Dating from around 1800, Milestone V, on what we now call Whitney Avenue, marks the file-mile point from the New Haven Green. HHS Researcher Paul Saubestre has written several excellent articles about these markers, all but one of which still dot the landscape along the Hamden leg of the route from New Haven to Hartford.
I found a 1975 photo of Milestone V in the historical society archives with a fairly good description of its location "in front of the IBM Building," now called Spring Glen Medical Center. While searching for the stone in February of 2018, I probed along the sidewalk fronting #2200 Whitney Avenue, from the south driveway apron all the way north to the Mill River bridge. Nothing! The stone must be gone now, I thought. How sad. Yet another Hamden landmark gone.
Examining the 1975 photo of the stone once again, I could see no evidence of a building in the background, only more shrubbery. So before giving up my search, I decided to probe in the wooded area just south of the bus stop kiosk located near the parking lot driveway apron opposite Buell Street.
The clutter of broken branches, dead leaves, and miscellaneous ground cover were so thick I thought it would be impossible to find anything if anything were there.
February 2018 - Where the stone was located on the west side of Whitney Avenue, just south of the bus kiosk
Feb. 2018 Close-up - Buried
Poking the handle of my rake up and down, back and forth in the pile of brush, I was thrilled to find what appeared to be the top of a mile marker.
Clearing away some of the debris confirmed that it was Milestone V. "Yes!" Barely visible, the stone seemed almost hopelessly buried deeply under a mound of dead leaves and brush. Even worse, it was now leaning very heavily to one side.
Frost heaving being a possible though unlikely cause, the only other logical reason for the stone leaning at a near 45-degree angle was that it probably had been struck by a southbound vehicle sometime during the previous four-plus decades.
DOT crew in Sept. 2019
In September 2019, Hamden Historical Society researcher Paul Saubestre, fellow researcher Tony Griego, archivist Kathy Lindbeck, and I met with a State of Connecticut DOT crew when they arrived at the site to clear away all the brush to provide some visibility to the stone.
The DOT crew did a fine job and the stone was once again clearly visible to travellers along Whitney Avenue. But there was a problem. Who was going to put the stone upright once again?
Even though the stone lies on private property, history suggests that the stone is actually owned by the State of Connecticut. The state crew told us that we were free to put the stone back in its upright position.
The stone in Sept. 2019, after the DOT crew cleared around it.
The length of the stone and its depth were unknown, as was the effort it would take to upright it. So Tony and the rest of us decided to wait for the warmer weather of Spring 2020 to tackle the problem. Then came COVID! Our work party would have to wait another year.
This year during our weekly Tuesday gatherings at the Al Gorman History Room (3rd floor at Miller Library), Tony kept suggesting that we ought straighten Milestone V before the ground got too cold and we'd have to wait yet another year. So we finally set our sights on getting the job done the weekend of November 13-14, which turned out to be a wash. For the record, four tornadoes were reported in Connecticut (AKA "Kansas-East") that Saturday.
Not to be intimidated by Mother Nature, we decided to give our project one more shot. The November 20-21 weekend turned out to be perfect.
The milestone being a historic property of sorts, Tony and I mentioned the milestone straightening project at last Monday's monthly meeting of the Hamden Historic Properties Commission, on which Tony and I both serve. Hearing this, fellow HPC member Mark Osenko eagerly volunteered to join the work party, scheduled for the following Saturday at 2 o'clock. We were also joined by my son, Matt Johnson.
On Saturday, Tony and Mark arrived at Milestone V shortly before Matt and I got there about 1:50. The three of them proceeded to dig out the stone, remove it, deposit the time capsule, replace and reposition the stone, and fill it all back in all within 30 minutes.
Tony, Mark, and Matt did all the work while I watched (I'm good at that), my strenuous physical efforts being limited to pressing the shutter button on my camera.
Thanks to Tony, Mark, and Matt, Milestone V is now back, fully upright, and easily seen from passing vehicles. Thank you very much, gentlemen - nice job.
CLICK ON ANY IMAGE BELOW TO ENLARGE IT.
Tony guided Matt and Mark as they began digging down.
The depth of the stone was unknown.
Mark digs down further. Once the base of the marker was exposed, it was time to move it into an upright position. The men wrapped a wide nylon strap around the stone and attached it to Tony's block and tackle which was securely anchored to the front of his SUV.
Tony and Matt pulling the stone upright.
Upright, but twisted!
Once the stone was upright, we could see that it needed to be turned slightly counterclockwise so that the markings on the face of the stone would be parallel with the road.
The solution was to pull out the stone completely, dig the hole a little deeper, then re-set the stone properly into place.
Before digging it up, the length of the stone was a mystery. Once it was fully exposed, we measured the marker from top to bottom using the 50" long pry bar, which was longer than the stone by two inches.
Tony's Time Capsule
Mark plants the capsule beaneath the 400 lb. stone
Tony brought a heavy plastic tube that could be completely screwed shut. It became our time capsule in which we deposited a number appropriate Hamden objects that commemorated Milestone V, including a printout of Paul Saubestre's article, well sealed inside of a zip-lock bag. Sitting beneath the 400-pound stone, it is not likely to be "appropriated" any time soon. If it survives the scores or centuries ahead, it may provide some future researchers with many answers.
Matt Johnson, Tony Griego, and Mark Osenko did the job in just under thirty minutes
As one question is answered, another is posed . . .
As we were packing up our tools and getting ready to return home, Tony noticed something odd atop the marker. It was a perfectly round hole that appeared to be bored into the stone. Hmmm. Any ideas? We're going to look into it (a flashlight might be helpful). We'll keep you posted.