THE BLOG
10/08/2014 08:41 am ET Updated Dec 08, 2014

Love Letters: Old Saybrook, CT

Viola Tagliatela has been a resident of Old Saybrook for more than 54 years. In 1980, her future in-laws bought the dilapidated Old Saybrook Inn. Today, her husband, Stephen, runs the Saybrook Point Inn & Spa, which is celebrating its 25th anniversary. Viola remains active in the community. Viola is currently pursuing a degree in Biblical Theology at Baptist Bible College. Her favorite time of the year is winter when the occasional snow and ice create a peaceful winter wonderland in Old Saybrook and she can marvel at the natural wildlife that come to inhabit the shoreline area along the Connecticut River and Long Island Sound.

To my dearest Old Saybrook,

Guess how much I have loved you over the years? Since the age of two, you have enabled my passion for horses, fulfilled my thirst for knowledge, and nurtured my love of family, friends and community, all while living within the comfort of your embrace. My heart has always brought me back to you, Old Saybrook. At one time, I ventured outside your arms and moved to nearby Ivoryton, but I could never stay away from you for long. From your magical shores, to your wondrous woodlands, to your incredible storybook past, you have brought me comfort, joy and inspiration throughout my lifetime.

I am thankful that you have always stayed true to your character, avoiding the commercial tugs and barges that populate other waterfront cities in the state. This, of course, is thanks to your Long Sand Shoal, the legendary sandbar nestled off of Lynde Light and Saybrook Breakwater Light. These two lighthouses would guide the way for incoming vessels. Captains would need to line up the lighthouses, and shoot straight through the breakwater, so as to avoid the Long Sand Shoal. It's that sandbar that is credited for having kept the mouth of the Connecticut River from becoming industrialized. Can't thank you enough, Long Sand Shoal! You've kept our hometown of Old Saybrook charming, quaint and peaceful more than 475 years. And the more I travel, the more fortunate I feel to be coming home to your surroundings.

I still remember visiting your local general store, M.L. Patrick's, on Main Street for our family's home goods, and stopping at Mr. Palmer's Fruit Stand on our way to and from school for the best produce in town. And while these folks have passed, their love of community endures and has fostered a new generation of neighborhood camaraderie which is especially evident at Maynard's Farm Stand. I go here for local farm-fresh fruits and vegetables as well as freshly baked pies.

This sense of community and family that I experience every day was one of your best qualities long before M.L. Patrick's and Mr. Palmer. Lady Fenwick and her husband, Governor George Fenwick, the first governor of Old Saybrook, contributed to the success of the Saybrook colony. The fruits and vegetables from their family garden, as well as the wild game they hunted, all contributed to the community's food supply. In recognition of the family's dedication to you and your community, the Borough of Fenwick is named in their honor and it is a peaceful place where I go to reflect on my own contributions to the community.

As a history buff, you've also been the perfect place to grow and learn. Stories like Lady and Governor Fenwick's were always intriguing to me. My own family also has roots in your history, as my father, grandfather, and uncle were all Connecticut River Pilots who navigated around the Long Sand Shoal so expertly, making my interest in your history a personal one. But I also see living history around you, Old Saybrook, from the original fort adjacent to the Saybrook Point Inn & Spa, to the state's oldest cemetery, to the remains of the historic Valley Railroad Company. You have always nurtured my thirst for knowledge, which is why I've decided to change careers later in life, moving beyond accounting and economics to studying history and theology.

There's always something to watch for in the seasonal migration of birds to the area. Your meadow grass that leads to south cove is marvelous with the arrival of the egrets, glossy black ibis, American kestrel, and osprey in the spring and summer. And in the winter months, you become an awesome spectacle of nature as bald eagles, red shoulder hawks, cooper's hawks, and northern harrier hawks visit your saltwater estuaries to feed.

For friends and family visiting Old Saybrook, I always take them around the "loop." We drive along you scenic waterfront highway 154, around North Cove Road, to where guests can experience the many beautiful, historic homes and magnificent trees that have been around for hundreds of years. They also see your majestic Lynde Light, the inner lighthouse, and Saybrook Breakwater Light, the outer lighthouse. This makes my Old Saybrook even more special, as you are one of the only places in the country that needs two working lighthouses right next to each other.

Of all the things I love about you, I feel Founders Park is what stands out the most. It's one of your best-kept secrets! My favorite times are when I'm able to grab a sandwich at Walt's, the local meat market, and take it up to Founders Park to sit there and see how your world unfolds and reflect on how the past, present, and future have evolved and continue to evolve in my beautiful Old Saybrook. As I sit upon my perch at Founders Park, I imagine a time and place when people would travel from Hartford to the Borough of Fenwick in Old Saybrook to vacation for the summer.

As I look south from Founders Park and dream about life in the early 19th century, I'm reminded of a simpler time when people were able to savor the pleasantries of life and enjoy the little things. I envision the smiles of families riding the rails through Fort Saybrook Monument Park, along the causeway in front of what is now Saybrook Point Inn & Spa where they would be dropped off for their summer vacation. It's a dream that still exists today in my dear Old Saybrook, and a feeling that keeps me home and makes me love you more and more everyday.

Yours truly,
Viola