Showing posts with label History. Show all posts
Showing posts with label History. Show all posts

Saturday, March 22, 2014

City Ready-Mix Concrete Co.

There are certain landmarks I drive past regularly, always meaning to stop and take a closer look, always meaning to find out more about what it is. The City Ready-Mix Concrete structure is one of those landmarks.

City Ready-Mix Concrete plant, 434 Harper's Ferry Road.

City Ready-Mix Concrete has been at Harper's Ferry Road since the 1950s. I haven't been able to find any information about the company, but I did solve the "mystery" of why concrete plants have towers and long conveyer belts.

City Ready-Mix Concrete plant, 434 Harper's Ferry Road.

Depending on the set-up, the long conveyer belt runs from a quarry to the processing plant. Either before or after being placed on the conveyer (from what I can tell, there are a couple of different plant types), the rocks and gravel are broken down into small bits.

The tower, better known as a silo, is used to store fine sand. The sand and the broken-up rocks from the quarry get poured into a mixer, combined with some water, and then squirted out as concrete.

High-quality concrete involves chemists monitoring the relative chlorides, sulfates, alkalis, and solids. There are a number of different recipes for making concrete. The ancient Egyptians used lime and gypsum. Today's manufacturers use materials including limestone, clay, gypsum, minerals, and various chemicals.

In modern manufacture, cement is used as the paste to hold together the bits and pieces (aggregates) of concrete. That's right: cement and concrete are two different things.

There's another abandoned concrete plant nearby, in Torrington. I've driven by it a number of times over the years, and always wondered what it was. Now I know.

Old concrete plant at a quarry on South Main Street in Torrington.

Ready-mix concrete is still in demand, and there is at least one ready-mix company still in business in Waterbury. Sega Ready Mix Concrete is in the industrial complex on Chase River Road in Waterville. Their silo and conveyor belt are visible from Route 8. If I have time this summer, I'll see if I can get a tour of their plant--and some answers to my lingering questions about how concrete is made!

Sega's conveyor and silo.

Tuesday, March 04, 2014


As reported in today's Hartford Courant, the last surviving woman to have worked for Waterbury Clock painting radium onto watch dials has passed away at the impressive age of 107. Mae Keane spent two months in 1927 working with radium, following the instructions to bring the tip of the brush to a fine point with her lips. Luckily for her, she was not very good at the job and was transferred to another job. Those two months were enough to cause lasting damage: Keane lost all of her teeth when she was in her 30s and suffered from pain in her gums for the rest of her life.

As I understand it, when radium is ingested (which happens when you use your mouth to point a brush containing radium paint), the body treats it like calcium, absorbing it into your bones. Without sufficient calcium, bones crumble. Since radium is radioactive, it quickly causes bone cancer. Many of the women who worked for Waterbury Clock and other companies using radium died horrific deaths from radium poisoning.

For more on the "Radium Girls" and their history, I recommend this article from 1996.

Although the dangers of radium were obvious, and very public, by 1928, using radium on watch dials continued until the 1960s. As of February 1, 1963, the sale of pocket watches with radium dials was banned in New York City, on the grounds that they exposed their owners to excessive levels of radiation. Wristwatches, however, were still considered safe.

By 1967, the general public was growing increasingly concerned about exposure to radiation. An article focusing on the dangers of X-rays mentioned that millions of bedside alarm clocks had radium dials, and compared the risk of wearing a radium-dial wristwatch to 30 years of nuclear fallout, a top concern of the '60s.

Manufacturers eventually abandoned radium in favor of less dangerous luminous compounds, but it wasn't out of concern for workers' safety: it was a response to public fear of being exposed to radiation by their watches.

A while ago, I had the opportunity to "play" with radium (don't worry, I did not touch it, breath it, lick it, or otherwise put myself in danger). I was given access to a box of Fitrite Radium Outfit, which has instructions on the label for coating the hands of a watch with radium. It would have been sold to watch repair shops, not used in factories.

The label design suggests it might be from the 1930s.

Inside the box: small metal containers for the radium paint, a radium spreading stick,
and a razor blade for scraping off excess radium from the watch hand.

The radium paint in strong lighting.

The same container in complete darkness. I didn't have at tripod with me, so it's very blurry.

Monday, January 27, 2014

Cheshire Country Club

One of the fun aspects of historical research is the way new discoveries emerge from seemingly unrelated topics. You start out looking for one thing, and wind up finding something else entirely.

While looking for biographical information about James E. Kefford, the general manager of Waterbury's Negro Business League during the 1910s and '20s, I stumbled onto a reference to the Cheshire Country Club, established in 1917 as an African American country club.

After doing a little research, I realized that the Cheshire Country Club might very well have been the first country club to have been owned and operated by and for African Americans. This statement is likely to cause some controversy. The Shady Rest Country Club in Scotch Plains, N.J. is widely considered to have been the first such club, but it didn't open until 1921. The Cheshire Country Club had two hundred members as of October 1917, placing it decidedly ahead of Shady Rest (sorry, New Jersey).

You might be wondering what this has to do with Waterbury, since the club was in Cheshire. As it turns out, the Cheshire Country Club was a Waterbury venture, owned and operated by members of Waterbury's African American community.

The idea for the club originated with Johnson L. Haile, formerly a head waiter at the Scoville House Hotel in Waterbury and, at the time, steward for Harriet B. Thorpe, who lived on Hillside Avenue in Waterbury. According to account in the Hartford Times, later reprinted on the front page of The New York Age (11 October 1917), Haile frequently passed by the Cheshire property (which was on the New Haven-Waterbury trolley line, now Route 70, near Mountain Road) and considered purchasing it as a home for himself and his wife. Instead, he decided to buy the property and turn it into a country club for African Americans. He purchased the property, which included 22 acres and a house, from Minnie S. Stanwood of Hartford in January 1917. After making some alterations, the Cheshire Country Club opened in July 1917. Tennis courts and a five-hole golf course were added that year.

I don't know why Haile, who lived in Waterbury, chose Cheshire for the country club, other than the nice newspaper story about seeing it frequently. Cheshire was a dry town in 1917, preventing the Club from serving alcohol until they obtained a special license. There was plenty of land in Waterbury, but as a black man in 1917, Haile might have had a difficult time finding a white property owner willing to sell to him.

The Club was owned and operated by Johnson Haile, with a Board of Governors who oversaw memberships and finances. Founding Waterbury members of the Board were Johnson L. Haile, J. Edward Jones, James E. Kefford, Dr. P. F. Anderson, Dr. B. B. Costa, Henry A. Hatcher, Col. Fabian McKinney, and W. A. Bradley. Other founding Board members lived in Ansonia, Meriden, New Haven, Bridgeport, and Hartford.

Since the Cheshire Country Club was quite possibly the only African American country club in the country, it immediately attracted members from as far away as Washington, D.C. and Knoxville, TN. Other members lived in New Jersey, New York, Rhode Island and Massachusetts. An inaugural clambake was held on Labor Day, 1917 and was attended by more than 300 people.

I have not found any images of the Club, but here's a description from The New York Age (11 October 1917):

It is located on a slight terrace which extends back from the road about 150 feet to the house. The lawn in front presents a fine appearance. The clubhouse is well arranged for the use to which it has been put. A wide veranda extends across the front and the length of one side. The main entrance opens into a large parlor or ballroom which can be used for dancing, card parties or other functions. There is a billiard room and other small rooms.

The Cheshire Country Club was used for social gatherings both large and small, from clambakes to dances. One of the first events (at least, one of the first to mentioned in the social pages of a newspaper) was a dance held in August of 1917 (The New York Age, 23 August 1917). On February 16, 1918, sixteen couples gathering for dinner, dancing, and singing (The New York Age, 2 March 1918). The party was hosted by Waterbury's Arnold Munn and L.S. Munn in honor of Lillian Taylor.

On September 26, 1919, the club hosted a "dinner and smoker" at which sixty-five of Connecticut's leading African American men honored Charles W. Anderson, former Collector of Internal Revenue, who had delivered a speech about Theodore Roosevelt earlier in the day at Waterbury's Republican Club (as described in The New York Age, 4 October 1919). Anderson dined with Waterbury's James E. Kefford, and Dr. & Mrs. P. F. Anderson; after the meeting, Anderson returned to Waterbury to visit with the Cheshire Country Club's found, Johnson L. Haile and his wife. The committee that organized the event at the club included Johnson L. Haile, James E. Kefford, J. E. Jones, J. E. Hatcher, Emmet Evans, Dr. P. F. Anderson, Otis Tisdel, Col. Fabian McKinney, and Dr. R. B. Costax.

The Cheshire Country Club, as one of the only African American country clubs in the nation, attracted groups from far and wide. During the Club's first summer, the Sonora Wohelo Camp Fire Girls from New Haven spent a week camping at the Club; meetings were held at the Club by the Grand Lodge of the Household of Ruth and the St. Elmo Club of New Haven; a Bridgeport club came up for an evening of whist and dance; a group of high school students from New Haven held a dance; and the Nemberolic Club of New Haven held a clambake in a grove of trees at the Country Club (The New York Age, 11 October 1917). Later, in 1921, Bridgeport's Phyllis Wheatley branch of the YMCA rented the club for an all-day picnic (The Bridgeport Telegram, 8 August 1921).

In August of 1931, the Cheshire Country Club held a dinner in honor of Judge James S. Watson of the New York Municipal Court (as reported in The New York Amsterdam News, 5 August 1931). Judge Watson was one of the first African Americans to be elected a judge in New York. During the 1920s, working as an attorney, Watson represented Marcus Garvey. His wife, Violet Lopez Watson, was one of the founders of the National Council of Negro Women. The dinner at the Cheshire Country Club featured local speakers as well, including William Pape of the Waterbury Daily American and Republican, John F. McGraw, senior judge of the Waterbury Municipal Court, and Waterbury probate judge D. J. Slavin. Following the dinner, Judge and Mrs. Watson traveled to Waterbury with Albon L. Hosley, executive secretary of the National Negro Business League.

Although dinners featuring well-known luminaries brought the most press for the Cheshire Country Club, golf and tennis were an important aspect of the club and its 22 aces. Members competed against a team from New Jersey's Shady Rest for the Cockburn Trophy in 1929 (The Afro American, 8 June 1929).

In 1933, the Mechanical Department of Naugatuck's U.S. Rubber Company Footware Plant rented the Cheshire Country Club for a golf outing (reported in the Naugatuck Daily News).

I have not found any information about the closure of the Cheshire Country Club, but it appears to have happened during the 1940s or '50s. New Jersey's Shady Rest, while no longer able to claim to be the first African American country club, can at least claim to be the longest operating.

Short Biographies Related to the Cheshire Country Club

(If you have more information, please share!)

Johnson L. Haile was born in Florida in 1867. He came to Waterbury during the 1890s (so far as I can tell) and found work as a waiter at the Scoville House Hotel. Haile quickly rose to the position of head waiter, and was highly esteemed by staff and patrons. He was, according to newspaper accounts, tall and handsome, and was known for dating numerous women, black and white. One of his girlfriends, Izetta Alexander, did not appreciate his philandering. She threw acid in Haile's face in 1900 to punish him for breaking her heart. The Bridgeport Herald ran the story with the headline "His Handsome Face is Spoiled" (30 December 1900). Haile refused to press charges. His luck worsened in 1902, when the Scoville House Hotel burned down and he lost his job. Undaunted, Haile found a new job and found a wife for himself. Haile married a woman from Tennessee named Nannie; their daughter Sibyl was born in 1904 and later attended Knoxville College. Johnson Haile purchased the property for the Cheshire Country Club in 1917 and oversaw its operations for at least two decades.

Henry A. Hatcher (1870-1922), originally from Virginia, married Nettie Dubois of New Haven in 1893. Dubois was a cousin of W.E.B. Du Bois, although they most likely did not know each other very well (see Gwendolyn J. Hatcher's book, Souls, for more details). The Hatchers were married at St. John's Episcopal Church on the Green, near their home on Bishop Street (they later lived on Bronson Street). Henry Hatcher appears to have arrived in Waterbury during the 1890s; his first job was as a waiter at the Scoville House Hotel, where he would have worked with Johnson Haile. In 1900, Hatcher was working as a janitor; by 1920, he owned his own cleaning business. Hatcher was an active member of the Waterbury and National Negro Business Leagues, as well as a founding member of the Cheshire Country Club.

James E. Kefford, born about 1871 in Virginia, was the secretary and general manager of the Negro Business League (NBL) of Waterbury. His office at 95 Bank Street was used as the main office for the NBL. Kefford was also the recording secretary for the National Colored Republican Conference League. Kefford was president of the J. E. Kefford Advertising and Distributing Agency, and he worked as a real estate, loans, and insurance agent. During the early 1930s, Kefford became president of the Cheshire Country Club, of which he was a founding member.

Kefford's wife, Mary E. Kefford (1860-1932), originally from Virginia, was a successful businesswoman. In 1917, she owned the only African American hair salon in Waterbury, employing five people (The New York Age, 23 August 1917). The Keffords lived on Pearl Street.

Fabian McKinney (1873-1961) was a Waterbury real estate agent and founding member of the Cheshire Country Club. He served during World War I, eventually being promoted to Colonel. After the war, McKinney, along with Edward F. Johnson and George Wilson, established the G.K.P. Association, an exclusive men's club for Waterbury's leading African Americans (Hartford Courant, 10 December 1919).  McKinney and his wife, Ella, lived on Easton Avenue during the 1910s and '20s. Both came to Waterbury from Virginia. The 1920 census listed them as sharing their home with two nieces, Alice McKinney and Hattie Lacey, and an adopted daughter, Ruth Newlin.

McKinney made frequent business trips to New York City. During one such trip, traveling with George Washington, a barber who worked on Brook Street in Waterbury, McKinney and Washington were mugged by a gang of thugs. McKinney refused to hand over his money, and the pair managed to escape unscathed (Hartford Courant, 10 December 1919). Their misadventure became part of the public record in 1912, when a corrupt NYC police officer, Charles Becker, was on trial for the murder of Herman Rosenthal. George Washington was called to the stand to testify that he and McKinney had been accosted by a "strong arm squad" working directly for Becker.

Friday, January 03, 2014

Morden Manufacturing

One of the great things about Waterbury is the depth and breadth of its history. There are countless stories to be discovered and shared. Here’s one that starts as the story of an early woman entrepreneur, and ends as a tragic tale of suicide and a phantom lover.

In 1901, a woman named Lucena Mandana Morden left Portland, Oregon and came to Waterbury, seeking a manufacturer for her patent. Nicknamed Lulu, she was born in 1866 in Nebraska to Canadian immigrants. The youngest of eleven children, Morden at first chose a traditional career for herself, attending the Teachers’ College at Emporia, Kansas. She lived with her family in Nebraska during the 1880s, working as a teacher.

Sometime around 1890, Morden relocated to Portland, Oregon and trained as a stenographer. She lived with her brother, Charles Augustus Morden. Still not satisfied with her life, Morden enrolled as a History major at Stanford University, graduating in 1896. She returned to Portland, taking a job as a stenographer for the Chamber of Commerce.

Morden’s life took a new direction in 1898, when she filed her first patent, for a “Separate-Leaf Book” (book bound with two metal rings). The patent was approved on June 19, 1900. The next step was to find a manufacturer for her patent. Morden’s brother, Charles, helped finance the venture with a loan.

Illustration of Morden's patent, No. 651,950 (June 19, 1900)

Morden came to Waterbury hoping to find an existing company willing to manufacture her product. According to a very brief history of her company given in the December 1921 issue of Office Appliances: The Magazine of Office Equipment, the smallest order she could place was for 100,000 lots each of three sizes. Instead, she decided to establish her own manufacturing company for her new product.

Advertisement in The Inland Printer, November 1906.

Morden established her new business at 53 Canal Street in 1901, then relocated it to 59 Grand Street. The Morden Manufacturing Corporation of Waterbury was incorporated on August 9, 1904, and a factory space was established at 143 Waterville Street. The company relocated to 40 Johnson Street, in the former Turner mansion at the corner of Chestnut Avenue (the conversion of the house into a small factory was controversial; it has since been replaced by a massive brick apartment complex).

As president of her company, Morden may have been the first female manufacturing executive in Waterbury. For much of her company’s history, she was the only female manufacturing executive here.

Advertisement in The American Stationer, February 23, 1907.

In the 1920s, Morden moved into a part of the house/workshop on the corner of Johnson Street and Chestnut Avenue. She never married and apparently had few friends. She was dedicated to her business, garnering 47 patents. The company’s capital was listed at $40,000 in 1920—larger than many of Waterbury’s other small manufacturers.

Advertisement in Office Appliances: The Magazine of Office Equipment, July 1922.

Morden Key Ring, illustrated in Hardware, November 10, 1906.
The ring opened using a recessed lever ("A") to activate a swivel gate ("C").

Somewhere along the road of this success story, things went terribly wrong. The first possible hint of trouble appears in the 1910 census, which listed Morden as widowed. It’s possible that the census taker was mistaken—in fact, there are numerous errors in Morden’s listing. She claimed to be a full ten years younger than she actually was, that she was born in Connecticut, and that her parents were born in England. Was there a miscommunication between Morden and the census taker, or was Morden showing the first hints of mental health problems?

On December 21, 1926, Lulu Morden committed suicide. Her body was found by the police, alerted to the possibility of a problem by her gardener and handyman, Frederick M. Feest. Morden had sealed up the windows of the kitchen with quilts, and turned on the gas. Next to her body were letters and other documents addressed to the Waterbury National Bank – the content of the documents is unknown.

Morden was buried in California, alongside her mother, Hannah Lewis Morden. She was survived by her sister, Mima Morden, and her brother, Charles Morden.

At first, the newspaper accounts (in the Waterbury American) detailed Morden’s health problems and loneliness as the likely cause of her suicide. The American ended its first article (21 December 1926) about her death by stating “Miss Morden’s career is a story of struggle against odds and a subsequent rise in the industrial world. When signing business letters she always used the business signature of L. M. Morden and, it is said, that hundreds of business men dealing with her for years were under the impression that they were exchanging letters with a man.”

The sensationalism of her death led to widespread coverage. Some newspapers fancifully wrote about her story as an illustration of the perils of ambition. Pennsylvania’s The Kane Republican (24 December 1926) wrote that Morden came east “with a determination to succeed in the business world… [and] killed herself here in her palatial home because in her eagerness for financial independence she had neglected to make friends.”

Other newspapers leapt onto a supernatural interpretation, beginning with the Waterbury Republican’s article, “Mystery Veils Strange Death of Woman Here,” on December 22, 1926. The paper reported that “Miss Morden imagined that she had lost a phantom lover” was being rumored about town. Although the significance and veracity of this were unknown to the paper, the article went on to explain that the phantom lover “is supposed to have appeared at various times in the reminiscent mind of the woman and influenced her strangely.”  The Medical Examiner denied any mention of the phantom lover in Morden’s will or other documents found with her body.

The phantom lover rumor, not surprisingly, became a national news item, spinning quickly from a “rumor about town” to a full fact. On December 25, 1926, the Los Angeles Times ran an article blaming Morden’s death on the mysterious phantom lover, declaring that she took her own life “as a result of ‘jilt’ by imaginary admirer.” Morden was described as “eccentric,” with a personal fortune worth half a million dollars, and wearing clothing twenty years’ out of style. The article claimed that Morden “told persons that this phantom appeared to her at times in her dreams and made love to her; and that it also advised her regarding business affairs.”

The Miami News ran a nearly identical article the following day, adding a few embellishments (such as her clothing being 25 years out of style). Both articles mistakenly gave her age as 50, rather than her actual age of 60. Since her age on the 1910 census was also off by ten years, maybe this was deliberate on her part.

Is there any truth to the rumor of Lulu Morden’s phantom lover? It is too remarkable to have been the invention of the Waterbury Republican, and it is too bizarre to have been an unfounded rumor. Perhaps Morden really did believe that she was visited by the ghost of a lost love—that could explain why she was listed as widowed in the 1910 census. While she never was married, if she suffered from a mental illness involving a ghostly lover, perhaps she considered herself to be the widow of the phantom.

This is the sort of story that most likely has no firm answers. It’s the sort of story that makes for great fiction. Maybe someday there will be a gripping ghost story written about Lulu Morden and her phantom lover.

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Hobart Victory Welton

This is a landmark familiar to most people in Waterbury, a mysterious stone arch built into the side of a wooded hill on Wolcott Street near the intersection of Manor Avenue. It's familiar, but most people don't know why it was built. Years ago, I was told that it was built as a shelter and watering spot for horses needing to rest after pulling carts and trolleys up the long, steep hill. An informal survey on Facebook this week suggests that a lot of people have heard some version of that story. One person remembers it being used by a fruit and produce truck. A few people figured it was a trolley stop and, later, a bus stop.

The story of its origin can be found in Anderson's History of Waterbury, published in 1896. When it was new, this was a shed for storing lumber and carriages, part of a farm owned by Hobart Victory Welton. Here's an engraving of how it looked during the 1890s. There was a carved bird on top which is now gone (although possibly at the Mattatuck Museum).

The shed was built in 1858; the date of its construction is engraved on a medallion on the front center of the arch, along with the Latin phrase Maneo ("I endure"). On the top center of the arch is decorative carving showing two cornucopias overflowing with fruits and vegetables--very appropriate for a farm--in between two Latin words: Puteus and Dolium.

"Puteus Dolium" is a play on the name of the man who built the shed, Hobart Welton. Puteus translates to "well" and Dolium can be translated to "tun." Welton is not a name that exists in Latin, so Hobart invented a phrase to use as his name.

The carriage shed, an iconic structure for Waterbury residents, is now officially historic. It was added to the State Register of Historic Places on November 6, 2013, thanks in part to the efforts of the Bouley Manor Neighborhood Association, which contacted the Connecticut Trust for Historic Preservation during a recent survey of historic barns in Connecticut.

The origin of the stories about the shed being used as a watering spot for horses can be found to the north of the carriage shed, where Welton built a stone fountain for people and watering trough for horses. Again, here's an engraving of how it looked in the 1890s.

The watering trough was inscribed with the date of its construction: 1870. The fountain and trough was fed by a pipe running from a nearby spring. They remained in use until the 1970s, when the State Highway Department gave them to the Mattatuck Museum. This stretch of Wolcott Street was Route 69 from the 1930s until the 1960s. The carriage shed is still owned by the State Highway Department.

Wolcott Street, before it was paved. The carriage shed can be seen on the left. The house is now a dark red. (Photograph from the Collection of the Mattatuck Museum)

So who was Hobart Victory Welton?

Born in Woodbury in 1811, Hobart moved to Waterbury when he was 8. His father was a retired minister, and the Welton family moved into a new farm house built on what is now the corner of Wolcott Street and Manor Avenue (opposite the carriage shed).

When Hobart was 14, his father died. Late in life, Hobart wrote that “If I were to write my own biography, to please myself only, it would be somewhat as follows: With an inborn taste for sculpture, but obliged from early youth to earn my own living, I have been of some service to society in my day and generation. Had I not been placed under such limitations, I might have been nothing more than a third-rate artist.”

As is the case with all artists, Hobart seems to have felt compelled to create his art, adding decorative flourishes everywhere on the Welton farm. Even the steps of his house were ornamented with fruit and lions' heads.

The lions' heads were salvaged and are preserved at the Mattatuck Museum.

There was also a carved wood gate on the Welton farm. More portable than his stone carvings, the gate has traveled the world. Recognized in 1940 as a classic example of American folk art by the Works Progress Administration, the Gate was exhibited at the Museum of Early American Folk Arts in New York City in 1966; at World Exposition in Osaka, Japan in 1970; and at the Whitney Museum of American Art in 1974. 

The Gate was donated to the Mattatuck Museum by the Welton family in 1938 and remains on view there today. It was designed with symbols of the farm: a yoke, sickle and chain, harrow, and plow. The top of the gate features a carved array of fruits and vegetables spilling out of a cornucopia.

While art was his passion, Hobart Victory Welton was equally accomplished as an engineer. He served as superintendent of the city roads for 25 years, oversaw the construction of a system of reservoirs on the Mad River to power brass factories, engineered Waterbury's first stone bridge with an arch in 1848, and engineered Connecticut's first iron bridge in 1863, built over the Naugatuck River at West Main Street. Welton served in the State Legislature in 1852 and 1853. He died in 1895, but his art continues to influence us today.

Monday, September 23, 2013

Waterbury and the Underground Railroad

During the decades leading up to the Civil War, the anti-slavery (abolition) movement became increasingly influential. In Connecticut, slavery was gradually phased out. The last person to be enslaved in Waterbury was given her freedom shortly after 1810. In 1840, there were seventeen people enslaved in Connecticut; in 1848, the state finally outlawed slavery completely. Additionally, a Connecticut law from 1844 prohibited any fugitive slave escaping to this state from being arrested or detained and returned to his owner.

It's tempting to pat ourselves on the back and feel good about Connecticut having given up slavery before the Civil War, but it's very misleading to think that all of Connecticut opposed slavery. Throughout the state, some were adamantly opposed, viewing slavery as an evil to be eradicated, but many were ambivalent--slavery was an abstract concept, something that happened far away, something that didn't impact them directly.

In Waterbury, as in every other town in Connecticut, there were people who supported the right of southern states to continue slavery. Green Kendrick, one of Waterbury's most prominent citizens, was originally from North Carolina and was a public supporter of slavery. Kendrick was also a supporter of sending free blacks to Liberia, donating to the American Colonization Society in 1858.

Waterbury also had active abolitionists and two safe houses on the Underground Railroad. The Underground Railroad was a loose, dangerous route traveled by people who escaped from slavery. Escaped slaves, if discovered by the wrong person, could be captured and returned to slavery. At each safe house on the Underground Railroad, refugees would be given a place to sleep and food to eat, before being given transportation to the next stop north.

From Waterbury, refugees most likely continued on to Plymouth, then to Torrington and Winsted, continuing north until they reached Canada. It was a dangerous, furtive path to take, with no guarantees of safety.

In 1860, a refugee, traveling alone, made it as far as Stamford, where he hired someone with a wagon to take him to Norwalk (the story was related in the Columbian Register newspaper, January 28, 1860). The refugee, unnamed in the newspaper article, for unknown reasons (but we can imagine!), suddenly leapt out of the wagon, leaving his coat behind. The wagon driver rifled through his pockets, decided that he must be an escaped criminal, and chased him into a Presbyterian Church. Apparently the man was briefly held captive, until a Trustee of the church arrived, figured out that he was an escaped slave from Charlestown, Virginia, and ordered him to be set free. The story had a happy ending, with the refugee given a place to stay for the night and safe passage to an underground railroad station, but it highlights some of the risks involved.

Back in Waterbury, Timothy Porter, a deacon in the Baptist church (and grandfather of Carrie Welton), was a firm believer that slavery was wrong. Beginning around 1840, Porter decided that abolishing slavery was his mission in life. For the next two decades, he hosted anti-slavery meetings in his home and, on one memorable occasion, publicly debated the topic with Green Kendrick. Porter also helped escaped slaves on their journey to freedom in Canada, using his home as a stop on the Underground Railroad. I have not yet been able to identify where his house was; the building is unlikely to still be standing, but it is still worthwhile to track down the approximate location.

Timothy Porter, illustrated in
Anderson's History of Waterbury, Volume III

Timothy Porter's opposition to slavery may have been shaped by his family history. His great-uncle was Dr. Preserved Porter, a slave owner who, when one of his slaves, a man named Fortune, died, chose to dissect the body, boiling the bones and keeping them for medical study. Fortune's skeleton remained with Dr. Porter's son--Timothy Porter was six when Fortune died, and would have been well aware of what happened to him.

John Miles Stocking, a deacon in the Congregational church, was the other Waterbury abolitionist who was active in the Underground Railroad. Stocking had a barn on Long Hill which he used as a resting station for escaped slaves. Stocking raised his children to be anti-slavery, reading Uncle Tom's Cabin and other abolitionist material to them. The Stocking family took pride in knowing that every eligible man in their family served during the Civil war.

On a related note, Waterbury artist Louise Chessi McKinney has recently published two children's books about the Underground Railroad: The Journey to Freedom on the Underground Railroad and Follow the North Star. Check them out!

Friday, September 13, 2013

Race Relations

There's been a lot in the news this week about the burial of Mr. Fortune, a man who was enslaved in Waterbury more than 200 years ago. About a decade ago, when I worked at the Mattatuck Museum, I spent a lot of time researching his life, his family, and the lives of other people who were enslaved here. I spent a lot of time with his skeleton, handling the bones, assisting with the project as I could. I spent a lot of time wondering exactly what happened when he died, what happened to his flesh after it was stripped from the bones, how his wife and children reacted to the trauma of his death and dismemberment.

His story has stayed with me all these years. Every so often, I pour through archival records, looking for any hint of what happened to Dinah, Roxa, Mira, Jacob, and Africa. They all left or were sent away from Waterbury soon after Fortune's death. How could they stay with his bones lying out for them to see?

I wasn't able to attend the funeral this week (I had to work in Norwalk), but I read every news article I could find. It was so powerful, so moving, to see how many people attended the funeral, to see how many people were touched by Fortune's story.

Earlier today, someone posted a link on Facebook and Twitter to Mr. Fortune's obituary in the Rep-Am . I hadn't read it yet, so I clicked on the link. The obituary was sparse, and I soon found myself reading three comments posted by anonymous readers. The comments made me ill. The "authors" were apparently outraged that an African American, who had suffered outrageous treatment sanctioned by the state during his life and during his death, was finally being honored and laid to rest. A sacred moment in history was being denigrated by a trio of ignorant people who were more concerned about pushing their agenda than respecting the weight of history.

I normally avoid engaging internet trolls in any form of discussion, but I felt obligated to at least try to show them why the events of this week, of Mr. Fortune lying in state at the Capitol, of being escorted back to Waterbury, of his funeral being national news, were so important. Weirdly, the most long-winded of the trio accused me of being a racist and claimed that I had accused him of the same.

Perhaps foolishly, I read more of the comments posted to articles about Fortune on the Rep-Am website. Many of them were steeped in disturbing resentment towards African Americans. I've been pondering this all evening. How could such a powerful, beautiful day inspire such venom?

We've come a long way in race relations, but we still have a ways to go.

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Blodgett's Brothel

In today's issue of the Republican-American, there was yet another article, with mug shots, about prostitutes arrested in the Hillside neighborhood. This seems to be a never-ending situation. For at least two decades now, certain streets in the Hillside neighborhood have been in use by prostitutes looking for "jobs." Every so often, the police do a sweep and make arrests, followed by the printing of mug shots in the newspaper. Once in a great while, the "johns" are arrested, and their names and addresses are published in the paper.

Back in the old days, things were different. The Hillside neighborhood was filled with the wealthiest people in Waterbury, members of high society who did their best to appear respectable and genteel. Appearances were blown apart in 1873, when a scandal involving a "house of ill-fame" (polite phrasing for a brothel) exploded in Waterbury.

According to the November 19, 1873 issue of the Norwich Aurora newspaper, the scandal began when the son of a leading Waterbury manufacturer (no names given) fell in love with and married a "lady of the house of joy." His family pleaded with him, and even attempted to bribe him, to divorce his "tainted bride," but he refused. About a week later, the owners of two Waterbury brothels were arrested: Henry Austin and Dave Blodgett.

The Aurora claimed that the scandalous love affair blossomed at Blodgett's "house of ill-fame," which was a highly profitable business, bringing in (reportedly) $50,000 over three years. In 1873, that was a small fortune.

I've read through the microfilm copy of the Waterbury American (available at the Silas Bronson Library) to find the local version of the story. The American was extraordinarily tactful, and also declined to publish the names of members of polite society involved in the scandal.

The story began in the papers on November 4, 1873, with the following account in the American:

For quite a length of time, it has been generally known that houses of ill-fame were kept at a distance of two or three miles east of the city, and that our young men, and old men, too, resorted thither. Dame Rumor says that if all who went there were known, some people wouldn't be considered as respectable as they are now.  Of the truth of this, we are unable to vouch, and we would not strike in the dark and thereby, perhaps, cause unjust suspicions. Those who have been there are probably aware of the fact, and they must answer to their own consciences. Although for many years these bawdy houses have been the curse of Waterbury, this is the first time they have been molested since our acquaintance with this city. Complaints having been made to John O'Neill, Esq., assistant city attorney, he caused the arrest of Hobart Austin and David Blodgett, who are the proprietors of these houses. ... "Out East" has been disreputable long enough, and the neighbors will rejoice that their air may become pure once more. To those who think it smart to be styled "fast young men," we would suggest that now is a good time to reform and save character and reputation. Wild oats are never a profitable crop, and the frequenting of bawdy houses is the worst oat in the lot.

Hobart Austin was arraigned first, on November 4, 1873. He had previously lived on Plank Road, but had recently relocated to a nearby location. Ministers and physicians testified that Austin's place had a reputation for being "of ill-fame," although none admitted to having first-hand knowledge of what went on there. Witnesses were called from the courtroom audience (only half a dozen were present, many others were not). None of the witnesses admitted to first-hand knowledge of what went on at Austin's (nor could they say whether it was Austin or his wife who ran the brothel), only that they "heard there were girls out there." Austin was found guilty that same day and was sentenced to 30 days in jail.

The trials of David Blodgett and his wife Annie, who lived on Plank Road, dragged on for much longer and involved much more scandal.

Blodgett's Trial

The Blodgett trial began on November 5, with somewhere between 50 and 100 witnesses subpoenaed, a large audience of spectators, and at least one person stationed at the door to prevent young boys from listening in.

David Blodgett was charged with "keeping a house where idle and dissolute persons resort," living in a house of ill-fame, and frequenting a house of ill-fame. The defense attorney protested the charge of frequenting.

Blodgett's neighbors were the first to testify against him. One neighbor suggested that Blodgett's wife, Annie Bishop (also called Annie Wilson), was not actually married to him. Another neighbor, a lady who had recently moved to a different street, had no idea that he was operating a brothel. Several neighbors testified that the girls living at Blodgett's boarding house had reputations of being loose, but for the most part, the neighborhood witnesses stated that the house and its residents were "not disorderly or noisy." They may have had bad reputations, but they weren't disruptive to neighborhood life. The Blodgetts paid their bills in a timely fashion and were generally good neighbors.

The trial heated up a bit on the afternoon of November 7, when young men who had been "out to Blodgett's" testified. The details of their testimony were not included in the newspaper account, most likely because it would be far too indecent for public sensibilities of that era. The American left it with "Another witness was honest enough to answer that it would be hard telling how many times he had been out there."

By November 8, witness had begun scattering to the far winds. One went hunting, another went to New Haven, another to Winsted, and one hopped the train to New York that morning to avoid the public embarrassment of answering questions about visiting a brothel. Six witnesses had the courage to appear in court, but they all refused to answer questions about the girls at Blodgett's, on the grounds that they would incriminate themselves.

The Norwich Aurora went into more creative detail as to the whereabouts of the witnesses who skipped town:

The married and faithless ones are flying over the country in all directions, ostensibly on account of the panic. Some of them, pretending to have rheumatism, have gone to the hot springs of Arkansas. One of them departed yesterday, leaving word with his wife that he was going to New York to see a long lost brother from the Sandwich Islands. Society in Waterbury is in a perfect fever.... So far only a few witnesses have presented themselves, but not a single married man has been netted yet. Some of the leading heads of families have all of a sudden bethought themselves that the season for shooting wild ducks in Maine is at hand, and have departed in that direction. (November 19, 1873)

On November 12, David Blodgett was found not guilty of keeping and maintaining a disorderly house, not guilty of keeping a house of ill-fame, and not guilty of frequenting a house of ill-fame. He was, however, found guilty of living in a house of ill-fame, guilty of being a bartender and employee in a house of ill-fame. Blodgett was ordered to pay fines totaling $75.

Annie Blodgett's trial for keeping and frequenting a house of ill-fame began as soon as David's trial concluded. A grocer testified that she bought groceries under the name Annie Wilson. Two physicians and a minister testified that they heard her house was a brothel. A neighbor testified that Annie lived in the house, and that he had seen girls sitting on the verandah. Another neighbor testified that the girls had a bad reputation. Annie, like David, was found not guilty of keeping and maintaining a house of ill-fame. She was found guilt of frequenting a house of ill-fame and was sentenced to pay a fine of $25.

After the Trial

I can't say for certain what happened to the Blodgetts and their business after the scandalous trial. The 1880 census shows them running a boarding house with four young women boarders, all dressmakers. The City Directory also listed the Blodgett home on Plank Road as a boarding house.

Dave Blodgett died in 1889, and his house was sold to Thomas H. Hayes. The infamous house burned to the ground in 1907, by which time history had been thoroughly rewritten. No longer remembered as a house of ill-fame, it was "one of the landmarks of the country," known as "the old Blodgett tavern."

A description of the house appeared in the Bridgeport Herald after the fire: "The house contained twenty-two rooms, all of which were elegantly furnished. ... For many years, it was one of the most popular taverns in that part of the state and some of the greatest men in the country have been guests there."

Monday, November 19, 2012

Waterbury's First Female Attorney

Attorney Susan Cecelia O'Neill (1871-1934) was a pioneer of women's history in Connecticut, but you've probably never heard of her. Little has been written. She was the second woman admitted to the Connecticut Bar; the first woman to become an attorney in Connecticut was Mary Hall of Hartford, who was admitted to the bar in 1882. Hall rarely, if ever, appeared in court, out of concern that her gender would be a distraction to the court cases.

Susan O'Neill was admitted to the Connecticut Bar on June 19, 1898. She had graduated with distinction from NYU's law school the year before, only seven years after NYU began allowing women to attend their law school. Unlike Mary Hall, O'Neill regularly argued cases in court, not only in Waterbury, but also in Bridgeport, New Haven and Hartford. She was the first woman in Connecticut to practice law in the courtrooms. Considering that Mary Hall didn't practice in the courts because it was too outrageous for a woman to do so, Susan O'Neill's career is that much more admirable.

In 1901, she became the first woman to argue a case before the Supreme Court of Connecticut. On April 24, 1904, she was admitted to and practiced before the Supreme Court of the United States (Belva A. Lockwood was the first woman to do so, in 1893).

Susan C. O'Neill
From the Hartford Courant, May 21, 1922

O'Neill's family was a mixture of Irish and Yankee. Her paternal grandmother was descended from the Puritans, while her paternal grandfather was an Irish immigrant who arrived in this country in 1833. Her maternal grandparents were both Irish immigrants. The O'Neill family moved to Waterbury in 1848.

Her father, John O'Neill, was also an attorney. He served in the state legislature in 1889, introducing new legislation establishing taxes on inheritances, investments, and on telegraph and express companies; the new taxes were intended to bring balance to the state tax system, which had been wreaking havoc on city and town property assessments. He was also Dean of the Waterbury Bar, and served on the board of the Bronson Library.

The O'Neill family lived at 131 Cook Street. For many decades, the O'Neill law firm (O'Neill, O'Neill & O'Neill) was located at 77 Bank Street. Susan practiced there with her father and two brothers. In 1920, O'Neill moved her practice to 53 Leavenworth Street; in 1922, she moved to 193 Grand Street.

O'Neill moved out of the family home after World War I, living at 315 Willow Street for close to a decade. She eventually moved in with her widowed mother in Woodbury.

77 Bank Street in 2012 (built after O'Neill practiced at the location)
This is sometimes referred to as the Russell Building, since the owners who had it built were the Russell law firm.
This building was constructed in 1930, long after O'Neill had moved to a new office location.
I haven't been able to find a good photograph of the building that was here before, but I suspect
it probably looked a lot like the one to the left of the current Russell Building.

Being a female attorney during the early years of the 20th century made O'Neill something of an oddity. The American public was fascinated by the concept of a female professional. The Indiana Weekly magazine wrote the following review of her abilities in 1901:

"The young Connecticut woman attorney has a charming personality, and a clear and full voice. At a recent appearance before the highest court of the Nutmeg State she spoke for fifteen minutes without notes, showing evident mastery of the technical details of her case. She made an excellent impression."

The New Jersey Law Journal, in 1907, wrote that she was "the most remarkable woman lawyer in New England, as well as one of the youngest." The Journal noted that her father was one of the two leading lawyers of Connecticut, and then gushed "Miss O'Neill is a young woman just entering the thirties, tall and possessed of a faultless figure, a face full of girlish sweetness and has a charming personality."

O'Neill was particularly interested in how the legal system handled juveniles. She was among a growing number of people who believed that youthful offenders should be treated differently than adults. O'Neill presented a substitute bill to the state legislature in 1913 proposing that the state should be divided into five juvenile court districts, one for each congressional district. The bill specified that the assistant to the judge for each district must be a woman. At the presentation of her bill to the state legislature, O'Neill emphasized the importance of crime prevention, noting that the existing system did not address this, since they became involved only after a crime was committed. Her proposed bill required that juvenile offenders be jailed in a dedicated detention house, instead of placing them in prisons with adult offenders. Her bill also proposed giving the court jurisdiction over offenders under the age of 16 (unless the crime was “an infamous one”), and jurisdiction over cases involving misdemeanors, guardianship of orphans, and cases of non-support of children. O’Neill’s proposed bill included an appropriation of $25,000 to establish the new system. (I have not yet found out what happened to her proposal; there were other options presented at the same time.)

A few of O'Neill's cases made the newspapers. In 1901, O’Neill represented Margaret Heffernan of Bristol, who sought to regain custody of her young daughter from her husband, who had taken her away to his parents’ home in Harwinton. The description in the newspaper clearly indicates that Margaret Heffernan had been suffering from severe post-partum depression (shortly after giving birth, she declared that she hated her newborn daughter and spent months subtly abusing her), but back then the problem was not understood. The Hartford Courant (September 24, 1901) described it as a “strange condition.” The judge in the case declared that the laws of the land established the father as legal guardian (men having far more rights than women in 1901). Fortunately, the father decided to take the toddler back home, hoping that his wife would “treat it more kindly” than before. Although the case had a happy ending, it is sad to see how poorly understand post-partum depression was. When asked to comment on the case, the judge said that Margaret Heffernan must hate her husband, because why else would she have abused their child?

O'Neill also represented Mary Wright Smith of Westport, who became somewhat notorious after her attorneys were forced to sue her for payment. O'Neill wound up representing herself and another female attorney, Isabella M. Pettus of New York. The case was settled with O'Neill and Pettus taking possession of a farm in Easton owned by Smith (who subsequently swore off lawyers and began studying law for herself.)

O’Neill made state headlines for her defense of the “Flapper” in 1922 (written up in the Hartford Courant, May 21, 1922). In her argument before the Connecticut Supreme Court, she defended short skirts, noting that they allow “much freer action getting about, especially going up stairs, climbing aboard trolley cars or into autos.” She further state that short skirts “are far more sanitary than the skirts of several years ago, which swept the sidewalks and collected the germs of the careless spitters and brought diseases into homes."

Depiction of a Flapper in The Outlook magazine, June 7, 1922
Although modest by our standards, this was a radical, rebellious look in the '20s.

O’Neill also defended the choice of fabric material and color, perhaps to rebut concerns that flapper dresses were too distracting. O’Neill declared that “It is not surprising that the average girl looks chic and winsome” in the “lively” hues of their dresses.

The short haircut of the flapper was also being defended. O’Neill called the bobbed haircut “another sign of progress,” simplifying the chore involved with taking care of long hair. O’Neill also approved of knickers (or knickerbockers), commenting that the pants “are becoming quite common in the larger centers of population” and were likely to start appearing more frequently for golfing and hiking. She was also amenable to a small amount of makeup, “rouge and powder,” for girls with poor complexions.

The one trend O’Neill spoke out against was smoking: “In my opinion a girl loses charm when she smokes.”

The Courant article ended with an inspiring quote from O’Neill:
“Now that equal franchise has been granted to women I look to see a greater number of young women selecting the legal profession. Women as a rule make keen, alert counselors and are sharp in the trial of cases. The practice of law should appeal to women. It is a most honorable profession and it would please me to see women more largely represented.” 

At the time, O’Neill was one of about four women practicing law in Connecticut.

Friday, November 02, 2012

Women's Suffrage

It's been 92 years since women were finally given the right to vote in this country. This is one of those history trivia bits that has astounded me ever since I was a kid. There are women alive today who were born at a time when it was illegal for them to vote, simply because they weren't men.

Women and men started advocating for women's suffrage (the right to vote) before the Civil War. Many abolitionists were also suffragists, the sort of people who have more recently been derided as "bleeding-heart liberals," the sort of people who advocate strongly for human rights and civil rights. Abolishing slavery was, not surprisingly, seen as a higher priority than women's suffrage. After the Civil War, the suffrage movement, and the women's rights movement (dress reform, allowing women to wear trousers, was among the items women had to fight for), began to pick up steam.

History tends to gloss over certain types of details. For example, after the Civil War, giving black men the right to vote in every state was controversial. In October 1865, Connecticut men voted against removing the word "white" from the U.S. Constitution. The Columbian Register, a New Haven newspaper, declared it a "glorious triumph," establishing that ours is "a white man's government" that "should be administered by white men." The paper praised voters for crossing partisan lines "to do a patriotic act."

In 1869, a Chicago advocate for universal suffrage was quoted in the Columbian Register as saying that "Western women comprehend that humanity is one--that the colored man cannot be elevated without at the same time uplifting the colored woman--and they see very clearly that through the gap in the fence made by the colored man as he passes over into citizenship, all American women will pass to the same destination."

An early suffragist in Waterbury was a Mrs. Armes, who attended Women's Suffrage meetings during the 1870s. I have not yet found more information about her.

In Connecticut, women were given the right to vote in school-related elections in 1889 (their ballots were cast separately from those cast by men). In 1895, Waterbury's State Representative Warren L. Hall put forth a bill claiming that "the better class of women" wanted the right revoked because "the undesirable class of women" had voted during the last election. Hall argued that women should not be "forced" to vote. Others, including the editor of the Waterbury Republican newspaper, argued that the extremely low turnout of women voters at school elections was proof that there was no point in giving women the right to vote.

Surprisingly, not all women wanted the right to vote. There were many women who identified themselves as "against women suffrage" only a few years before they were given the right to vote. Among them was Waterbury's Mary Williams Phipps, a graduate of Mt. Holyoke College. Phipps was active in women's organizations, including the Waterbury Women's Club, and in the Congregational Church ministries.

In contrast, Helen L. Welton was a strong advocate of women's suffrage. Welton was a business woman at a time when such a thing was rare. Her husband had become an invalid, so she took over, joining her father-in-law's real estate business. She was instrumental in developing Waterville. Her support of women's suffrage was based, at least in part, in her belief in "no taxation without representation." Her short biography in Volume 2 of Pape's History of Waterbury described her as "retaining the truly womanly traits of character" while still being highly competent in the business world. Back in 1916, those two things were considered to be mutually exclusive.

The Connecticut Association Opposed to Woman Suffrage, founded in 1911, considered the right to vote "a menace to womanhood." The Association claimed to have some 60,000 members in 1914, which included members from Waterbury. The Waterbury branch was formed in 1913 and met at Rose Hill on Prospect Street, home of Mrs. Irving Chase. The first officers of the branch were Margaret Granniss, Mrs. George Goss, and Mrs. Chauncy P. Goss.

Suffragists were willing to go to prison. Many women were arrested and jailed for as long as six months in different parts of the country.

Kate Heffelfinger, an art student and suffragist from Pennsylvania,
being released from Occoquan Prison in Virginia, circa 1917.
Heffelfinger was sentenced to six months in jail for picketing for the right to vote.
She was one of 33 suffragist women brutally beaten by prison guards at Occoquan.
Photo from the Records of the National Woman's Party, Library of Congress, American Memory website.

Connecticut women were as active in the struggle for the right to vote as anyone.

Picketers at the National Republican Convention in Chicago, June 1920.
L-R Abby Scott Baker, Florence Taylor Marsh, Sue White, Elsie Hill, and Betty Gram.
Photo from the Records of the National Woman's Party, Library of Congress, American Memory website.

On October 9, 1920, the first woman to become registered to vote in Waterbury was Mrs. Adelaide Boyd of Arch Street. Roughly 15,000 Waterbury women registered right away.

Getting the vote wasn't the end of the story. In 1927, Waterbury's Mrs. Harry S. Coe (who had served in the General Assembly in 1925) and the Connecticut League of Women Voters petitioned for women's right to serve on juries. The Connecticut Attorney General had previously ruled that women could not serve as jurors, even though they did have the right to vote.

In 1934, Connecticut's Governor Wilbur Cross unveiled a plaque honoring 31 Connecticut women pioneers in the struggle for women's suffrage. Among the women honored were Waterbury's Harriet Fowler Maltby and Elsie Rowland Chase, sister-in-law of anti-suffragist Mrs. Irving Chase.

Wednesday, June 06, 2012

Facade Improvements

A while ago, I wrote a post about upcoming facade improvements in downtown Waterbury. The program was created by Main Street Waterbury and uses guidelines intended to upgrade building facades while preserving or enhancing the historic architectural features of the building. The guidelines also provide information about good design and improving the pedestrian experience. The program is administered by Waterbury Development Corporation.

The Facade Improvement Program is ongoing. If you own a building downtown and would like assistance to make your building look better, contact Carl Rosa at Main Street Waterbury.

Here are the before and after photos.

483 West Main Street -- BEFORE

483 West Main Street -- AFTER

Window casings repaired, paint colors match brickwork,
storefront matches the look of the building and is both elegant and inviting.

Bank Street buildings -- BEFORE

Bank Street buildings -- AFTER

58 Bank Street, Before and After

The stark white window casings have been replaced with better quality windows that blend better with the building;
lintels matching the third floor window lintels have been added above the second floor windows;
and a new storefront, with a more inviting store entrance, has been installed.
This building, incidentally, has a wonderful full-wall skylight on the third floor.

60 Bank Street, Before and After

How exciting is this? The bizarre 1960s accordion facade was removed. Hiding behind it was
a gorgeous facade, original windows intact, along with suburb architectural details.
Holes created for the installation of the accordion piece were repaired and a new storefront was added.

60 Bank Street, detail

Quill pen, ink, and scroll. From when there was a bookstore here.

60 Bank Street, detail

All this was hiding under the '60s accordion.

64 Bank Street, Before and After
Another fabulous discovery: the old Sugenheimer windows and logo were hiding behind the ugly panels. New paint colors were chosen to work with the Sugenheimer logo. The details of the pediment (the woodwork at the top of the building) really pop with the contrasting red and black paint. Much more attractive than the blah brown paint. The new storefront will be installed soon; I'm too excited about this building to wait any longer to share these images.

64 Bank Street, detail

The Sugenheimer window. Looks great, even in this rainy shot.

70 Bank Street, Before and After

New storefront, more elegant in design than the previous storefront.