Connecticut College Magazine · Winter 2007

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(Re)Discover New London

(Re)Discover New London
Bank Street strollers: John Rode ´09, Lesley Siegel ´07, Andrew Glenn ´07 and Linda Hyatt ´07 meander down New London´s oldest street, a stone´s throw from the Thames River.

(Re)Discover New London

Mary Howard


Connecticut College´s host city is experiencing a renaissance of sorts. In the last five years, art galleries, ethnic restaurants and several eclectic shops have joined New London´s more established businesses, like the venerable Dutch Tavern and Caruso Music. On State Street alone, you´ll find a chocolate café, a coffee bar, a first-rate flower shop, a yoga studio and restaurants serving Mexican, Thai, Japanese and Indian food. There´s even an Irish pub. Elsewhere in the city, vintage shops, antique stores, a cheese market, a wine cellar and a Fair Trade store are all thriving.

More CC students are finding there way into the city, whether through community service or for recreation. “I feel more real when I am downtown,” says Becca Wells, a junior who volunteers for New London´s Hispanic community center and works in a shop on Bank Street. “You get to see a whole different side of the socio-economic scale.”

Founded in 1646, New London has a rich history. Despite being nearly destroyed in 1781 when British troops set fire to the city, New London prospered as a major whaling port in the 1800s. Among its landmarks are a historic courthouse and Union Railroad Station, designed by 19th-century architect Henry Hobson Richardson. New London was also hometown to Eugene O´Neill, America´s only Nobel Prize-winning playwright. His childhood home, Monte Cristo Cottage, is now a museum.

Alva Gallery, 54 State Street. 860.437.8664
Named for owner Alva Greenberg, the gallery features exhibits of contemporary works from local and international artists. CC Professor of Art Maureen McCabe and Cuban painter Carlos Estevez had a joint show here January 20-March 9.

Blissworks Yoga and Healing Arts, 253 State Street.
860.448.YOGA (9662)
In addition to yoga, meditation and belly dancing classes, Blissworks offers Thai yoga therapy sessions. Founder Tricia McAvoy leads clients through a series of yoga postures while working on the energy lines (nadis) of the body. Blissful.

Brie & Bleu, 84 Bank Street. 860.437.2474
This gourmet cheese shop serves wonderful dinners on Fridays and Saturdays — bruschettas, salads and an out-of-this-world grilled cheese on brioche. Owner Charlotte Hennegan is also the entrepreneur behind Thames River Imports, Thames River Greenery and Thames River Wine & Spirits (next door to Brie & Bleu), with its dramatic, European-style granite wine cellar.

Café Xocolatl, 140 State Street. 860.440.0660
This chocolate café serves a decadent hot chocolate so thick you can eat it with a spoon. Pronounced “sho-ca-lah-tuhl,” the café´s name comes from the Mayan word for chocolate. The made-on-site truffles, brownies, chocolate-dipped macaroons and other baked goods aren´t the only treats for customers. The shop´s interior — borrowing colors from the cacao pod in its various stages of ripening — is a feast for the eyes. Xoxolatl also serves coffee and offers wireless Internet access.

Caruso Music, 94 State Street. 860.442.9600
From piccolos to pianos, Caruso´s stocks just about any instrument you can imagine. Owners Larry and Rich Caruso are always patient with would-be rock stars who need to try out all the drums, guitars and keyboards. Started by Larry and Rich´s dad, the late John Caruso Sr., the business has been a New London fixture since 1963.

Dutch Tavern, 23 Green Street. 860.442.3453
Said to be a favorite drinking spot of playwright Eugene O´Neill, the “Dutch” is the oldest, continually operated pub in New London — the building dates to the mid-1700s. The tin ceiling, back bar, light fixtures and oak tables pre-date 1933 when Maritz “Dutch” Nauta re-opened the doors at the end of Prohibition. Peter Detmold, who — with his wife Martha Conn — has owned the tavern since 1998, says the menu hasn´t changed much either. “The potato salad recipe came with the place,” he says, and he keeps a jar of pickled eggs behind the bar. A beer and a cheeseburger — possibly the best in town — cost less than five dollars. Insiders know Detmold as guitarist and singer with New London´s house band, the Reducers. Customers under 21 must be accompanied by a parent.

The El ´n´ Gee Club, 86 Golden Street. 860.437.3800
Though it was originally a strip club, the El ´n´ Gee has been the venue for New London´s alternative music scene since the Reducers first played there in the late 1970s. The all-ages club features local and national acts, from punk to hip-hop.

Flavours of Life, 86 Bank Street. 860.444.9428
Co-owners Marcie Boyer and David Lewis offer clothes, jewelry, crafts and food from around the world. Everything they sell is Fair Trade certified, meaning that the farmers and craftspeople who produced the goods received fair market price for their products. Boyer and Lewis also lecture on the Fair Trade movement at schools and churches and host events at their store, including a recent “peace and justice” film series. Boyer helped CC junior Becca Wells, who works at the shop, get an internship with a Fair Trade organization in Ecuador.

Fort Trumbull State Park, 90 Walbach Street. 860.444.7591
Since Revolutionary War times, a fort has stood on this hill overlooking the Thames River. The British, led by turncoat Benedict Arnold, landed here in 1781 and then occupied and burned New London. The current masonry fort was constructed between 1839 and 1852 as part of the country´s coastal defense system. It served as the first U.S. Coast Guard Academy, home to Columbia University´s Division of War Research and, in more recent years, the Naval Underwater Systems Center. Refurbished in the 1990s, Fort Trumbull State Park offers interactive exhibits and a beautiful view of the Thames River. The visitor´s center is open from May 21 through Columbus Day.


Garde Arts Center, 325 State Street. 860.444.6766
Built in 1926 during the heyday of movie houses and vaudeville, the 1,500-seat Garde has a beautiful, recently restored Moroccan-style interior. Sculptor Jenn Collins ´98 spent more than a year designing and producing hundreds of decorative tiles, strips and a thousand decorative “cookies” for the theater´s lobby and auditorium. The Garde is home to the Eastern Connecticut Symphony Orchestra and its programming features musicals, opera, children´s theater and musical acts. Bob Dylan has played here twice.

Hanafin´s Irish Pub, 310 State Street. 860.437.9724
Owner Diarmiud Hanafin, a Dublin native, created this bar in the great tradition of Irish “public houses.” Draught ale is served with lively conversation and Irish classics, like shepherd´s pie and beef stew. To further create the atmosphere, Hanafin, who visits his homeland yearly, imported the glasses, tables and chairs from Ireland. A former floor refinisher, he built the pub´s beautiful oak bar and commissioned a local artist to paint murals and Irish poetry on the walls. The pub features “dart league” on Mondays and Tuesdays and live bands on weekends.

Hygienic Art, Inc., 83 Bank Street. 860.443.8001
In 1996, a grassroots effort saved the Hygienic Restaurant (originally a whaling company´s provisions store and on the National Register of Historic Buildings) from a demolition ball and turned it into artists´ residences, studio space, galleries, gardens and an outdoor theater. Six artists — including Jenn Collins ´98 — live at the Hygienic and show their work in its four galleries. There are monthly art openings and concerts in the recently created Hygienic Art Park, for which Collins served as construction manager. The organization hosts the Hygienic Art Exhibition — no judge, no jury, no fees, no censorship — every January, now in its 28th year. It was modeled after the “Salon Des Indépendants,” a late 19th-century art movement in Paris, established in response to the rigid traditionalism of the official government-sponsored salon. CC Professor of Art Barkley Hendricks had the idea in 1979 to hold the first Hygienic show at the restaurant.

Muddy Waters, 42 Bank Street. 860.444.2232
Great coffee, great food and a waterfront deck (or, if it´s cold, an indoor fireplace) make Muddy Waters a popular spot. Breakfast and lunch are served all day, and Muddy Waters resurrected the famous, garlicky “Love Salad” from the now defunct New London landmark, Hughie´s Restaurant. The café occasionally hosts musical acts on weekends.

Northern Indian Restaurant, 150 State Street. 860.437.3978
Even on the busiest nights, the food is consistently delicious and the service always friendly. Chef/owner Dakpa Norbu spends long hours preparing tandoori, curried and vegetarian dishes in the kitchen, while his brother and co-owner, Dakpa Gyaltsen, mans the front of the house. Born to Tibetan exiles, the brothers learned to cook in the northern Indian city of Shimla, where they grew up. If there is a secret to the restaurant´s success —it is arguably the best Indian restaurant in southeastern Connecticut — it is that all dishes are prepared from scratch daily.

New London Waterfront Park, 111 Union Street. 860.447.5201
Five piers, outdoor sculptures and a half-mile promenade are features of this newly renovated park. With sweeping views of the Thames River and Long Island Sound, it´s a great place to watch the Long Island and Fishers Island ferries. Visitors can also take day sails and lobster cruises on the tall ship Mystic Whaler, home-ported here.
Peacock Feathers, 13 Golden Street. 860.437.8590
A unique vintage/thrift shop, Peacock Feathers features “bohemian chic and gypsy glam” clothing, all kinds of funky jewelry, eclectic tchotchkes and tribal art. One can easily spend an hour here and not see everything.

Sarge´s Comics, 124 State Street. 860.443.2004
The Northeast´s largest comic book store, Sarge´s is a geek´s heaven. In addition to comics, the store sells DVDs (anime is a favorite), gaming supplies (think Warhammer and Dungeons & Dragons), video games, action figures, books and even candy and soft drinks imported from Japan. Manager, Heather Dawn, says customers travel several hours to visit the store.

Zavala, 2 State Street. 860.437.1891
Next to the train station, Zavala offers authentic Mexican cuisine with ingredients from suppliers who buy direct from Mexico. And they have the best margaritas in town, and occasionally, strolling musicians. Owner/chef Martin Zavala relocated his business and his family from New York´s financial district to New London after September 11.


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