Colonel Joshua Huntington (1751-1821), a merchant and ship owner, occupied the house at 11 Huntington Lane in Norwich, built for him by his father, Jabez Huntington, in 1771. During the Revolution Joshua Huntington served as a Lieutenant in the militia at Bunker Hill. He also outfitted privateers to attack British ships. He was an agent for Wadsworth & Carter of Hartford, engaged in supplying the French army at Newport with provisions, and he had charge of the prizes sent by the French navy to Connecticut. He is described by Lydia Huntley Sigourney in Letters of Life (1866):
Colonel Joshua Huntington had one of the most benign countenances I ever remember to have seen. His calm, beautiful brow was an index of his temper and life. Let who would be disturbed or irritated, he was not the man. He regarded with such kindness as the Gospel teaches the whole human family. At his own fair fireside, surrounded by loving, congenial spirits, and in all social intercourse, he was the same serene and revered Christian philosopher.
As described yesterday, Ponemah Mills in the village of Taftville in Norwich began with Mill #1, constructed in 1866-1871, which was the largest textile mill in the world under one roof. In 1884 the company moved its weaving operation to a new building, called Mill #2. Smaller than the first building, it did resemble its neighbor by having two main stair towers. These towers have unusual double hipped roofs that meet at right angles with one side being higher than the other. Behind the building there was once a trestle used for the mill’s electric railway. In 1902, weaving was again moved to a new building.
Ponemah Mills in Norwich once boasted the largest textile mill in the world under one roof. The mill buildings were constructed near a dam along the west bank of the Shetucket River. The investors who founded the company were led by Edward and Cyrus Taft of Providence, Rhode Island and the manufacturing village of Taftville was built next to the mill to house and serve the mill workers. The earliest workers were Irish immigrants. After a strike in 1875, the Irish were replaced with French-Canadian workers. The first Ponemah Mill building was constructed between 1866 and 1871. A massive mansard-roofed structure, it features two tall stair towers with roofs that have classical detailing, dormers, cupolas and turrets. In the twentieth century the mill converted to the production of synthetic fabrics. It finally closed in 1972. Later occupied by various small manufacturers, it then became the home of the Helikon Furniture Co., makers of high-end office furniture. More recently, Helikon moved out of the building and the mill is being restored to contain apartments under the name the Lofts at Ponemah Mills.
The Unitarian Universalist Church of Norwich began in 1820 as the “Society of United Christian Friends in the Towns of Norwich, Preston and Groton.” The Society erected a church in 1821, but did not have a settled pastor, the pulpit being occupied by temporary ministers. A church was finally organized in 1836, when the “First Universalist Society in Norwich” was established. A new brick church replaced the old one in 1841 on the same site on Main Street, facing Franklin Square. It was enlarged and rededicated in 1848. The church was demolished for the construction of the Chelsea Savings Bank. A new church, later called the Unitarian Universalist Church of Norwich, was erected in 1910 at 148 Broadway. Constructed of random granite ashlar, the church is also known as the Church of the Good Shepherd for the subject of its large stained glass window. The church’s bell, earlier located in the congregation’s Franklin Square church, was one of several bells salvaged from sacked churches after an uprising in Spain in 1833 that were shipped to New York for sale. With a dwindling congregation, the Unitarian-Universalists sold the church in 2009. It then became the Fount of Salvation Missionary Church.
The manufacturing village of Taftville in Norwich was established in 1866 and centered on the Taftville Mill, which later became the Ponemah Mill, the largest textile mill in the world under one roof. The company gave land to the village’s Congregational Society, which built the Taftville Congregational Church in 1904. The asymmetrical building has a shingled exterior.
Henry B. Norton was one of the most prominent businessmen in Norwich in the nineteenth century. Born in Branford, he arrived in Norwich as a penniless young man in 1824, eventually forming a merchant partnership with Joseph Backus in 1827. Norton rose to leadership of the Norton Brothers Grocery store, the Norwich Bleaching, Dyeing and Printing Company, the Norwich & New York Transportation Company (he owned shares in steam ships) and the Attawaugan Mill, which manufactured cotton cloth. He was also a founding trustee of the Norwich Free Academy and the Norwich Y.M.C.A. His Greek Revival house, at 188 Washington Street, was built in 1840. After his death his death in 1891, his two unmarried daughters continued to live in the house into the twentieth century. In recent years, the house has been restored.