Ann Petry doll, photo courtesy of Uneek Doll Designs

Ann Petry, Literary Daughter of Connecticut

Ann Petry (1908-1997) was the daughter of a pharmacist who grew up in Old Saybrook in the building that came to be known as James Pharmacy. She was a popular, critically acclaimed, and cutting-edge novelist who eventually made a life for herself in Harlem before returning to Connecticut. She was the first Black woman writer to sell more than one million copies of a book and was inducted into the Connecticut Women’s Hall of Fame in 1994. Read more about her through these links:

Petry’s Writing

Known for exploring and writing about racism and sexism, Petry’s most esteemed writings include Like a Winding Street (1946), The Street (1946), Country Place (1947), and The Narrows (1953). Her work, especially The Street, has seen a resurgence in popularity since 2018 when becoming book club picks. Watch a video about the author, her writing, and the overall environment of her work here: Ann Petry YouTube Video.

A free PDF of the entire book of The Street can be found here:

Petry’s House

James Pharmacy was built in 1790 as a general store and later became a pharmacy and soda fountain, and then a bed-and-breakfast. It passed through several generations before it became the childhood home of Ann Petry. It was both immacuately modernized and lovingly restored to its past.

Operating for years as boutique luxury accommodations at 2 Pennywise Lane, it was revitalized under new ownership in 2017 but, sadly, closed its doors in 2019. Travelers, however, may enjoy a brief outdoor sitting spot on the tranquil lawn of the church across the street while taking in the view. Or, consider taking in the storyboard history walk at the nearby Fort Saybrook Monument Park, just a few miles due east.

More history can be found here:

Old Saybrook

Old Saybrook is an historic coastal town at the mouth of the Connecticut River. A colony of a small group of Dutch settled there in the early 1600s. During Ann Petry’s childhood, the population was fairly small. It is now nearly ten times that. In addition to history quests, travelers may also enjoy the rich birding opportunities along the coast and the river.

This is the second stop on the coastline part of the Connecticut Author Adventures Trail.

Patricia Smart