Saturday, April 18, 2015

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Municipal Stadium Origins

During the 1890s, the Waterbury Driving Park opened on Watertown Avenue. Owned by the City, it hosted races for horses, cyclists, and runners; football games for high schools; and baseball games for city teams. 

Bridgeport Sunday Herald, 6 September 1896

Friday, April 10, 2015

Socialites of 1890

While browsing copies of the Waterbury Sunday Herald through the Connecticut State Library's Digital Collections, I came across an illustrated writeup about a ball held in January or February 1890 by the Second Regiment Connecticut National Guard, which was headquartered here in Waterbury. The ball was held at Waterbury's City Hall (not the current building; the former City Hall building which was located on the Green).

The "news" article is fascinating both for the evocative images of the event, and for the tiny glimpse it gives of Waterbury's high society women during the Gilded Age. Although the article gave little detail about the women it featured, my research has uncovered a wide range of fascinating life stories, including a glamorous actress, a diplomat's wife rescuing a man from a grizzly bear in Canada, the wife of a famous playwright, women who were active in local organizations, and women who preferred the "quiet" life of raising a family and managing a household.

Artist's depiction of the ball, Sunday Herald (9 Feb 1890)

Sunday, March 01, 2015

Warner Gardens History

One of the most unique places in Waterbury is Warner Gardens. Located at the top of Long Hill, the decaying complex of buildings seems more like something you’d find in the deep South than in Connecticut. Its history begins with a wartime housing shortage, includes a period of pride and achievement during the Civil Rights era, and is now approaching a transformative ending.

Warner Gardens. Photo by Gretchen Van Tassel, June 1945.
Collection of UC Berkeley, Bancroft Library
[Note: updated on March 8, 2015 to include Sanborn map showing all the original buildings.]

Saturday, February 21, 2015

Jacques', Annie Louise Ames, and Jean Dixon

Jacques' Theater was a legendary downtown landmark during the first half of the 20th century. Jacques' (pronounced "Jake's") opened in 1886 on the corner of Abbott and Phoenix Avenues as Jacques' Opera House. It began as a premiere theater; by the 1940s it had become a burlesque theater. The building was demolished in the 1950s.

The theater was established and managed by Eugene "Jean" Jacques (1855-1905), who was born in Plymouth but grew up in Waterbury. His father, John J. Jacques, was a physician and pharmacist who operated a drug store downstairs in their apartment building on the Green, near Exchange Place. Jean worked in his father's drug store for years before launching himself into the theater business.


Postcard view of Jacques', circa 1905


Thursday, February 05, 2015

Snow Fun

With a couple of feet of snow still on the ground, and another foot expected on Sunday and Monday, many people are feeling overwhelmed and discouraged. What if, instead of despairing, we embraced the large quantity of snow to have a snow sculpting competition? It would be a fun use of the excess snow, and could be held in one of the city parks.

Maybe that's a little ambitious for a spur of the moment idea. As they say, start small.

Friday, January 30, 2015

Winter Views Along the Naugatuck River

I returned to Waterbury from work early today, and I happened to have my camera with me, so I decided to take advantage of the last hour of daylight to take a peak at the Naugatuck River from the northern, center, and southern parts of the city.

Saturday, January 17, 2015

Waterbury's Connections to Selma

Sometimes related events converge by coincidence. As Waterbury wrestles with the creation of new voting districts, guided by an outside demographer whose primary focus is adherence to the Voting Rights Act of 1965, a new movie, Selma, brings to life the conflict that forced the Voting Rights Act into being.

Brief Background

On January 2, 1965, Martin Luther King, Jr., the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC), and the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC), along with other groups, began a voting rights campaign in Selma, Alabama. Their goal was to focus national attention on the local government, which was illegally preventing African Americans from voting.

One of the protesters, an African American church deacon named Jimmie Lee Jackson, while protecting his mother and grandfather, was shot and killed by an Alabama state trooper in February. On March 7, activists began a march from Selma to Montgomery, but they didn't get far. State troopers set up a blockade on the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, attacking the marchers with tear gas and clubs. The event received wide television coverage, sparking national outrage.

Sunday, January 11, 2015

Public Response to the First Map

The public gave its response to the first draft map for Aldermen by District on Thursday, January 8. Overviews of the meeting have been reported on by the Waterbury Observer and the Rep-Am, so I'll try to stay focused on some of what they didn't cover.

Wednesday, January 07, 2015

The First Map

The latest chapter in the saga of Aldermen by District is unfolding this week. In a surprise move Monday, the city posted on their website a preliminary map showing possible boundaries for the new Aldermanic districts. Outrage and accusations of gerrymandering promptly ensued.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Drawing Up the New Districts

Things are chugging along with the establishment of Aldermen by District. Check out the Waterbury Observer for a good report of what's going on with the District Commission.

If this is a topic that is of interest to you (and if you live in Waterbury, it should be), I recommend that you plan on attending the public meeting at City Hall on January 8 at 6:30 p.m. The District Commission will present three district maps for us to give feedback on. ("Us" means anyone and everyone who lives and votes in Waterbury.)

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Aldermanic and Mayoral History

Whenever there's a political or social controversy, it can be helpful (or at least interesting) to take a look back through history to see how we got to this point. I've spent some time over the past week or so sifting through newspapers on microfilm and in online databases, and rooting out old charter revision reports tucked away in the basement of the Bronson Library. As a result, I've found some interesting information about the origins of Waterbury's Aldermen at Large system, which will be coming to an end next year.

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Museum Graffiti

I finally got a chance to take a close look at this new artwork commissioned by the Mattatuck Museum. I had seen photos posted by the museum on Facebook, but seeing art in person is always better. This impressive graffiti was created by New Jersey artist Joe Iurato.

Sunday, November 09, 2014

Fun with Maps!

The big question on everyone's mind is the drawing of Aldermanic district boundaries. We're unlikely to see the official boundaries until later this winter or in the spring, but I'm an impatient kind of woman, so here's a first effort at what the map might look like.

Aldermen by District Charter Language

After a flurry of campaigning led by John Murray, publisher of The Waterbury Observer, the Charter Revision establishing Aldermen by District was passed by Waterbury's voters. So what happens next?