The Capitol Theater in New London was built in 1921 at 39 (29-41) Bank Street on the site of a earlier theater called Aborn Hall. A vaudeville and movie theater (legend has it that George Burns and Gracie Allen met here), it has been closed since 1974 and is in need of restoration. Read the rest of this entry »
On the other side of Starr Street in New London from the row of houses built in 1839 by John Bishop is another Greek Revival house built the same year at 28 Starr Street. Unlike the the Bishop houses, it does not have its gable end to the street, although it similarly displays a later Italianate alteration in its door hood. It was the second house on Starr Street built by Nehemiah Payne.
Starr Street in New London is a narrow street lined with houses built for middle class families during the city’s whaling heyday. Primarily in the Greek Revival style, many of them were built by the same carpenter, John Bishop. Charles Culver had a rope walk on the site which burned in 1834. He then sold the land as a real estate development. The new street was named for the C. Starr and Company Soap and Candle Factory, which was at one end. Most of the houses were constructed in the 1830s and 1840s on narrow building lots. They were erected right on the street line with not much space between them. The early residents included many whose occupations supported the whaling industry. There were grocers, ship carpenters, blacksmiths, teachers, ship captains, a whaling agent, a tavern keeper, a doctor, a plumber and later in the century, a railroad clerk and an engineer. Some were used as boarding houses run by a single woman or a widow. More houses were built on the site of the factory after it closed. Later houses include examples of the Queen Anne style. Many of the original Greek Revival houses were later updated in the Italianate style (note the Italianate hoods over the doors of the houses pictured below).
In the 1970s the houses on Starr Street were slated for demolition, but in 1977 most of them were bought by the Savings Bank of New London, which restored them and sold them to private owners. In 1981 Starr Street became the city’s first historic district and the Starr Street Association was formed to maintain the historic integrity of the properties.
Five of the houses built on Starr Street in 1839 were erected by John Bishop (the row shown in the photo at the top of this post, from left to right: Nos. 25, 23, 19, 17 & 15; the house on the far right, #11, dates to 1836). Read the rest of this entry »
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.