ridge and the Quinnipiac River estuary. Not only a scenic area, Peter’s Rock’s geological and historical background is unique, along with the vast array of wildlife living within its borders. It is so rich in history, it has been placed on the National Register of Historic Places, by the State of Connecticut.
On the western side, which is its boldest face, there are columnar formations which are not common to other trap rock upheavals in the area. They resemble the Basaltic Pillars of the Giant’s Causeway in the Old World. Peter’s Rock is part of a twenty mile chain of such trap rock intrusions running from New Haven to the Massachusetts border. They include East and West Rock, Sleeping Giant and Hubbard Park in Meriden. Its main geographic features consist of a second growth mixed hardwood forest, high quality wetlands and rock outcrops. There are steep slopes and a few major drop offs in the central and southern portions of the site. A large stream called Little River, eight to twelve feet wide, running west to east, divides the mountain almost in half.
In New Haven County’s earlier days Peter’s Rock was a well noted Indian lookout. Therefore the name Indian Rock was derived as well as other pseudonyms such as Great Rock, Rabbit Hill and Rabbit Rock. The latter names due to the great number of cottontail rabbits about the area. Rabbit was the oven stuffer roaster of the 1800’s.
The Rock had many owners throughout the centuries the first one being a Joseph Grannis. He allowed the“Muddy River” settlers the privilege of quarrying stone for their buildings and cutting firewood, free of charge. At that time, Pig lane was opened on the eastern side which extended into East Haven. The name “Pig Lane” was derived from a pig farm at the southern boundary of the lane where Cloudland Road in North Haven and Charnes Drive in East Haven now meet.
Many a farmer laid claim to Indian Rock. The most prominent one being Peter Brockett, the man who gave it its present day name. Legend has it that Peter was a Revolutionary War Soldier, who suffered a severe wound that deformed his spine, rendering him a cripple. He built a small hut on the northern base of the Rock, the foundation of which is still there, and became a hermit.
In 1901, a group of wealthy New Haven business men rented the summit and built an elegant hunting lodge, known as The Hermitage. It was used for twenty years until the Great Depression of 1929. It was abandoned at that time and all that is left today of “The Hermitage” are a few anchor rods and a dilapidated wine cellar on the most southern edge of the summit. Also anchored in the summit was a National Geodetic Survey Reference Marker used to determine location in case of attack during World War II. Fearing air strikes by the Third Reich, the government planted these markers on the highest points in strategic areas in case Paratroopers had to be deployed. They are also located on East and West Rock, and the Sleeping Giant. Unfortunately Peter’s Rock Geodetic Survey Reference Marker was chipped out of the rock and taken.
One last interesting fact about Peter’s Rock history is the fresh water well which is still flowing out of the man made granite basin on the southern side of the mountain. On Sundays in the 1800’s, families would come up to hike the mountain and take home jugs of the crystal clear mountain water to drink. There were railroad ties built into the side of the summit as stairs to make the climb easier for the ladies, who wore long dresses and hats back then, even for hiking!
I could write forever about this beautiful place called Peter’s Rock. The birds and the wildlife alone need a column of their own, which will be forth coming. At this time let it suffice to say, that Peter’s Rock is a treasure beyond words for all generations to enjoy and thanks to all of you, our generation has preserved it.
Joan Mazurek “The Hermitage Hollerer”