The excitement was contagious throughout the New England History Nerd World today as a long-closed National Historic Landmark reopened to the public: Old New-Gate Prison and Copper Mine in East Granby, CT.
This is an amazing place to bring little adventurers and big kids alike. There is much history to learn here, there are beautiful grounds to explore, and it's a super affordable excursion.
Old New-Gate Prison and Copper Mine is a National Historic Landmark and a State Archaeological Preserve where you can learn about the natural history of the land and the history of the site as a copper mine, a prison and as a tourist attraction through the centuries. The property was used as a copper mine from 1705 through the 1750's, was Connecticut's first prison from 1773 through 1827, and has been operated on and off as a tourist attraction since the mid-1800's. SO much history to explore here.
While visiting the archaeological remains on the site is unique (there are a few stone jail cells you can explore), the real gem here is going underground to visit the copper mine. It's a compelling cave explore -- stairs, slippery pathways, winding passageways. Very engaging. The property itself is beautiful to walk around (and is stroller friendly if your stroller is good on grass). Bring a lunch and a blanket for a picnic.
A few notes before you go:
- Wear sturdy shoes -- sneakers or hiking shoes. NOT flip-flops or anything with slippery soles or heels. The underground mine is wet, slippery, and uneven. Also, when you exit the mine you will need to spray the soles of your shoes with rubbing alcohol (provided onsite) to prevent the spread of white-nose syndrome to bats in the area.
- I wouldn't recommend taking anyone under the age of three into the mine. You really need to be able to walk independently and safely. I can't imagine carrying a baby through the tunnels. That being said, I did see one brave dad carrying a toddler in a backpack carrier but that activity is not for the faint of heart (I can't imagine that he made it all the way through the narrow tour). The property itself is stroller-friendly (on grass) but not inside the mine.
- Do not bring anyone with claustrophobia or fear of the dark into the mine. It's just not fair to them.
- Feel free to BYO flashlight. I'm sure little explorers would love this and flashlights are welcome inside.
- Bring a sweater if you or the kiddos are sensitive to cold. The temperature inside the mine is 52 degrees. Very refreshing on a hot summer day but may be uncomfortable for some.
This landmark has been closed to the public for 14 years except for occasional special events so it's pretty exciting to be able to learn about the history of this influential spot which has been in existence since before the Revolutionary War. Don't be put off by the idea of bringing little ones to a prison site -- nothing is overtly scary and there is not much emphasis on "jail" (in fact, the property's use as a prison is the smallest portion of it's history and it was actually a jail fail). They'll be interested to explore the archaeological remains and have a cave explore.
Visiting Old New-Gate is not an all-day adventure. I'd guesstimate you can explore the grounds, have a picnic and take some unique photos in under two hours. Right now the landmark is open to the public on Friday from 1-5 p.m., Saturday & Sunday from 10 a.m. - 5 p.m., and Monday from 10 a.m. - 2 p.m. You can get more information and get updates on special events taking place here by following their Facebook page.