Dating to around 1800, the building at the corner of Bank and Pearl Streets in New London was part of the business operations of Jonathan Starr‘s family. Starr, who lived across the street, operated the Chester & Starr lumberyard and a grocery store at the site. According to the New London Heritage Trail plaque at the site: “Coffins and groceries both sold here.” The building now houses a restaurant and bar.
St. Mary Star of the Sea Roman Catholic Church in New London began in the 1840s, serving Irish workers from a storefront on Bank Street. Soon, St. John’s parish was formed and a chapel was erected on Jay Street. In 1855 a new church, St. Patrick’s, was consecrated on Truman Street. The parish acquired a large lot at the corner of Washington and Huntington Streets in 1866 and the following year work began on a new church, designed by Patrick Keely of New York. The parish was renamed St. Mary Star of the Sea in 1874 and the new church was completed and dedicated in May, 1876. The church tower was built in 1911.
Constructed in 1868 as a grand new three-story commercial block with classical detailing, Bacon’s Marble Block is located at at 128 State Street in New London. It was built by Morris W. Bacon, manager of the Pequot & Ocean Transit Steamship Co., who ran a billiard hall in the building. The structure’s original cornice was replaced with a mansard roof before 1901. Beatrice Cuming, a painter, lived and worked on the building‘s upper floors in the 1930s and 1940s. In more recent years, the building sat derelict for twenty-five years, but was then restored with commercial space on the first floor and apartments above. Bacon’s Marble Block also features a faded Uneeda Biscuit sign. The building next door, at 140 State Street, was built in 1873.
The house at 258 Bank Street in New London was built in 1833 (or as early as 1817?) with granite quarried from the ledge behind the building, known as Tongues Rock. Sailing ships would tie up at the shore at this granite outcrop. The building was constructed as the home and whaling office of Benjamin Brown, who produced soap and candles. According to an article (“Pioneers of Tilley Street Prominent in City Affairs,” by R.B. Wall) that appeared in the New London Day on February 13, 1815:
Benjamin Brown was a prominent figure in the whaling industry and he also had a slaughter house and candle factory. He cured beef and pork and shipped it in barrels to other places. After buying the Canada house in Tilley Street he bought considerably more land adjoining ion the west bounds. On this vacant land he used to store hundreds of barrels of oil while waiting for the market to advance. Benjamin Brown was a native of Waterford and came to New London a poor and friendless boy. The building connected with his enterprises once occupied the site of the coal ad lumber business of the F.H. & A.H. Chappell Co. in Bank street. His stone house alone remains on the east side of Bank street, opposite Tilley.
Brown’s property once extended to the water behind the house and had a well that supplied whaling and merchant ships. The house survived a fire that started during the 1938 hurricane and devastated Bank Street.
Happy Easter! St. James’ parish in New London began with a small group of Episcopalians in 1725. Their first church was a wooden building on New London’s Parade, opened in 1732. It was destroyed by fire when New London was burned in 1781 during the Battle of Groton Heights. Samuel Seabury (1729–1796), consecrated in 1784 as the first bishop of the American Episcopal Church, served as rector of St. James from 1785 until his death in 1796. He is now buried in the current (third) St. James Church. The second church was consecrated in 1787, but by the mid-nineteenth century a larger building was needed. By that time the parish had grown significantly and included some of New London’s wealthiest and most influential families. The third St. James Church, located at the corner of Huntington and Federal Streets, was built in 1847-1850. It was designed by the famous architect Richard Upjohn, construction starting just a year after he completed Trinity Church in Manhattan. Starting in 1910, St. James’s original stained glass windows were replaced by six new memorial stained glass windows designed by Louis Comfort Tiffany.
At 181 Bank Street in New London is a former house that now has a commercial facade on the ground floor. The house was built in 1790 for Jonathan Starr, whose earlier house, built in 1702, had stood on the same site. Starr operated a lumber yard that was located right across the street from his home. From 1914 to 1996 the Starr House was used as the James Drug Store and more recently has housed a restaurant, an antiques store and a hair salon.
The Bank of Commerce of New London was chartered in 1852 and became a national bank in 1864. As related in A Modern History of New London County, Connecticut, Volume 2 (1922), edited by Benjamin Tinkham Marshall:
The first business transactions of the bank were in the office of Williams & Havens, whaling merchants, on October 14, 1852, when notes aggregating $11,000 were discounted—a fair day’s business for an infant institution. Subsequently the bank obtained permanent quarters in the second story of the Union Bank building, at the present location of the Union Bank and Trust Company. When the Crocker house building was constructed, the National Bank of Commerce took a lease of its present location for fifty years from April 1, 1872.
The directors, desiring to furnish their patrons with the best convenience and comforts for transacting business, decided to erect a building which the bank would occupy at the expiration of its lease of the Crocker house quarters, or earlier if possible. To this end a lot was purchased on State street, next east to the First Baptist Church, extending around the church, with a frontage on Washington street as well as on State street, and the present fine home of the National Bank of Commerce is the result of its decision to own its own home.