Reflections on Branford’s Neighborhoods
Since the colonial period Branford has been divided into sections, later called neighborhoods that often contain smaller communities within. Branford’s neighborhoods, of which there are many, have distinct histories which vary chronologically, by family, geography, architecture, and culture. It is most interesting that these areas have geographic boundaries that are very ill defined yet also have educational, voting, zoning, and social boundaries that have varied through the years. People, however, are very firm about which neighborhood they belong.
It is our neighborhoods that have defined our past and our present and are the kind of places that even if you leave, somehow you always find your way back……
BRANFORD CENTER encompasses a large neighborhood with its many fine residential streets and stores along Main Street. There was formerly a separate Branford Borough in the 1800s which was later dissolved. Branford Center has two colonial sections- Fourth Ward, formerly known as the Quarter and Canoe Brook.
BRANFORD HILLS was called the Great Hill by the colonist and was used as the route to East Haven and beyond. The Plant family purchased many acres and became one of the largest producers of strawberries, peaches, and other produce in the northeast. The section where Branhaven Plaza now stands was known as Plantsville. Slowly, the farmland was sold and the road commercialized. Lake Saltonstall at the western boundary of Branford has been important to the town’s history serving as an iron works, summer resort, and a water reservoir.
BRANFORD POINT, known by the colonists as Mulliner’s Point, was named for Thomas Mulliner who was living here before 1644. The Branford Point Hotel stood where the public beach is today. The fine harbor where the Sound and the Branford River meet has throughout the town’s history been a center for boating activity. The homes along Harbor Street were built by the Linsley, Averill, and Shepard families in a variety of architectural styles. To the north is Dutch Wharf, also known by the colonists as Dutch House or Dutch House Quarter and was named for the Dutch who traded along the shore before the settlers came in 1644.
BRUSHY PLAIN was also named by the colonists and was one of the routes to North Branford then known as North Farms or the Second Society. The Stent family owned many acres of farmland here which was not developed until the 1960s.
CHERRY HILL on one of the highest points in Branford has an interesting history. Daniel Morris planted 300 cherry trees on his farm and sold the fruit. Schuyler Hamilton, grandson of the famous statesman Alexander, purchased the farm in 1859 and built a fine mansion. Used as dairy farm by movie mogul Louis Sagal until after World War II, the area was developed in the 1950s and 1960s with stores, apartments, and houses.
DAMASCUS was settled by the Blackstone family and the area was farmed until World War II. Members of the family still reside here. Blackstone Acres was developed in 1954 and is named for the family.
DOUBLE BEACH was settled in the early 1800s by the Linsley and Lanphier families who farmed the area. The well-known Double Beach House operated for many years and today is the site of Hospice. Johnson’s Point lies to the south with its many fine homes built in the early 20th century. Lanphiers Cove, named for the original family, contains dozens of small summer cottages. Brockett’s Point was established by William Brockett of North Haven who built summer cottages along the shore for his family and guests.
GRANITE BAY was a heavily wooded area established at the turn of the 20th century with small year-round homes and named for the beautiful rocky coast. The northern most section was called Klondike. Nearby is Killam’s Point established in 1880 by Henry Killam, a New Haven carriage manufacturer.
HAYCOCK POINT is a small private peninsula named for the rock at the point that resembles a “haycock” or pile of hay. The homes were built in the early 1900s by brothers Richard and J. Hubert Bradley of Branford Center.
HOTCHKISS GROVE was settled by the Blackstone family in the late 18th century and the homestead still stands on First Avenue. A section of Hotchkiss Grove was known as Blackstoneville. Emerson Hotchkiss of Waterbury purchased the homestead and 100 acres of land in 1886 and built summer cottages with common rights to the beach. The “Grove” was a section of trees between 7th and 8th Avenues used by the family as a picnic spot.
INDIAN NECK is historically the peninsula south of Sybil Creek and is the land the Totokett Indians reserved for themselves. Much of this land was later owned by the First Ecclesiastical Society and leased to the homeowners. The Society sold the land in the 1966. Indian Neck was a tourist area with several hotels including the famous Montowese House. The Owenego on Linden Avenue has been in continuous operation since 1847.
MILL PLAIN was settled about 1700 by the Palmer, Barker, Harrison, and Bartholomew families who farmed the land well into the 20th century. Most of Branford’s ice was cut at Mill Plain and a small cemetery pays tribute to those early settlers. A small section of the area is known as Short Rocks.
PAVED STREET DISTRICT including a section called Flat Rock was a distinct section of the northern part of today’s Leetes Island Road toward Route 1. Older residents still call this road Paved Street.
PAWSON PARK was originally used as grazing land for sheep and 200 acres were leased to Samuel Beach in 1866. He developed a summer resort named for Pawson a Totokett Indian and the Park included a skating rink, merry-go-round, photograph gallery, and restaurant. Today Pawson Park is a desirable year-round community. Also, on the Indian Neck peninsula are Summer Island and Sunset Beach which still retain their summer cottage atmosphere. The boundaries of Indian Neck today have a broader definition and include South Montowese Street to Limewood Beach.
PINE ORCHARD was settled in the early 19th century by the Baldwin, Sheldon, Hoadley, and Hall families. It was originally called World’s End for the creek that ran through it. As the area was developed as a summer resort the name was changed because of its abundance of pine trees. It is noted for its fine homes and scenic views. The Pine Orchard Country Club was founded in 1901.
SHORT BEACH was the last of the shoreline communities to be settled because of lack of access except over the road the colonist called The Alps. It was originally called Scotch Cap whose district extended as far as Standard Avenue. The first year- round home was built in 1849, known as the “49er”, and still stands today on Clark Avenue. After the Civil War a summer hotel and cottages were built along the shore attracting many visitors. Today Short Beach is a small year-round community in which many of the early families still reside.
STONY CREEK was the first shoreline district to be settled in the 1700s by the Howd, Palmer, Barker, Frisbie, Cook, and Rogers families. The families farmed the land and utilized the water for fishing and clamming. Stony Creek was famous at the turn of the century for its oysters, granite quarries, summer hotels, architecture, social activities, and tours of the Thimble Islands much of which is still evident today.
– Jane Peterson Bouley