Located on Cooley Avenue between Main Street Extension and East Main Street in Middletown is a former factory building, erected between 1871 and 1874 by L.D. Brown & Son. As related in The Silk Industry in America (1876), by L.P. Brockett,
L. D. Brown started in the manufacture of skein silk at Gurleyville, Conn., in 1850, in partnership with James Royce, and occupying the mill built by the latter in 1848, which has been referred to. In 1853 Mr. Brown bought the mill then occupied by the Conant Brothers, (already mentioned,) in the same locality, and continued the manufacture of skein silk there until 1865, when he took his son into partnership, sold the mill at Gurleyville to William E. Williams, and bought the William Atwood Mill at Atwoodville. In 1871, L. D. Brown & Son erected a new mill for themselves at Middletown, Conn., and sold the Atwoodville Mill to Macfarlane Brothers. They now manufacture principally machine twist and skein and spool sewing-silk. Their silk has an excellent reputation for strength and purity of dye. In February, 1875, they opened a New York house. Their brands are ” L. D. Brown & Son,” “Middletown Mills,” “Paragon,” and ” Connecticut Valley.” The junior partner, H. L. Brown, has made some inventions of considerable value to the silk industry, including an improvement in winding soft silk, which has been introduced into a number of silk mills, and a new method of silk spooling and weighing.
The Middletown factory was constructed in the city’s South Farms area, which was undergoing considerable industrial development after the Civil War. The original building was expanded later in the nineteenth century and again in the twentieth century. L.D. Brown & Son went into receivership to wind up the company’s affairs in 1903. Several other manufacturers have occupied the building over the years and it is now home to Estate Treasures. Part of the structure was demolished in 2011, with the rest perhaps to follow at some point in the future.
Seth Thomas (1785-1859) established his famous clock company in Plymouth Hollow (later renamed Thomaston in his honor) in 1813, buying out Heman Clark’s clockmaking business there. Thomas had previously worked with Eli Terry and Silas Hoadley in Plymouth. The company continued to expand during his lifetime and after his death, becoming one of America’s longest lived clock companies. The main Seth Thomas Clock Company building, which succeeded earlier structures, was built in 1915 (Note: I determined the date of the factory’s construction from a Sanborn Insurance map.). Located on South Main Street in Thomaston, it is a sprawling complex that was added to over the years. In 1931 the company became a division of General Time Instruments Corporation, later known as General Time Corporation. From World War II until 1967, the factory also made marine timing and navigational devices for the military as a defense plant. The factory was severely damaged in the Flood of 1955, but reopened the following year. In 1970, the company was taken over by Talley Industries of Seattle, Washington, which closed the Thomaston plant and moved all operations to Norcross, Georgia in 1979-1982. The old factory soon reopened as an industrial park for various small manufacturers.
The Old Lyme Inn is located in an old farm house built around 1856 by the Champlain family. Around the turn of the century, members of the Old Lyme artist’s colony would come to the Champlain farm to paint and used the barn as a studio. Jacqueline Kennedy reportedly took lessons at the riding academy located at the farm. Construction of the Connecticut Turnpike led the Champlain family to sell the house, which became the Barbizon Oak Inn, named for the Barbizon school of painting and a 300-year-old Oak tree on the property. A fire in 1965 led to the closing of the Barbizon Oak Inn, but the building was restored by later owners to open as the Old Lyme Inn (85 Lyme Street in Old Lyme).
The house at 242 Broadway in Norwich was built c. 1865. It was once the home of James Lanman Hubbard (1832-1890), a wealthy paper manufacturer and director of the Thames National Bank. His sister Marianna was married to the manufacturer John Fox Slater. James L. Hubbard married Charlotte Peck Learned in 1854. They moved to the house at 242 Broadway in 1869/1870. It was later the home of their son, Charles Learned Hubbard (1855-1918), who was by 1910 the wealthiest man in Norwich. By that time, he had already sold the house at 242 Broadway to John Porteous, who was the president of the Hislop, Porteous and Mitchell dry goods store.
The Italianate house at 105 High Street in Bristol was the home of Catharine R. Root. A school teacher in her youth, Catherine Roberts married Joel Henry Root in 1852. According to Bristol, Connecticut: “In the Olden Time New Cambridge” (1907), in 1859 Mr. and Mrs. Root moved into their house on High Street “where they have lived ever since and which was one of the very first houses to be built on that street.” This is probably the house 105 High Street, which is listed in the Federal Hill Historic District nomination as the “Catharine R. Root House” built c. 1870. Joel H. Root (died 1885) was a successful industrialist, who built a factory on Root’s Island that produced piano hardware and brass butt hinges. His son, Charles J. Root (1858-1907), continued the business and engaged in others, including real estate. On August 20, 1907, a car accident took the lives of Charles J. Root and his mother Catharine R. Root. As described in the Bristol Press (and reprinted in the 1907 history quoted above):
No happier party, comprising Charles Root, his mother, Catherine R. Root [who was eighty years old at the time], Miss Mary P. Root [his sister], Miss Candace Roberts [his aunt] and Miss Catherine Root, a fourteen years old niece [daughter of Theodore Root], left Bristol last Sunday, Aug. 18, 1907, and not many people enjoyed automobile riding so much as these people.
[. . .]
The party left here soon after nine o’clock Sunday morning. Mr. Root and Miss Roberts occupied the front seat of the big Stanley steam touring car. The other three were on the rear seat. The route led through Torrington and Norfolk which was reached about noon. From there the route was to Ashley Falls in Massachusetts. Near the Ashley Falls station the fine, hard highway runs parallel with the railroad tracks for perhaps a mile and is only a few feet distant. While the Root automobile was speeding along this road an overdue express train came in sight at terrific speed. The highway crosses the track at an abrupt angle. Express train and auto reached the fatal crossing almost at the same moment. Just how it happened can never be known but the automobile struck the train, probably the baggage car, a glancing blow and was instantaneously and completely wrecked. The occupants were hurled out with awful force, apparently striking their heads against the train, and were then carried some distance. All were frightfully mangled. Mr. Root and Miss Roberts were killed instantly. Mrs. Root had her skull fractured and died while being taken to Great Barrington. Miss Root had her skull fractured and her right shoulder crushed. She was removed to the House of Mercy in Pittsfield.
The only one to escape was Miss Catherine Root, and the manner in which she came through the crash is little short of miraculous. She was buried beneath the wreckage of the machine which for some unaccountable reason did not take fire. She was taken to the home of a friend in Great Barrington. She was dazed but appeared not to be seriously hurt, and was brought to the home of her parents, here, Mr. and Mrs. Theodore Root, on Monday.
Unfortunately, the young Miss Catherine Root died less than a year-and-a-half later, at Miss C. E. Mason’s School, The Castle, in Tarrytown, New York. As related in the Utica Herald-Dispatch on January 6, 1909:
While apparently only slightly injured at the time of the incident, Miss Root had suffered with convulsions since that time. Recently her health had been improving and she returned Monday from spending the holidays at her home and seemed in better health than ever.
Yesterday Miss Root had an attack and fell to the floor, striking her head on the edge of a box in her room. A trained nurse who stays at the school hurried to her assistance and Dr. Coulant, who lives Just outside the school grounds, was called in, but the young lady died of a hemorrhage of the brain before he arrived.
In circa 1825-1826, Lambert Hitchcock built the three-story brick factory in Riverton (Barkhamsted) where his company produced the famous Hitchcock Chairs. The two-story wing on the east side of the factory was added in 1848 to replace the original wheel house (the factory used water power from the Farmington River) that was destroyed by fire. Hitchcock eventually left the company, but the factory continued to be used to manufacture chairs until 1864, being used to make other products afterwards. In 1946, John Kenny bought the old factory and started a new Hitchcock Chair Company. He added the pedimented storefront to the ell of the building facing School Street around 1950. The company finally closed in 2006, but new owners acquired rights to the Hitchcock name and designs in 2010 and a factory store soon reopened in Riverton.