Swift and Shore

Swift and Shore

Guilfordians walk among us.

Charlotte, a radiologist at Yale-New Haven Hospital, finds her twenty-minute commute from Guilford more bearable than the grind she endured living in Fairfield, when she regularly spent 45 minutes each way. She also likes that “it feels more like colonial Connecticut than Fairfield did.”

Guilford resident Patrick Heidkamp, a professor at Southern Connecticut State University, evinces a foodie streak. “The food at any of the seafood places on the harbor is great, but you’ve got to check out The Place.” Only open from April to October, weather permitting, The Place (901 Boston Post Road) offers outdoor-only dining on stumps and a single six-foot wooden menu. “Also,” Heidkamp boldly continues, “Bufalina on Boston Post Road has pizza that rivals New Haven’s.”

Chittenden Park in Guilford is a favorite of resident Robin Troy, also a professor at SCSU. “I run there every morning and wave at my family on Long Island.” Like Heidkamp, she has some culinary must-sees for out-of-town visitors. “I always take friends to Bishop’s and to Whitfield’s.” The first is an orchard and winery best known for excellent apple-picking; the second is a locally loved New American restaurant on the edge of the Guilford Town Green. (Whitfield’s signature cocktail, pictured eighth, is even named On The Green. In it, muddled cucumber and basil, plus citrusy Cocchi Americano liqueur, hide the taste of vodka dangerously well.)

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Guilford turns 375 this month, 17 months after New Haven did, and it looks great for its age, with quaint colonials everywhere and marshy, beachy nature to go with classic New England scenery. A band of English Puritans led by Reverend Henry Whitfield purchased the town’s land from a Menunkatuck leader on September 29, 1639, for a relatively standard price at the time: four kettles, two coats and an assortment of wares including glasses, shoes, stockings, hats, hatchets, knives, spoons.

The town green wasn’t far behind. Established as a common in 1643, the grassy rectangle is a fitting place for out-of-towners to begin making their acquaintance. Roughly two-tenths of a mile long and one-tenth of a mile wide, curvy stone benches dot its lengthy straight paths, and a slew of businesses have taken root on the green’s western (Whitfield Street) and southern (Boston Street) edges.

Gift and clothing boutiques there include Flutterby (pictured fifth), an artsy mix of home goods and women’s and men’s fashions. A little way up the street is the Greene Art Gallery, where artwork resides inside a barn-red building and outside in a colorful, wind-harnessing sculpture garden (pictured fourth). Back down the street is a 42-year-old independent bookstore called Breakwater Books (pictured ninth), neat, tidy and conducive to exploration and discovery. Next door is The Village Chocolatier, which uses a cone of pink ice cream on its sign to indicate that it’s not just about chocolate. Around the corner, Page Hardware (pictured seventh), an institution open since 1939, spans a major portion of the block, and is currently having a sale on outdoor grills. Next to Page is Frank’s Package Store, boasting a large selection of craft beers.

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The eastern side of the green, Park Street, is home to several fundamental institutions. Town Hall is there. So is the Guilford Free Library, as well as a branch of the Guilford Savings Bank, established in 1875. The Christ Episcopal Church near the bank is hard to miss, made of beautiful stonework towering high above the road. On the green’s northern edge (Broad Street), also towering high, is First Congregational Church (pictured third), an ornate wood construction painted mostly white, with an acute conical spire reaching skyward. Its nickname is “First Church,” and with good reason: it’s the legacy of the first congregation ever organized in Guilford, tracing its history back to 1643.

Less than a mile south of First Church lies Connecticut’s oldest surviving home, the Henry Whitfield House (pictured first and sixth), which is now a museum and is also New England’s oldest stone home. Built prior to the town’s settlement in 1639, the Whitfield House also celebrates its 375th birthday this year. (This is another good place to start your day in Guilford, because the town’s tourist information center is located onsite.) Other historic homes doubling as museums include the Hyland House (1690), slightly off the green on Boston Street, and the Thomas Griswold House (1774), which stands a bit farther down the same road.

But you don’t want to stay inside all day. Guilford is a shoreline town at heart, and that shoreline beckons. Town residents pay a $7 fee (non-residents pay $10) for use of Jacobs Beach (pictured second), a pretty, short strip of sand overlooking the Long Island Sound, where both people and seagulls flock in manageable numbers. Not far is the no-fee Chittenden Park, which, past a soccer field and baseball diamond, sports a wooden dock carving a path through sandy marshland toward water’s edge (pictured eleventh). Chittenden, by the way, is one end of the New England National Scenic Trail, a hiking-centric project that extends 215 miles from Guilford’s waters to the Massachusetts-New Hampshire border.

Not far from the park is the Guilford Marina, where rows, rows, rows of boats are docked (pictured tenth). There you’ll find a handful of seafood spots (the Guilford Lobster Pound, Stone House Restaurant, the Little Stone House and Guilford Mooring) and more views of the Sound. From the marina’s parking lot, the distinctive red barn at the tip of Grass Island—technically a peninsula, not an island—is surprisingly close.

Kind of like Guilford.

Guilford, CT
Located 15 miles up the coastline from New Haven, between Branford and Madison (map)
Town Website | 375th Anniversary Website

Written by Will Gardner. Photographed by Dan Mims.

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