Categories: Environment, North Haven, Sports and Recreation
Peter’s Rock: North Haven History with a View
Peter’s Rock, reaching a height of 373 feet above sea level, is the highest point in North Haven. It is part of a 20-mile chain of trap rock upheavals, stretching from New Haven to Massachusetts, that offers hikers and climbers spectacular views of Connecticut and Long Island Sound. Far from being a mere recreational hotspot, however, Peter’s Rock is a formation with an extensive history of service to the surrounding area.
During the years of colonial settlement, Peter’s Rock was described as a Native American lookout post and given the name “Indian Rock.” Over the years, locals also referred to it by such names as Great Rock and, due to large numbers of cottontail rabbits in the area, Rabbit Hill or Rabbit Rock.
The first European settler to take ownership of the mountain was Joseph Grannis—a man who allowed his neighbors open access to the mountain to quarry stone and cut firewood for their homes. The formation’s current moniker, Peter’s Rock, comes from the story of Peter Brockett, who suffered a wound in the Revolutionary War that deformed his spine and left him partially crippled. Brockett built a small hut on the northern base of the mountain and lived out his life there as a hermit.
From Hermit’s Refuge to Site of Hunting Lodge
In the 1800s, local residents utilized a manmade granite basin on the mountain’s southern side as a source of freshwater which they captured in jugs and brought home. In 1873, the town of North Haven assessed the area around Peter’s Rock in order to charge taxes on the property but, being unable to find a rightful owner to pay the taxes, auctioned off the land to George W. Jones on August 31, 1874. Finding displeasure in the town’s handling of this affair, the people of North Haven came together and purchased the property from Jones in 1875 for $31.78.
Just over 25 years later, a group of wealthy New Haven businessmen leased the summit of Peter’s Rock to build a hunting lodge they called The Hermitage. They used it for 20 years until abandoning the property with the onset of the Great Depression. Later in the century, the US government utilized the top of Peter’s Rock for planting a strategic survey reference marker meant to guide paratrooper landings in case of Nazi invasion during World War II.
Today, Peter’s Rock contains miles of trails that wind through its hills, offering hikers and outdoor enthusiasts a heavily wooded retreat. The area remains the largest tract of open space left in North Haven.