The Dream Realized: The State of Connecticut Funds a New Pier

Another “mover and shaker” in this narrative was New London's mayor and state senator Bryan F. Mahan who in 1911, in the ongoing “quest for New London’s elusive economic progress” (Stone, The Day Paper, 89), had helped persuade the Legislature to appropriate a million dollars for a thousand-foot "ocean terminal" to be built just south of the railroad bridge in the neighborhood of East New London.

The state-owned terminal would drive the city’s bid to attract ocean-going freighters whose owners might find it more advantageous to dock in New London instead of Boston or New York. The city hired Waldo E. Clarke, a young engineer interested in New London’s economic future, to oversee construction and operation of the Pier. Clarke’s technical description of the plans was published in the Nov. 25, 1915, issue of Engineering News. 


Surveyors, with East New London bluff in background

Frank L. McGuire Maritime Library - Harold Cone Collection

But before construction could begin in the water, the land at the waterfront site had to be drastically changed, removing much of a substantial bluff and flattening the rest. John Ruddy described the massive effort in The Day, April 7, 2019:

"Two years of construction changed the East New London shore as tons of earth and mud were scooped up here and deposited there to create new land. A steam shovel took huge bites out of a bluff overlooking the pier till all that remained was eight acres of flat industrial space. A dozen homes were razed or floated downriver. Train tracks were rerouted through a freshly dug tunnel."


Below: This early postcard view seems to show the Pier and its warehouse in the last stages of construction in the summer of 1916.