In the early 1900s, tourists from all over Connecticut and from other parts of the country as well flocked to the popular Savin Rock Amusement Park in West Haven. In the minds of many, Savin Rock rivaled New York’s Coney Island. It offered amusement park rides, a theater, and restaurants as well as swimming in the gentle waters of Long Island Sound. Postcards in the collections of the Connecticut Historical Society show that visitors to Savin Rock in the early 1900ss enjoyed themselves in the same ways that visitors continue to enjoy similar resorts today.
Some visitors seemed most attracted by the amusement park rides. “Dear Mother,” Jennie wrote to Mrs. John Leopold in Taftville, “Who said we couldn’t find our way? We got here alright so don’t worry. We were on a [roller coaster] higher than this one.” An unsigned postcard sent to Miss Helen Searing in Maplewood, Missouri in 1908 talks about riding on “merry-go-round, roller coaster [and] tickler” and having an “elegant shore dinner.”
Shore dinner were an important part of the Savin Rock experience. “J.” wrote to Mrs. J. H. Skinner of Waterbury in 1909 to report that “We are both as full as we can be of shore dinners. Wish you was here with us.” Josie, probably from Cheshire, did not enjoy the Colonnade Restaurant, advising her friend Mrs. F.A. Hall that “This is where you don’t want to eat.” Another visitor wrote to Mrs. G. A. Embury in 1919, raving about the “steamer clams, clam fritters and lobster stew—all for 75 cents—Great.”
But most people came to enjoy the beach. In 1909, Mrs. L. L. Wells wrote to Misses Abby & Jessie Wells in Warehouse Point, “I wish you both were here. I think you would be entertained. There is so much to be seen & heard. The water is beautiful to look at & it is very amusing to witness the bathing.” Lola, writing to Mrs. Ida M. Kendall in Meriden in 1914, remarked that “The waves look fine dashing up the beach.” That same year, Elizabeth wrote to her cousin Mrs. John Langford in Naugatuck: “We are having a real nice time. Frederick went right in the water & cried when he had to come out.” One assumes that Frederick was Elizabeth’s small son.
Most of these visitors were not day-trippers. Miss Ruby Selden of West Hartford:spent a week at Savin Rock in 1911 and “had one grand time.” In 1905, Carrie and Frank wrote to Mrs. Allen Pease of Windsor Locks that they thought they might stay 2 months!
In its later years, the popular park fell into disrepair, and it was demolished during urban renewal in the 1960s.