Charlie Bigelow and his Camp Macedonia diorama.
The Road in Macedonia Park by Dave Dunleavy
Some call it the Road to Nowhere. Built over a two-year period,
the "high road" that parallels Macedonia Brook Road is an
impressive two-mile thoroughfare that was built along the
eastern base of Cobble Mountain.
What makes the road so outstanding is that its solid workmanship
was performed by young men who had little skill in road construction
other than the ability to perform hard labor day in and day
out. But 75 years after its completion, the craftsmanship
has mostly survived the ravages of Mother Nature and a forest
that has grown up around it.
The road was one of thousands of projects that were built
throughout the United States as part of the Civilian Conservation
Corps. The CCC was the brainchild of President Franklin Delano
Roosevelt and was meant to give work and meaning to hundreds
of thousands of Americans and those families still struggling
from the effects of the Great Depression.
The CCC not only built roads. Programs included erosion control,
tree planting, bridge construction, stream improvement, foot
trails, airport landing fields, insect control and even predator
eradication. The majority of the work took place in remote
areas to improve rural lands.
Today, the CCC road in Macedonia is used mainly for hiking
and cross-country skiing. When it was built from 1935-1937
the purpose was to take traffic off of narrow and occasionally
steep Macedonia Brook Road. That road cut through Macedonia
Brook State Park, as it does today, but there were periods,
especially in the spring when it was impassible due to muddy
conditions. And brook washouts weren't uncommon. The new road
would allow safer passage to motorists on their way north
to Sharon and New York State. Ironically, there are no records
to indicate that the road was ever open to traffic. No grand
opening announcement and no evidence that cars ever used the
"The government liked grand openings and ribbon-cutting
ceremonies," said Bill Bachrach, a Kent Historical Society
member. "I still haven't found anything yet to show that the
road was ever opened."
The present route was built in sections. Land had to be cleared
but most importantly solid stone walls had to be erected to
keep the road from washing across Macedonia Brook Road. Young
laborers between the ages of 18 to 25, built those fortifying
walls. In some places the walls reach 14 feet in height with
large boulders set at the base.
Despite the rugged terrain only two sections of the wall
have breached and those were fixed three years ago thanks
to a $75,000 federal stimulus grant originally secured by
former Gov. Jodi Rell.
Stone was collected from natural "slides" at the base of
Cobble Mountain by approximately 40 workers who labored daily.
One such worker, Charlie Bigelow, came back to Kent in April
of 2012 to visit the roadway and to give a public talk on
the CCC in Kent.
"We had a small bulldozer, air compressor and dump trucks,"
said Bigelow, 92 who now lives in Enfield. "I helped load
the trucks with rocks we gathered in the woods. To this day
I still have back problems that I attribute to that hard work.
"On the job we had to use a lot of dynamite. One guy, Joe
Gories from New Britain, was in charge. He got paid a little
extra for his work. Just before they lit the charge I had
to go to a safe area. Then they'd yell "fire in the hole."
Bigelow remembers living in Camp Macedonia Brook which was
built on the east side of the Housatonic River, several miles
north of the center of town on Route 7. Nearly 200 men lived
at the camp in barracks which were complete with a mess hall,
recreational hall, showers and a "12-holer" outhouse. In winter
the barracks were heated with coal stoves.
"The center of the camp was like a town square with paths
leading to the flagpole," Bigelow said during a recent interview.
"This was where we gathered each morning for roll call and
the raising of the flag. There was also a bell they rang for
When it rained Bigelow said everyone worked near camp instead,
building walls along the nearby railroad tracks of the New
York, New Haven & Hartford line. But for the six months he
stayed at camp, Bigelow spent most of his time at Macedonia,
which was designated a state park in 1919. Like the others,
he was paid $30 each month of which $25 was sent to his family.
If you wondering what these young and unmarried laborers
did back in Kent in the 1930s the answer is: not much. In
fact the locals were a bit fearful that their young daughters
might meet up with these out of-towners.
One such worker, Elmer Trombly, ended up meeting and marrying
a local girl from Cornwall named Beatrice Thompson. They spent
the rest of their lives together in Kent. Elmer was stationed
at another CCC camp called Camp Cross, near Housatonic Meadows
State Park in Cornwall. Many of those laborers worked at Kent
Falls State Park although Elmer, before he passed away in
2009, remembers raking gravel along the roadbed of the road
in Macedonia Brook State Park.
Workers from the Cross and Macedonia camps were also pressed
into service in 1936 to help with the cleanup from the massive
local flooding of the Housatonic River.
At Camp Macedonia, Bigelow and others were transported to
and from Macedonia Brook State Park in U.S. Army trucks. Although
the Army was in charge of the camps, the men fell under the
direction of the U.S. Forestry Department while on the job.
For two years the working crew literally fought an uphill
battle. The road begins near the present park ranger station
and continues slightly uphill for nearly two miles before
ending at Weber Road.
There's little doubt the wall was the most difficult portion
of the project. It runs intermittently depending on the landscape
and slope. Even to this day, the stones are still firmly and
evenly interlocked into place. The road is now a grassy path,
as wide as 20 feet in places, with a few sections covered
in gravel. At some points it moves away from the lower road
before angling back in sections, passing by a number of the
Although three-quarters of a century has passed since the
completion of the road, the surface is still smooth and firm
enough to easily allow the passage of the present-day automobile.
Its enduring legacy is a tribute to the back-breaking work
of young laborers who came from all parts of Connecticut eager
to make a better life for themselves and their families.
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