Lake Pocotopaug

East Hampton, Connecticut

A Brief History

Lake Pocotopaug dominates the local landscape in East Hampton, CT and is one of Connecticut’s largest inland bodies of water. Early in the 19th century, the development along the Lake of waterfront cottages, hotels, and summer rentals along Pocotopaug began bringing tourism to East Hampton. Development continued in the early part of the 20th century, with the expansion of hotels and casinos along the Lake.
The name Pocotopaug reportedly comes from the local Wagunk Indian language meaning “lake with pierced islands” or “divided pond.”  According to local legend, some time long before settlers came to the area along Lake Pocotopaug in East Hampton the native tribe felt that they were being cursed by The Great God Hobomoko. (See the Legend of Lake Pocotopaug)

The Legend of Pocotopaug

Legend has it that a beautiful Indian maiden Princess Pocotopaug, or Namoenee, sacrificed herself by jumping into the Lake at Markham’s Cove, in an effort to appease the Great God Hobomoko, promising to bring an end to the many drownings the Wangunk tribe had suffered. Another version of The Legend of Pocotopaug tells of a great Indian chief who was forced to sacrifice his daughter to the waters to save his tribe from drowning. Although likely a fanciful tale, there have been no reported drownings in the lake for over 250 years.

Private Islands

On a private island on Lake Pocotopaug, near Hartford and New Haven, Connecticut you’ll find five cozy lakefront guest houses. The Deck House, Chalet, Bay House, A frame, and Captain’s Cabin all of which sit on the edges of the island, all within an easy stroll, yet distinctly private, from one another. The cabins have three bedrooms, a living room, kitchen area, water, electricity, and other amenities. Each has its own dock and at least one water front deck to enjoy the view. There are plenty of windows.
This Lake Real Estate is a perfect location to hold a retreat, or family reunion, combining the privacy and peacefulness of an island with facilities for groups both large and small. Local catering is available.

It’s worth mentioning the real estate along  Lake Pocotopaug is available for sale, often with lakefront or lake views. As you can see Pocotopaug is well worth a visit. Perhaps you will fall in love with the lake and its neighborhood charm. Come and see what you’re missing!

 

Friends of Lake Pocotopaug

In recent years the lake has become a place of ecological study due to the large scale algae blooms that resulted in 2000. Tests have shown that longstanding shoreline development and fertilizer use are causing increasing issues. A town sanctioned Lake Commission and the Friends of Lake Pocotopaug are two organizations concentrating on improvement ideas.

Strongs Pavillion

In 1885 Guy Strong bought one plus acres from Lyman Oliver Wells.  He was a trapper, a guide to hunters and a fisherman, well known in Connecticut.  He started a boating and fishing camp.

By 1900 he had a building with supplies plus an ice house along the shore of Lake Pocotopaug.  In 1902 he built a 60’ by 50’ dance hall.  All Old Home Day dances took place there.  Strong had a 25’ Naptha powered launch for transporting passengers and supplies to cottages and homes around the shores of Lake Pocotopaug.

When Guy Strong died in 1904, Leo Guy Strong continued on with rowboats, canoes, sailboats, a grocery route, a swimming beach, a bath house, clothes lockers, a  passenger service, plus weekly cookouts for Moodus Resort patrons who could walk or be jitneyed to Strong’s Pavilion for the day.  Strong usually served homemade clam chowder.  Old Home Day was always a big event bringing people from all over Connecticut.

In 1923-24, the State of Connecticut granted riparian rights to the Strong family to move the dance hall 85’ over the water on Lake Pocotopaug.  The second floor had 200 bathing lockers, a 12’ walking porch on both floors, plus a menu of full sandwichs, soda, popcorn, and ice cream on the ground level.  It also had six skeeball alleys.

Activities varied, with two motor launches,  speed boat rides, a water slide, a ferris wheel, sideshow attractions and fireworks stands.  At the end of prohibition, the skeeball alleys went to a relative in North Hampton, Mass., and the tavern and restaurant were leased to the DeStefano family.  Later it went to the Joe Biondi family.

The Pavilion housed many lake side functions over 50 years.  It included dances, roller skating, bumper cars, a penny arcade, and trick roller skating duos.  For fourteen years Eddy Gustafson ran passenger rides in his 28’ Garwood Block Speedster Runabout.  In 1937-38, Charley Arnold’s High Wing Seaplane offered 25 minute plane rides from Strong’s docks.  In 1945 – 48, Hap Maitland’s Luscomb plane on floats catered to flying patrons.

​In 1938, Leo Guy Strong was old enough to help with the 1938 Hurricane clean up.  The Hurricane took the pavilion roof off and destroyed half of the canoes.  It left about 15 canoes and 28 rowboats.  After 1945 there was an outboard boat rental available, and later a  22’ 1928 Chriscraft passenger boat that made weekly stops at hotel docks.  With everyone getting their own boats and trailers, business started to decline until it closed in 1955.  Leo Guy Strong, Sr. died in 1959 and in 1960 Leo Guy Strong, Jr. and friends dismantled Strongs Pavilion.

Guy Strong and Leo Guy Strong were moulders by trade for Bevin Brothers Manufacturing Company and other local foundries.  Both were avid baseball players.  Leo Guy Strong was a pitcher and Charley Metcaf was catcher when East Hampton held League Championship.

HATHAWAY - Lake House

ANGELICO’S LAKEHOUSE RESTAURANT

The present Angelico’s Lakehouse Restaurant was originally owned by William Utley.  It was known as ‘The Utley House’.   He was married to Jerusha Brainard.

In 1877 Utley transferred the property to George H. Mead from Brooklyn, N.Y.

In 1889 George Mead transferred the property to his son Halsey B. Mead.

In 1904 Halsey Mead transferred the property to William and Sophie Rein.  The

property at this time was known as ‘Lakeside’.  Mr. Rein drowned in the lake in July of 1905.  It is said that Sophie and her neighbor, Mrs. Heirendt, danced on their front lawn in the light of the moon.  Sophie was eventually declared incompetent.

In 1912 the property then transferred  to Jacob Bauer by the guardian of children, Irma and Dorothy Rein.  It was at this time that the farm house became a rooming house.  Jacob later added sleeping rooms and a  kitchen behind the Main House, to accommodate summer guests.  Mr. Bauer saved some property and built 3 houses.  He lived in one and sold the other two.

In 1926 it was then sold to New Britain Mayor Paonessa who opened up a bar in the basement, serving mostly pitchers of beer.    One of the guests painted a large mural on the long wall of the bar.  Mr. Paonessa divided the land into lots, built roads and sold them.  Then the land owners built summer cottages.  It was known as the Lakeside Cottages.

In 1936 Paonessa quit claimed the property to Hathaway, Inc., owned by the Heirendt family.  In 1947, Tom and Stacia D’Aquila bought the property.  It was later named the Hathaway Inn and had guest rooms upstairs, and a large dining room downstairs.

It was then sold to Bob and Pat Piancentini and Andrea Fasler,  then to Brian Keller.

In 2003 it was sold to Paul Angelico and renamed Angelico’s Lake House Restaurant.   The upstairs guest rooms were subsequently converted  into one open convention area, with the dining area remaining downstairs.  The dining room with the fireplace is original to the Hathaway Inn.

In the 1920’s, during the heyday of the inns and resorts around Lake Pocotopaug, there were about 125 guests in all the hotels within a half  mile stretch, all the guests usually staying one to two months during the summer.  

1919 – 1933 were prohibition years and it has been said that bootlegging was going on in most of the hotels at that time.  People would go from one place to the next having parties all along the way.  There was little car traffic along the Lake during this period.  Evening gowns were worn Saturdays,  Sundays  and Wednesdays.     There was always music everywhere.

Present Day

Lake Pocotopaug is a big part of East Hampton’s History and in recent times has become a popular resort area surrounded by numerous homes. Most are year-round residences, although some summer cottages dot the shore. The lake is especially noted for two islands in its center (both of which have cabins), separated by a narrow, shallow strait. Lakeside attractions include: Sears Park Pavilion, Boathouse, Boat launch, Swimming, Fishing, Picinic Tables, Volleyball, Tennis, Basketball and even a playground for the kids.

There is no question Lake Pocotopaug is well worth a visit. Perhaps you will fall in love with the lake and its neighborhood charm. Come and see what you’re missing!

Invasive Weeds

Boat Inspections for Invasive Weeds:

Studies show that boaters who do not clean their boat when moving between lakes transplant invasive weeds. A Connecticut State Law now requires that boats and trailers be clean and free of weeds when entering or leaving the Lake Pocotopaug via the public road system. Violations are subject to a fine of $100.00 per plant. It is recommended that you wash down your boat (preferably on land) with water only and let it dry for 48 hours before launching your boat into the lake again.

Historic Landmarks

Notable East Hampton Sites

Air Line Trail State Park
Air Line Trail

Hiking and More.

Bevin Bell Factory
Bevin Bell
Historic Bell Factory
Comstock Bridge East Hampton,CT
Comstock Bridge

Built in 1785

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