Rollie McKenna - A Village Love Affair

This Fall, The Stonington Historical Society will launch the Rollie McKenna Project — a book and exhibition about the life and work of the late Stonington-based photographer. 

McKenna was known internationally for portraits of the arts and literary elite such as Leonard Bernstein, Alexander Calder, Robert Frost, Sylvia Plath, T.S. Elliot, Dylan Thomas and Truman Capote and the architecture of Europe and Latin America. She lived in Stonington where she documented the history and culture of small town life and was part of a once-flourishing arts scene among artists such as the poet James Merrill, gardener and author Eleanor Perenyi and her mother, the novelist Grace Stone. 

The exhibition titled A Village Love Affair, is set to open Friday, November 2, 2018 at the Richard W. Woolworth Library

Notable contributors of the project include American graphic designer and novelist Chip Kidd, who will design the book’s cover; Pulitzer Prize-winning author Annie Dillard who will write the book's introduction; and photographer (and Stonington Borough resident) Francis Hills, who will curate the exhibition.

A Borough Icon: The Elkanah Cobb House

The Elkanah Cobb House on Water Street is perhaps one of the most photographed houses in the Borough. Dating to 1769, it’s one of the earliest examples of a gambrel roofed cottage and one of the oldest in the village. It’s one-and-a-half stories and has unusual 9-over-6 sash windows.

The house was owned by Elkanah Cobb (born 1781 in the house), which had been in his family for four generations. He lived there when the British attacked Stonington during the War of 1812 and died at the age of 37 after “experiencing the fear and anxiety attendant upon the partial destruction of his home by the British in 1814.”

According to The Homes of our Ancestors in Stonington, Conn., by Grace Denison Wheeler (1903), the house “stood in the thick of the fight near the [American] battery, and so has many scars received during the bombardment.”

Best Places to Propose in the Borough

Asking someone to spend the rest of their life with you is a moment you’ll never forget. They say timing is everything, but we think it’s also location, location, location! Stonington Borough is full of peaceful, picturesque spots so if you’re thinking of taking your relationship to the next level, consider one of these unforgettable options.

1.   Located at the end of Wall Street is Dodge Paddock & Beal Preserve. With the loveliest walking trail on an open salt marsh meadow filled with wildflowers and beach roses, there is a bench with the most beautiful view of Little Narragansett Bay. It’s usually quiet and peaceful, and perfect for a picnic lunch.

2.    Just 29 steps up a winding staircase and a short ladder to the top of the Tower in the Old Lighthouse Museum, you’ll be rewarded with a 360 degree view of three states that stretches to the Atlantic Ocean in an intimate space. Built in 1840, the Stonington Harbor Light has stood at the entrance to Stonington Harbor for more than 170 years. It’s only open seasonally (Thursday through Tuesday) so you must plan ahead. 

3.   A few steps down from the Old Lighthouse Musuem is the East Lawn at Stonington Point. It’s a well-known spot for beautiful sunsets and a perfect view of the sailboats in the harbor and two lighthouses — Latimer Reef and Watch Hill Light. 


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A Rail Line Ran Through It
 This map from 1851 shows the New York Boston & Providence Railroad line as it ran through the middle of Stonington Borough, out to New York Steam-Boat Pier, now the site of the current Town Dock.

This map from 1851 shows the New York Boston & Providence Railroad line as it ran through the middle of Stonington Borough, out to New York Steam-Boat Pier, now the site of the current Town Dock.


You wouldn’t know it now, but during the 19th-century, the first railroad in Connecticut ran smack through the middle of Stonington Borough, transporting passengers and cargo on smoky, noisy trains.

With the completion in 1837 of the Providence and Stonington Railroad and access to coal-fired steamship service provided by the Boston and New York Transportation Company, the Borough became a major hub for people traveling between New York and Boston. It was bustling with activity, hotels, bars and shops. 

Entering through what is now known as Salt Acres, the rail line ran along Denison Avenue heading west, squeezing between homes and businesses, belching smoke and dangerous embers sometimes known to cause fires. The end of the line was the New York Steam-Boat Pier and Depot, now the site of the current Town Dock.

By 1890, the railroad was built to span the Connecticut and Thames Rivers and connect, which eliminated the need for a steamboat connection.

*Map reproduction courtesy of the Norman B. Leventhal Map & Education Center at the Boston Public Library