Down to the Shore: By Steamboat from Norwich to Block Island and Back

Norwich harbor

Norwich Harbor at the

turn of the 19th century

A Memoir by Gerard E. Jensen (1884 - 1970)

Edited and with commentary by Brian Rogers, Librarian (2009-2019), New London Maritime Society

For a boy in the manufacturing town of Norwich, Connecticut, at the turn of the century, steamboating was very much a way of life. Every morning at eight, during the summer, two steamboats were ready at the landing to take aboard passengers for points down the river and as far east of New London as Watch Hill and Block Island.

Ella was the smaller of the two, and for various reasons not fit to go beyond the peaceful waters of [Long Island] Sound.  Block Island had been built for the rougher waters of the ocean and for more extended voyages within sight of land. She spent the entire summer day going and coming, with only a brief pause at the island for which she was named.

At one time there was a third vessel that ran back and forth as a kind of accomodation for those passengers who wanted that kind of service frequently down to the nearby beaches at the mouth of the river. She was named Gypsy, and well named, for every cluster of houses that owned a wharf was on her itinerary, and she made her leisurely way down the river, often in shallow water that would have mired the larger craft.

View from Norwich rooftops
Down to the Shore