Quaddick State Park is a state park in the town of East Lyme, Connecticut. The park was named after the River Thames’ historic “Thames River Styx”, which separates the world of the living from that of the dead. It preserves an area of forested wetlands along the river and features scenic views of its steep valley.
The park’s facilities were developed by the Civilian Conservation Corps during the Great Depression of the 1930s; it opened to the public on May 28, 1938. The park offers picnicking areas with CCC-built shelters, as well as playing fields for popular sports. A nature trail runs through the park, featuring information about wildlife observed there.
The park has been used to film several scenes of the Martin Scorsese movie Shutter Island. On April 20, 2011, President Barack Obama hosted Chinese president Hu Jintao at the park for a working lunch to promote friendship between China and the United States. The park also serves as the home field for Yale University’s varsity crew team. Crew races are held annually to celebrate Halloween.
The park is crossed by the Bay Circuit Trail, which connects Long Island Sound with the Vermont border. This section of the park contains one of the most difficult hills in the entire course, known as Cleopatra’s Needle. At the top of this hill sits the remains of an ancient stone tower. Legend holds that this structure once served as a lookout post for British troops garrisoned in Boston during the American Revolution.
Today, visitors can explore more than 100 acres of woods, meadows, and waterfalls in one of America’s oldest parks. The park is located off Connecticut Route 272 roughly halfway between New London and Mystic. Access via the Bay Circuit Trail is possible all season long, though signs demarcate some sections of the park as closed due to snow or ice. Parking fees are in effect from Memorial Day Weekend through Labor Day. There is no admission charge to enter the park. Amenities include hiking paths, picnic tables, playgrounds, and a shelter listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
The park land had previously formed part of a large estate owned by Jeremiah Berry who settled in 1796 near what is now Rocky Neck. Berry built a small farmhouse which survives today as does much else in the surrounding countryside.
During the late 19th century, railroad magnate Charles Stillman purchased the property intending to build a summer house. He engaged architect Alfredo De Vido to design the building but died before construction began. His widow, Laura B. Stillman, then sold the property to William Poole Bancroft, another railroad executive, who intended to build a country estate. However, Bancroft fell behind in his payments to the bank and the property was put up for sale again. When it came into the hands of the Fairfield County Historical Society, it was decided to make the old farmhouse available to the public as a place to enjoy the natural beauty of the region.
The historical society signed a ten year contract with the state to become the caretakers of the park in exchange for $500 per annum, a sum equivalent to approximately $20,000 today (1938 dollars). As part of their duties, they were required to hold open house events each weekend, offering tours of the grounds and presentations on local history. Over the years other improvements have been made to the site including new picnic shelters, playground equipment, walking trails, boat ramps, and a parking lot.