So what are those around Young's Pond? We had some fun guesses, from Wayne Cook's suggestion that, like the mysterious Newport Tower – also known as the Old Stone Mill – the structures could have been built by medieval Scottish Templars. But, while the controversy over who built Newport Tower is ongoing among historians and scholars, the Young's Pond structures actually have a documented answer.
Several people suggested that the structures might be the remains of the old ice house. In the early 1900s, Young's Pond was a source of ice for the Young family and their farm. The pond regularly froze solid, and at the south end, there was an ice house. In Franny Taft's Pine Orchard, available at the , she writes about the workers coming from the farm with sledges pulled by draft horses. They would cut the ice into 2 foot by 3 foot pieces with saws; the pieces were hauled ashore to the ice house. She describes it as "a tall windowless building situated on the shore opposite where today the swan-feeders stop." The ice house came down sometime after World War II.
Constance Miller posted a recollection from her own childhood as part of her answer in last week's article. She writes: "I was always fascinated by the ice house because inside were stored several big old sleighs that had been pulled by horses and of course, as a child, I was sure they had something to do with Santa Claus. As an adult I realize the had something to do with moving the blocks of ice, which I understand were cut from the pond in the winter months."
But as Deb Trofatter of the James Blackstone Memorial Library pointed out while helping me with the research, not only is the location of the ice house wrong, but the ice house, of course, wouldn't have chimneys. Clearly, the structures we're talking about do! So, before getting some confirmation from our excellent readers, I contacted Jane Bouley of the Branford historical society. She describes the Young family picnic area on top of the hill behind the pond, where the family had a small structure for their family gatherings.
Miller remembers when the structures were still standing, though she recalls a fire destroying them sometime in the 1950s. "Every Friday our mothers packed a picnic lunch for us and we all went to the woods for a picnic, usually at the cabin on the hill looking down on the pond. That cabin at the time had a completely open front and I assume it was originally meant for outings and picnics."
Jennifer Acquino did some extra footwork before posting information she received from a descendant of Alden Young in last week's column. Her friend writes: "This is just a snap of the upper cabin, I think. There were two. Both recreational things. From my early days, the upper was pretty much gone. the lower, at the SW end of the pond, was a 3-sided structure, opening up onto a large fireplace. We would have family picnics there."
The final answer: the stone structures at Young's Pond are the remnants of a picnic cabin built for Young family outings. When the warm weather finally creeps our way, pack yourself a picnic lunch and join the generations of Branford residents who have enjoyed an afternoon there!
Want to know something about Branford history? Ask me in the comments!