Preserving the Past, Informing the Future
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The Thunderbolt roller coaster at Savin Rock Amusement Park in West Haven, Conn., was built in 1925 by Prior, Church and Traver. It jutted 505 feet into Long Island Sound and was 85 feet high at its tallest point. It was destroyed by the hurricane of 1938 and rebuilt the following year and renamed the Giant Flyer. "The public outcry at the name change soon caused the owners to rename the coaster the Thunderbolt-Giant Flyer. The new name was never accepted by the public and … it was always referred to as the Thunderbolt." (Dorman. Savin Rock, p.94) It was torn down in 1957 because the support structure was rotting.
The roller coaster is adjacent to Wilcox’s pier. When it was built in 1870, by George Kelsey, it was 1,500 feet long. Frank Wilcox ran a famous restaurant next to the pier that took his name. The pier was shortened by a storm in the 1880s and again by the hurricane of 1938. A steel and concrete pier, built in the area in the mid-1960s, retains the Wilcox name.
The 8,731 photographs from the 1934 aerial survey are available online at Connecticut's Aerial Surveys. Our website describes how to access other years’ aerial surveys, both online and in the original in the Research Guide to Aerial Photographs at the Connecticut State Library.
The History of Aerial Photography in Connecticut includes links to an article and photographs taken from a hot air balloon in 1885 by John G. Doughty.
Savin Rock : an illustrated history. By Bennett W. Dorman. 2nd ed. North Haven, Conn. : Photo Restoration & Design, c1998. p. 94. [CSL call number: GV 1853.3 .C82 S384 1998]