George A. Sprecace M.D., J.D., F.A.C.P. and Allergy Associates of New London, P.C.

New Look at New London
Chris Burrell, The New York Post

                                                  August 21, 2001 -- OK, if you tell
                                                  your friends you're spending a
                                                  couple days' vacation knocking
                                                  around New London, Conn., they
                                                  probably won't turn green with

                                                  After all, to most people this city of
                                                  about 60,000 is just another
                                                  signpost on I-95, a benchmark on
                                                  the way to Mystic Seaport, the
                                                  casinos at Foxwoods, or a
                                                  stopover before heading to the
                                                  Hamptons by ferry.

                                The trick lies in telling your friends that you have
                                discovered a sleeper destination, where a genuinely retro
                                mini-golf lies five feet from the beach, where an art deco
                                theater screens classic movies and where the natural beauty
                                of the seashore blends with a gritty urban setting.

                                Truly a sheep in wolf's clothing, New London may appear
                                down at the heels at first glance, but things are looking up.

                                The pharmaceutical giant, Pfizer, just built its research
                                headquarters in this port city, turning polluted brown fields
                                into a spiffy modern complex of buildings.

                                Downtown, there's a renaissance of another sort, this one
                                artistic. Art galleries are popping up on both sides of the
                                city center, and there's an experimental theater, Secret
                                Theatre, staging shows on the weekends.

                                Music or movies can be seen year-round at the Garde Arts
                                Center, a completely restored art deco theater. Next door
                                is an excellent and very affordable Thai restaurant,
                                Bangkok City.

                                What's great about downtown New London is the

                                While other cities let loose with the wrecking ball back in
                                the '70s, most of the blocks in this city seem almost frozen
                                in earlier eras, with plenty of brick, granite and clapboards
                                still intact.

                                Union Railroad Station alone is a terrific example. It's a
                                cool, massive brick building with a Romanesque arched
                                entry and eyebrow gables.

                                Of course, like many small cities in New England, some of
                                the storefronts are empty.

                                The old Crocker House on State Street was once a hotel
                                that welcomed celebrated guests such as Charles Dickens
                                and Eugene O'Neill's actor father, James. With its beautiful
                                curved glass window and ornate copper trim, it seems ripe
                                for a new tenant.

                                New London may not be for the faint-hearted, but for
                                anyone who likes exploring, the sidestreets hold treasures.

                                Right off State Street, for example, is the Dutch Tavern, a
                                homey joint where the burgers are tasty and patrons are

                                Yes, New London's most famous writer, playwright
                                Eugene O'Neill, hung out here, but he wasn't too particular
                                as long as the alcohol was flowing.

                                The place has character, small wooden tables worn smooth
                                by decades of elbows and beer glasses rubbing their tops.

                                Turn right outside and you'll stumble onto Antique Radio &
                                Television, a veritable museum of gorgeous specimens -
                                Philcos cased in wood, and all manner of radios large and

                                The place is a blast for kids age 8 and up, especially if
                                owner William Morse lets them try their hand at a
                                contraption used to test those old tubes.

                                Nature is never too far away. Just outside town is the
                                Connecticut Arboretum with excellent walking trails. South
                                of the city center is Ocean Beach Park where the
                                boardwalk reigns.

                                Long Island Sound, in all its splendor, beckons hundreds of
                                beach-goers, who come for the volleyball, the saltwater
                                and the view.

                                All the amenities are right there, too - ice cream, beer,
                                game rooms and showers.

                                This is also the place for mini-golf, where hole No. 7 is a
                                plaster whale that spouts water. You're so close to the
                                beach here, that water might just be the real thing.

                                Finally, if you work up an appetite, the place to go in warm
                                weather is Fred's Shanty on Pequot Avenue, for footlong
                                hot dogs or fried clams.

                                The place sits on the shore of the Thames River just before
                                it empties into the Sound. Sailboats and ferry boats ply the
                                water and so does the occasional submarine - they build
                                'em right across the river in Groton.

                                * New London is about a 21/2-hour drive east of New
                                York City on I-95. It is also accessible via Amtrak. Tourist
                                information: (800) 863-6569,

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