Great Hammock Beach Association
Old Saybrook, CT

The Great Hammock on the Sound


The Name. A “hammock” is a fertile area higher than its surroundings that rises above an adjacent marsh. It is often characterized by hardwood vegetation (such as trees) and deep humus-rich soil. Oft-expressed speculation that Great Hammock Beach was named because “it looks like a hammock from the air” is pure aerie persiflage since Orville and Wilbur Wright were still trying to keep their prototype airplane in the air when the beach was developing in 1913.


Early Marketing  The original brochure and map for The Great Hammock on the Sound shore plots, issued by Calvin and Sarah Fairbank is dated June 1, 1913. “A cool, pleasant, and sightly location” and “over 1200 feet of nice sand beach, convenient to trolley, best of drinking water available and safe beach for small children” were some of the selling points. 


Early Residents  Modern research shows that Calvin Cornelius Fairbank (born April 17, 1868 in Williamsburg, MA) married Sarah Walker (born February 14, 1868 in Wolcott, CT) in Saybrook on May 21, 1890 and they had a daughter, Marcia Walker Fairbank.  It appears that the Fairbank family retained the first lot in their division located at the juncture of Back River and Long Island Sound, at the end of what is now Barnes Road most likely near the current property at 31 Barnes Road.


A second lot on the Back River, adjoining the Fairbank lot to the east, shows W. Ingham as the owner. This lot would have been near the Berglund property at 30 Barnes Road. Wesley Ingham lived in a large colonial house on the Boston Post Road in Saybrook, adjacent to the Oyster River bridge, opposite to what is now the Shell Gasoline Station. Oyster River flowed, as it does now, southerly to the Back River from sources north of the Post Road.


An “H. Barnes” is listed as the owner of a third lot, located southerly adjacent to the Fairbank lot.

The only named road on the brochure map is Buckingham Avenue, the main entry to the division. Although unnamed in the brochure, the road leading from Buckingham Avenue northerly along the waterfront to the Back River is Barnes Road, named for the owner of the third lot. It appears to have been near the current Scherber property at 27 Barnes Road.


In the early 1900s, Wesley Ingham’s home was a hub of activity in catering to campers, who rented rowboats to reach The Great Hammock waterfront for their camping sites along Barnes Road. Prior to 1913, there was no Great Hammock Road and no bridge across the Back River. For access to his shore plots on The Great Hammock on the Sound, Fairbank provided a gravel road down from the Post Road with a wooden bridge to span the Back River. The wooden bridge was located at the location of the current Wilbur property at 1 Buckingham Avenue.


The brochure shows a “proposed road” running parallel to Buckingham Avenue to the south. This would be Walker Avenue, probably named after Mrs. Sarah Walker Fairbank.

Original waterfront campers purchased lots early in the development of The Great Hammock on the Sound. They interested their friends and fellow workers in joining them. William Field and Ralph Biermarker, who worked together at The Hartford Rubber Works (now UniRoyal), were early purchasers. William Field bought a lot in 1913 and built his cottage in 1923 at 16 Buckingham Avenue. It is now home to the fifth generation of the Field/Loveland/Sennett family. The Ralph Biermacher family built a cottage at 17 Buckingham Avenue, now the site of the Dimauro family. Almost immediately, other members of the Biermacher family, John and Mildred Biermacher Russell, built a cottage on an adjacent lot at 19 Buckingham Avenue. This is now the site of the Gwizd family.


The very first cottage built on The Great Hammock was for the Joyce/Clark family at 29 Buckingham Avenue, and is now the property of the Rosano family. The Field cottage at 16 Buckingham Avenue was the second cottage. Construction lumber and supplies for early cottages had to come down Oyster River by boat, or floated down in the water.


Early property owners interested friends and relatives in joining them at The Great Hammock. A number of members of St. Paul’s Methodist Church in the Parkville section of Hartford joined fellow church members William and Charlotte Field in purchasing lots. Members of that church included the Joyce/Clark family who built the first cottage, the Katzung/Forristall family who built at 21 Buckingham Avenue (currently the Dilk cottage); and the Stone/Murphy family at 9 Walker Avenue.


The Public Well. The developer created a 10-foot right-of-way between Buckingham Avenue and Walker Avenue by reducing the lots at 14 Buckingham Ave and 13 Walker Avenue by 10 feet in width. A well was created in the center of the right-of-way by installing concrete liner pipes with a wooden platform, and stairs to reach a large hand pump. It provided good drinking water for the many waterfront families who lacked drinking water and made daily trips with their containers for their household needs.



The remaining 40 foot lots became part of double-lot properties of H. Byington at 12 Buckingham Avenue (now owned by the Saunders family), and R. Hadley (now owned by the Beeman family) at 11 Walker Avenue. The right-of-way and public well were discontinued when city water was furnished to the beach in the 1930s.

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