The three-story commercial building at 52-56 State Street in New London is known as the Marsh Building. Built in 1916, it was designed by Dudley St. Clair Donnelly, who was also the architect of a number of other buildings in New London, including the the Manwaring Building (1913) and the Dewart Building (1914), both on State Street. The building was erected by Daniel S. Marsh, who sold pianos. In 1908 he had constructed a building at 230-232 State Street for his piano store, having previously had a store in Lyric Hall on State Street. The Day newspaper reported on April 20, 1916 (“State Street Will Have Handsome Brick Building“):
Daniel S. Marsh, the State street piano merchant, is soon to erect a new three story building at 52 State street after tearing down the building now occupied on the ground floor by the Royal Lunch and the Atlantic & Pacific Tea Co.
The new building is to be brick, fireproofed throughout, designed by Architect Dudley St. C. Donnelly. H. R. Douglas, Inc. has the contract for the work. The structure will have three stores on the ground floor in the space now occupied by two. On the second floor there will be six offices and six on the third floor. The work will start during the month of May, the present tenants having received notice to vacate within two weeks.
[. . .] The new building will add materially to the looks of State street in that section. The present building is an old fashioned structure and the new one, which is to be up to date in every particular, will be in direct contrast to it.
The old building was taken down, but disaster struck on June 20, 1916, when the neighboring building at 62 State Street, owned by Mrs. Mary L. Cady and containing the dry goods store of Huber & Chittenden, collapsed. As The Day reported the following day (“Three Story State Street Building Crumples Into a Heap of Bricks and Twisted Timbers“) that the building “collapsed like a house of cards at 5:59 Tuesday afternoon and fell with the dull roar of a muffled explosion into the excavation in the D. S. Marsh property adjoining. Clouds of dust like the smoke of battle rose from the ruins. Five persons are known to have been injured by the falling debris.” The employees “escaped entombment beneath the mass of timber by the barest interval. Bystanders were miraculously spared from the showers of broken lumber that strewed the street. The structure was completely demolished as though it had been dynamited.”
A number of law suits soon followed the collapse of the Cady Building, including several by the injured against Marsh, Douglas, Cady, Huber and Chittenden. The first suit to be filed however was brought by Huber & Chittenden against Marsh and Douglas. As related on by The Day on August 22, 1916 (“Cady Building Collapse To Cause Many Suits“):
The plaintiffs allege that the walls of the Cady building and the adjoining building which was torn down by Marsh were contiguous and adjacent, being practically one wall and that the building was torn down without providing protection by way of bracing up and shoring up the walls. The wall of the Cady building was permitted to remain standing without any support, although the defendants knew its weakened and dangerous condition.
[. . .] The plaintiffs allege that the defendants were notified of the weakened and dangerous condition of the wall but that they took no precautions. They claim negligence and carelessness on the part of the defendants, alleging that the collapse could have been avoided by reasonable and proper care.
In the case of Huber v. Douglas, Inc, the plaintiffs also argued that the defendants, as related in Cases Argued and Determined in the Supreme Court of Errors of the State of Connecticut, Volume 94 (1921):
not only allowed the Cady wall to remain in this unprotected condition, but “wrongfully, carelessly and negligently made excavations” on Marsh’s property within five feet of the foundation of this Cady wall. The soil at that point was sandy “and of such a treacherous and unsafe character that excavations made in said soil within five or six feet of the place where said soil was sustaining the great weight and pressure of supporting said easterly wall of said Cady building, would easily cause . . . said soil to shift, slip and move into said excavations, thereby removing the support afforded by said soil to the foundation of said easterly wall of said Cady building.”
[. . .] On June 14th, 1916, the plaintiff Huber, acting also for the owner of the Cady building, had an interview with Douglas concerning the protection of the Cady building, and Douglas, as manager, agreed that the company would look out for and protect the building.
The jury accepted Marsh’s defense that he was not responsible because he employed an independent contractor, but held Douglas liable:
The jury returned a verdict in favor of the defendant Marsh, and for the plaintiffs to recover damages, assessed at $23,500, of the defendant H. R. Douglas, Incorporated. The court accepted both verdicts and rendered judgment upon them.
Douglas lost an appeal to the Connecticut Supreme Court in 1919.
The Plant Building (now called the Dewart Building) at 300-310 State Street in New London was built in 1914 for Morton F. Plant (1852-1918), a millionaire financier who invested substantially in the development of New London. The building contained shops on the first floor with offices and a large assembly hall above. It was designed by architect Dudley St. Clair Donnelly, who had his own offices on the fourth floor. The Plant Building was later renamed for William J. Dewart, the local business manager for Frank Munsey, the magazine publisher who built the Mohican Hotel in New London.
At 15 Bank Street in New London is the Lawrence Hall Building, built in 1920. It replaced an earlier Lawrence Hall building on the same site, which is described in Frances Manwaring Caulkins’ History of New London (1895 edition) as follows:
Lawrence Hall, a private building owned by Joseph Lawrence, Esq., is the principal Hall in the city for public lectures and exhibitions. It was completed in Feb. 1856, and is 105 feet in length, 57 in breadth, and arched above to the height of 24 feet from the floor. It is a beautiful Hall in decoration, proportion and interior accommodation, and with its gallery or corridor, will accommodate 1,200 persons. Architect, W. T. Hallett.
It deserves to be remembered here that the elder Lawrence was the first man who gave New London a strictly metropolitan building, Lawrence Hall, a fine structure built from the plans of the celebrated architect, Hallett. When it was going up some of the citizens expressed their fears that it would overshadow the rest of the city, and Mr. Lawrence replied: “ That is all right; the city will grow up to it.”
The 1920 Lawrence Hall was built after the 1856 Lawrence Hall was destroyed in a fire. The new building was described in the book Modern Connecticut Homes and Homecrafts (1921) soon after it was built:
In the making of the design for Lawrence Hall Building on Bank street, New London, there is shown again [the architects] Mssrs. Bilderbeck and Langdon’s marked ability to obtain decorative quality through their knowledge of the resources of materials, and beauty of form in the development of natural structural lines.
Currently owned by Planned Parenthood of Southern New England, the building at 45 Franklin Street in New London was built in 1892 as the carriage house of the Elisha Palmer estate. It originally stood at the corner of Broad and State Streets, behind the New London Courthouse, but was moved to its current address in 1982 to make way for a parking lot.
Between about 1868 and his death in 1900, Dr. Robert A. Manwaring had practiced medicine in a house in New London where the building at 225-237 State Street now stands. The building was constructed in 1913 as the result of a bequest by the doctor’s son, Wolcott B. Manwaring (to support a memorial children’s hospital). Designed by Dudley St. Clair Donnelly, the Manwaring Building has housed many businesses over the years. Read the rest of this entry »
The Cronin Building, at 80-88 State Street in New London, was built by Jeremiah D. Cronin, a plumbing contractor and a promoter of the Post Hill Improvement Company. It was built on the site of the City Hotel, where Andrew Jackson and Abraham Lincoln once stayed. The hotel burned down in 1891. The Cronin Building was designed by George Warren Cole, an architect from the firm of Shepley, Rutan and Coolidge (H.H. Richardson‘s successors) who came to New London to supervise the construction of three buildings: the Public Library, the Williams Memorial Institute and the Nathan Hale School. The vacant Cronin Building is in need of restoration.
At 243 State Street in New London is Lyric Hall, a commercial building with an auditorium on the second floor. Originally a theater, by the mid-twentieth century the auditorium space was being used for dance classes. The Classical Revival building was designed by architect James Sweeney of New London. The building has had various owners and been used for different purposes over the years. It has recently undergone restoration work and has very recent new owners.