The building at 20 Broad Street in New Britain was erected in 1923 as the Rialto Theater. The owners went into receivership in the late 1920s and the building was foreclosed in 1930. Nest 88 of the Polish Falcons of America acquired the building in 1934. The Polish Falcons are a fraternal benefit society headquartered in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Nest 88 was chartered in 1907 after a first meeting in Lee Hall on Lafayette Street in New Britain. The organization has an emphasis on physical fitness, but in the early twentieth century it also trained volunteers to fight for the independence of Poland. 300 recruits from New Britain were among the 20-25,000 Polish men from North America who went to fight in the War as part of Haller’s Army (also called the Blue Army), which was composed of Polish immigrants and fought under French command in Europe. The building in New Britain has retail space on the first floor while the entire second floor is dedicated to Nest 88, with the Club Office, Club Bar, two halls, a kitchen and meeting rooms.
As related in David N. Camp’s History of New Britain (1889):
For several years before New Britain was incorporated as a distinct society, the little community had been exercised by the discussions concerning the division of Kensington, and the questions relating to the petitions and other measures to secure preaching on East Street. The death of Rev. William Burnham, in 1750, gave a new impulse to the efforts which resulted in the incorporation of the society. . . . .
The first settlers of New Britain were farmers with such limited education as could be obtained at that day. Nearly all had some property, which by frugality and industry, was increased after they occupied their new homes. In the eastern part of the parish, commencing at the northern boundary, there was a succession of farms — some large, and others comprising but a few acres—extending southerly, first on the Stanley Road, and then on both Stanley and East streets, to the southern limits of the parish, or to Great Swamp. . . . .
In the north part of Stanley Quarter, John Clark, Daniel Hart, Thomas Stanley, and his sons, Thomas, Noah, Timothy, and Gad, Jonathan Griswold, and a few others, were living upon farms, which already gave evidence of cultivation and thrift. When the society was incorporated, the first three of these men and their farms, were excluded from New Britain, though located within the bounds of the new society. Thomas Stanley had a large landed estate in Farmington and New Britain, and also land in New Cambridge (Bristol). He had several slaves employed either as field hands or help in the house, some of whom were mentioned in his will. He died before the first church in New Britain was organized, but three of his sons were members of this church, and they and some of their descendants became prominent in the affairs of the church and society. His eldest son, Thomas, had his home on the east side of the highway in Stanley Quarter; Noah, the second son, who was about thirty years old when the society was formed, lived on the west side of the road, where his son, and then his grandson, Noah W. Stanley, afterward lived. He kept a tavern at the place. A younger brother, Timothy Stanley, lived on the opposite side of the street, and had a tannery near his house.
Built circa 1754, the Noah Stanley Tavern is located at 1928 Stanley Street in New Britain. For much of the twentieth century, the house was owned by Hubert S. Blake, a New Britain native who died in 1975 at the age of 99. Read the rest of this entry »
The house at 1939 Stanley Street (at the corner of Barbour Street) in New Britain was built around 1750. The original owner of the house was George Francis. A later owner (in the mid-twentieth century) was a Mrs. Barbour, so a sign on the house calls it the “Francis Barbour House.” The house has additions dating to 1876. The original entrance to the house faces Barbour Street, but the main entrance is now on the north side.
St. Peter Catholic Parish in New Britain was established to serve German and Austrian immigrants. The cornerstone for St. Peter Church, at 98 Franklin Square, was blessed by Bishop Lawrence S. McMahon on November 23, 1890 and the basement church was dedicated by Vicar General Father James Hughes on July 19 the following year. The completed church edifice was dedicated by Bishop Michael A. Tierney on February 4, 1900. At the turn of the century, many French Canadian immigrants joined the parish.
The State Normal School in New Britain was founded in 1849. It was the first training school for teachers in Connecticut and the sixth in the nation. According to David Nelson Camp’s History of New Britain (1889):
Proposals had been received by the trustees to locate the school in the city of Middletown, and in Farmington, Southington, and some other towns; and it was after the first of February, 1850, before the persons in New Britain interested in the enterprise were informed that their proposition would be accepted; but on the 15th of May, or in about three months, a building was prepared, and the school was opened. To make the necessary provision, the Educational Fund Company bought the town hall then in process of erection, made alterations to adapt it to the needs of the school, secured additional land, and erected a larger building.
The school was located in this building for the next three decades, except for a period, from 1867 to 1839, when the school was school was temporarily closed. As Camp further relates:
The General Assembly in 1881 appropriated seventy-five thousand dollars for a new building on condition that the town of New Britain would appropriate twenty-five thousand for the same purpose. The appropriation was made and the building was erected on a commanding site overlooking the city and the country to the east of New Britain. The new building is 126 feet in entire length by 85 feet in width, the foundations and underpinning being of Portland brown stone and the walls above of brick. The building is heated throughout by steam. It provides study, recitation, and other rooms for the Normal School, and school rooms for a part of the Model and Training Schools. It was opened and occupied in the autumn of 1883.
The building, overlooking Walnut Hill Park, was designed by Warren R. Briggs of Bridgeport. In the building was founded one of the first American kindergartens. The building was soon outgrown. An annex was built in 1891, primarily to add a gymnasium. At a hearing before the State Assembly’s Committee on Education in 1919, the school’s Principal, Marcus White, explained that:
I have a building that was built forty years ago and has not from the day of its completion been fit for teaching purposes. It has no cellar and our winter’s coal supply has to be dumped outside. The lighting is so bad that you have to carry a candle to find your way to some of the recitation rooms without falling upstairs. A New Britain manufacturer told me recently, after inspecting the plant, that if he made his help work in a place like that he would be arrested and ought to be. When the girls come to New Britain they have no place to live and engage in any social life. Some of those girls are living two together in small rooms, some of them sleeping two in a bed. We have no land surrounding the building. If a girl drops a piece of paper out of a window it falls on somebody else’s land. There is no room for tennis courts or any of those things that would enable us to develop a school which Connecticut girls could honestly want to attend. [quoted in the “Predicts Shortage of 500 Teachers,” Hartford Courant, March 14, 1919]
In 1922, the school moved to a new campus on Stanley street and later developed into Central Connecticut State University. From 1925 to 1988, the old State Normal School building (27 Hillside Place) served as the New Britain Board of Education and School Administration Offices. In 1989-1991, the building was converted into condominium units.
At the corner of Arch Street and Grand Street in New Britain stands the old New Britain Armory, built in 1886 and designed by Robert Wakeman Hill of Waterbury. He used the same design for the armory in Norwalk. By 1986, when a notice in the New London Day announced that this former state armory was for sale by public bid, the building had left in a state of disrepair for a number of years. Most noticeably, it had lost its original domed top above the central tower. In 1992, the Greater Hartford Architecture Conservancy took control of the building and renovated it to become Armory Court (10 Grand Street), which contains low income housing.
Built circa 1860, the house at 51 Prospect Street in New Britain is notable for its stucco exterior. It was originally the home of George Swain, who ran a saloon on Main Street. The house was later home to Henry W. Felt and William F. Felt of Felt & Norton, dealers in dry goods and sewing machines. In the 1890s, it was the home and studio of Henry C. Foss, a music teacher.