This week’s challenge involves finding the home of one of Deep River’s shipbuilders, Eli Denison. This house is located on the corner of Phelps Lane and River Street, overlooking the Lace Factory and the CT River. This house is privately owned. Thomas Denison’s home is located at 7 High Street.
Thomas Denison and his son Eli, who had been building ships in Essex, moved to Deep River in 1836 and resumed the shipbuilding business established by Job Southworth at the Deep River landing. Eli built his home on Phelps Lane overlooking what was then the sail loft operations. Today, the Lace Factory sits on that site. Thomas Denison built his home on Essex Street. Both are still standing today. The open porch on Eli’s home has been closed in with glass panels.
The schooner Splendid was the first important ship built by the Denisons in the Deep River Yard. She was 87 tons, 67 feet long, and 22 feet wide with a depth of 7 feet. She carried two masts. The Splendid was built for Captain Epaphroditus Bates in 1836, who turned over command to Captain John N. Saunders who lived on Kirtland Street.
The Denisons carried on a successful business for more than 30 years before steam-powered ships dominated the shipbuilding industry.
The last important ship built in the Denison Yard was the William A. Vail. She was a two-masted ship of 180 tons, 106 feet long, 29 feet wide, and had an eliptic stern. Owners were Henry Parker and five others all of New Haven, six Clinton owners including Captain William A. Vail, for whom the schooner was named. This ship is especially important to the citizens of Deep River as images of the ship were chosen to be used on our Deep River seal, flag, and town hall.
Find out more about the Denisons and shipbuilding in Deep River at the Stone House in their newest exhibit “From Wharf to Waterfall.” Open Thursday mornings from 10 am to 12 pm and Sundays from 2 pm to 4 pm. Admission is free.