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The Importance of the Connecticut River Valley

For centuries, the Connecticut River Valley and its abundant resources have helped shape the history and communities of New England. The Connecticut River is the longest river in New England, stretching over 410 miles and passing through four states on its way to Long Island Sound.

You may have enjoyed hiking through some of the scenic landscapes or canoeing on some of the inlets and creeks created by the Connecticut River. After enjoying the sunsets on the river, we invite you to join us at Delamar for a cocktail or sumptuous meal of our local fare, sourced from many local farms.

History of Connecticut River Valley

Archaeological excavations reveal that the Connecticut River Valley has been inhabited by humans for over 6,000 years. Several Native American tribes lived along the river and in the Connecticut Valley, including the Mohegans, Pequots, Nipmucs, and Pocumtucs. The Pequots dominated a territory in the southern section of the valley, from Old Saybrook up to Middletown. 

In 1623, Dutch traders, the first European colonists in Connecticut, constructed a fortified trading post in what is today Hartford, CT, and started an alliance with the Pequot tribe. The river’s importance as a trade route continued to increase as the English settlers moved up into New Hampshire and Vermont. 

Industrialization in the 1800s diverted the river’s natural flow to generate power and threatened to destroy the river’s ecological environment. In 1973, public pressure and an environmental movement helped create the Connecticut River Gateway Commission to clean up the river. In 1993, the Connecticut River was designated an American Heritage River, furthering its preservation for generations to come.

Explore the Connecticut River Valley

Today, you can find some of the most beautiful and picturesque towns and cities all along the Connecticut River. From museums and gardens to riverboats, here are some of the many things to do in this region.

Mark Twain House Museum

1) Mark Twain Museum – Hartford, CT

Connecticut’s capital city of Hartford sits along the Connecticut River and was once home to the American author Samuel Clemens (Mark Twain). This 25-room Victorian home-turned museum is where he lived with his family from 1874 to 1891 and wrote his famous novels The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, and The Prince and the Pauper. 

The house was designed by Edward Tuckerman Potter, an architect from New York City, and was built in the style of Victorian Gothic architecture. National Geographic has named it “one of the ten best historic homes in the world,” and TIME magazine has called it “Downton Abbey’s American Cousin.” It’s a must-see for anyone exploring Connecticut history. 


Goodspeed Opera House

2) Goodspeed Opera House – East Haddam, CT

Located just south of Hartford, CT, this opera house was built in 1876 by William Goodspeed on the banks of the Connecticut River in East Haddam. Despite its name, it was not an opera house but rather a venue for plays. It fell into despair after his death until 1959, when Goodspeed Musicals restored the building, and the Goodspeed Opera House was reborn.

Today, Goodspeed mounts both new and newly revived musicals year-round. You can also take a tour of this Victorian mansion and learn about its history. 


Gillette Castle

3) Gillette Castle – East Haddam, CT

The unique fieldstone castle was home to a legendary stage actor by the name of William Gillette, most famous for his portrayal of Sherlock Holmes on stage. The castle sits on top of a hill in a 184-acre park, overlooking the Connecticut River. 

The outside of the castle looks like a medieval fortress. It went through extensive restoration in the early 2000s, and now includes a visitors’ center, museum, hiking trails, and picnic areas.

4) Connecticut River Museum – Essex, CT

Located on the waterfront in historic Essex village, the Connecticut River Museum is dedicated to teaching the history of New England’s great river. Explore the history of the Connecticut River from Native American communities through the early nineteenth century, including the 1814 British raid on Essex and the history of steamboats and wooden ships. 

One of the museum’s permanent collections features a virtual “art walk” over 410 miles of the Connecticut River via aerial photography. You can also take tours of the river by boat, canoe, and sunset cruises!


Essex Steam Train

5) Essex Steam Train & Riverboat – Essex, CT

Ever wished you could experience the Hogwarts Express? This 2.5-hour vintage steam train and connecting riverboat are one of their kind in the U.S. Starting at the historic 1892 station, the train travels along the river through the countryside and ends at the Deep River Landing for an hour-long riverboat cruise. 

Discover Connecticut 

Situated just two hours from NYC and Boston, Connecticut offers a rich history and beautiful landscapes. When you’re exploring the vibrant history of Connecticut, be sure to choose a hotel that offers a convenient home base but doesn’t compromise on luxurious details. With three convenient and dog-friendly locations throughout Connecticut, DELAMAR offers the best in gracious living and comfort.

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