83 acres in Glastonbury, CT
North Section – Medium sized lot for “Residents Only” near 501 Hopewell Road Glastonbury, CT
South Section – Behind the restaurant near 840 Main St, South Glastonbury, CT
Sign the petition to preserve the Cotton Hollow mill ruins: SAVE THE COTTON HOLLOW MILL
Cotton Hollow is a popular swimming and hiking spot with locals, though it’s one of those great little spots that everyone should be sure to visit. The area north of the brook is technically for Glastonbury residents only though they do allow non-residents from the third Saturday in April to June 15th for fishing purposes.
North Section – The main entrance by the Grange Pool is the trailhead for a blue/white 1 mile loop and many paths both up and downstream. Head upstream briefly for a view of Pratt’s Forge dam and cascades then follow Roaring Brook downstream through hemlock and black birch. The trail passes the main swimming hole that is popular for cliff jumping after about .4 miles. Official trails loop back after about .6 miles though unofficial trails eventually reach the ruins of the cotton mill that gives the park its name. The ruins are on private property so exploration is discouraged.
South Section – The second trail at Cotton Hollow is the 1.2 mile Tree Trail behind the restaurant. Named for the many varieties of trees along the trail, a few are marked for identification. From the trail map, “It is hard to imagine that the area crossed by this trail was once a busy recreational park, popular with trolley passengers from Hartford. ” The trail is flat and easy walking with only wet area with a branch bridge. You can get a view of the mill ruins from across Roaring Brook and explore the blow out dam at the end of the trail.
There is a great swimming hole along a series of cascades (ask me about the time I saved a dog stuck on a ledge at the swimming hole in November). The area feels similar to Natchaug State Forest or Diana’s Pool and is a great place to spend time along the river. It is very popular in the summer.
Right next to the brook (on private property) are the ruins of the Hartford Manufacturing Co. cotton mill part of the industrial corridor at Cotton Hollow. The company employed as many as 350 people who, among other things, made uniforms for the Union Army during the civil war. From the town’s site,
“During the 18th and 19th centuries, the area was home to several gristmills, sawmills, iron foundries and a cotton mill. The imposing ruins of the cotton mill built in 1814 are still visible today. “
From the Autumn article below,
“One of the best-known mills in town was Pratt’s Forge, which once existed within the present-day preserve. Also known as South Glastonbury Iron Works, the company forged 3,900-pound anchors for oceangoing vessels out of New York City and for shipyards in Portland and Essex. In 1960, one of Pratt’s descendants, Amy Pratt, would be the first to donate land for the preserve.”
I happened to run into a Glastonbury Historical Society board member on a recent hike who showed me the blown out dam at the western edge of the property right before the mill ruins. He also pointed out the foundation of Hunts Forge just a bit downstream from the main swimming hole. The forge made small tools until it was forced to move upstream when the Hartford Manufacturing Co. mill dam was constructed. He also talked about the Sportsman’s Club that owned some of the property in the mid 1900s who sold it to the town around 1963-64.
In January 2020, the owner of the private property started tearing down the western wall of the ruins without proper permits. Though the area is private property an effort to preserve what’s left of the mill is underway. I saw some of the stone being taken out on pallets, but a town meeting in February was optimistic that the rest of the ruins could be saved by purchasing the property from its current owner Amy Rios.
Hartford Courant (Marteka?) – Autumn in South Glastonbury’s Cotton Hollow (2012)
Peter Marteka – Glastonbury Aims to Preserve Storied History of Cotton Hollow (2015)
Waterfalls of New England – Cotton Hollow Cascades
Lost Glastonbury – Hunts Forge