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Strange Branford Roads, from Goat Alley to Seven Main Streets

Branford has more Main Streets than most places with the five we have now, but did you know we once had seven? From Goat Alley to Paved Street and Tin Can Ally, there are plenty of odd road names in Branford to explore.

One of the first things that any self respecting settlement will build for its residents is a good road. According to historical records – and an excellent article compiled by Jane Bouley of the Branford Historical Society – the current Main Street and Montowese Street of Branford connected as the first real road in Branford, originally both called Towne Street. Another very early street was a small path just off of now-Montowese called Pig Lane. Montowese Street later took its name from Montowese, who was the sachem, or leader, largely responsible for the sale of Totoket area to the British in 1638.

Most of the downtown roads in both Branford Center and in the neighborhoods were unpaved through the early 1900s, which makes the name "Paved Street" an interesting one. According to the Stony Creek Mapanscrap Book, which the reference librarians at the James Blackstone Memorial Library tracked down for me, Paved Street was a whole district along what is now Leetes Island Road. In fact, the Paved Street District, described as "A section eastern part of town line north of turnpike" in early city directories, and better described as the stretch of Leetes Island Road from Route 1 to just south of Flat Rock Road, was included as an official name for the area until the late 1950s. It appears as a listing in the 1960 city directory, redirecting users to Leetes Island Road.

I think it's worth noting that this name change happened right around the same time that the United States Postal Service made the mandate that towns could not have the same street names in different parts of town. I mentioned it back in the initial article for this column, but it may be worth mentioning again, as it feeds right into 's second question about the number of our Main streets: Before 1954, Branford had seven main streets. Stony Creek's Main Street became Thimble Islands Road. Short Beach's Main Street took the name Shore Drive. So why does Short Beach Road change names? If you'll bear with my educated guess, in grand New England tradition, Short Beach Road is called that because it leads to Short Beach, just like Route 1, where it intersected Paved Street, used to be called the Guilford Turnpike. Inside of Short Beach, however, the road was known as Main Street – right up until the Post Office said that it had to be named something different. Could the town have decided to just call Short Beach Road by one name all the way through Short Beach? Probably. But they landed on Shore Drive to replace Main Street, and that's what it's been called ever since. As an interesting addendum, it looks like Short Beach Road was actually called Old Short Beach Road back in 1895, which makes you wonder where the new one might have been!

came up with another tricky question in response to the Q&A part of the post. Tin Can Ally was not an official name in the town records – its official name has always been Waltrous Avenue, over in Stony Creek. (In 1895, it stretched from School Street to Stony Creek's Main Street.) During the quarry boom of the 1890s, the houses went "flying up," according to the Stony Creek Mapanscrap Book. Because of that quick construction, the street earned the nickname Tin Can Ally. That area of Stony Creek was also known as Swedeville during the late 1800s, presumably due to the large Swedish population that settled there for quarry work. Stony Creek has a host of other fun nicknames, but I'll only mention a few here. Hall's Point Road was once known as Dog Alley, due to the number of dogs in residence there. Bowhay Hill has had several nicknames, including Railroad Hill, Nut Hill, Cousin Jack Hill, and English Hill – the last two due to the large number of English immigrants who moved there for quarry work.

What names are still around in Branford that have held those names since 1895? To my surprise, there are only five Main Streets listed during that era: Branford Center's, Stony Creek's, and East, South, and West Main. North Main and Short Beach's Main Street must have had those names, officially, later on in order to not be listed in the 1895 city directory. Other streets, however, appear much as they did back then – without the trolley lines, of course, and now nicely paved! Cedar Street, Damascus, Double Beach Road, Ivy Street, Kirkham, Rogers, and Pine Orchard Road are among the familiar names from that era. Harbor Street appears to have reached all the way north to Main Street at Cherry Hill Road during that time period, rather than being divided into North Harbor and Harbor Street, with diversions onto Meadow and Bridge Street to connect them, as they do now.

Roads that you won't notice in 1895 are two more that Tom Grantland asked about: Goat Alley and Rock Street. In fact, the current city directory won't show Goat Alley, either. But, thanks to the magic of the Internet, I tracked it down: it's the road that runs behind King of the Hill, Branford Hobbies, the Udder Place, and Wine Barrel. If you're heading toward East Haven, take that little jaunt off of West Main Street and turn left on Brainerd Avenue. Then take another short left and you've found it. According to Google Maps, it runs straight through some houses shortly thereafter, but I suppose we can't trust the Internet for everything.

As far as Rock Street – I believe I found that one as well: if you're traveling north on Brushy Plain Road, right where the street becomes Totoket Road, there's a left turn onto Rock Street. As soon as you cross into East Haven – which looks to be a matter of feet – Rock Street becomes Rock Road. Whether or not this is the same Rock Street Tom was hoping I'd track down, I'm not sure; given the question "where did Rock Street disappear to?" I'm forced to answer, into East Haven!

Nicole Ball April 18, 2011 at 06:36 PM
As some of you know, your trusted Branford Patch Editor resides in the Indian Neck section of town and lives on Crouch Road. A few months ago, my husband found an old newspaper clip, looking through the microfilm at the James Blackstone Memorial Library. The newspaper, dated Friday, March 22, 1878 was The Branford News. (yes that period is included in the title) and the editor, as irony would have it, was Mr. Charles A. Crouch. Whether his namesake is the reason our road lives on as “Crouch” or not, I am not sure; but I like our shared connection of delivering local news! The slogan of the paper was, “Devoted to the Interests of Branford and Vicinity.” If anyone knows more about Mr. Crouch, please let me know.
Tom Grantland April 18, 2011 at 06:54 PM
What happened to Rock st/ rd is that the towns of Branford and East Haven had the rd made non- drivable because of illegal trash dumping. So the road disappeared.
Nellie Araceepra April 19, 2011 at 01:03 AM
Street names are fun around Connecticut. Someplace there is a Barn Cat Rd., Sodom Lane and Lovers Lane. In Meriden you have Women's Way. I have been told two different stories about it. The first one is that many years ago, women sold all kinds of goods there, a farmers market. The second one is that it was supposedly the red light district. Today,it is just a tiny, quiet, dead end in a rundown part of town.
Edward Fast Lazarus April 19, 2011 at 01:30 PM
Ed Lazarus Quite a coincidence--look for the upcoming t-shirt being designed by one of your committees. The front says Can you direct me to main street--and the back is a cartoonist styled map featuring all main streets and highlighting businesses located in the area!!! Call 203- 488-5500 for more information or e-mail diane@branfordct.com
Alana Joli Abbott April 20, 2011 at 12:29 AM
Egads! So the road that's currently on the map is no longer usable? I should have driven up to see that for myself!
Alana Joli Abbott April 20, 2011 at 12:30 AM
What a fantastic possible coincidence--or namesake! Maybe one of these days we'll have to do a column on Mr. Crouch! :)
Alana Joli Abbott April 20, 2011 at 12:31 AM
Ha! Wild historical Meriden! :) I love the name Barn Cat Rd., too.
Alana Joli Abbott April 20, 2011 at 12:31 AM
I'd heard a rumor about this! I'm super excited to see it. Can I presume they'll be for sale somewhere in town?
Jeff Bailey April 23, 2011 at 07:22 PM
Alana and Nicole; I scanned and attached to this story a map from the back of a book I own which shows shows Pig Lane, Town Street (Montowese) and King's Highway (Main St.).
Alana Joli Abbott April 27, 2011 at 12:00 AM
A map circa 1699 -- fantastic! What book does this come from? I'd love to read more! :)

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