G. Fox & Company, the legendary Hartford department store, was founded as a fancy goods store in 1847 by Gerson Fox. It was later expanded into a department store under the leadership of his son, Moses Fox, and then his granddaughter, Beatrice Fox Auerbach (1887–1968). After renting space during its early years, G. Fox built the first building of its own on Main Street in Hartford in 1880-1881. Damaged during a fire in the Averill building next door in 1887, four years later Moses Fox purchased the building that had replaced the Averill for his expanding store. A devastating fire destroyed the G. Fox properties along Main Street on January 29, 1917. The store soon rebuilt, constructing a grand eleven-story building, designed by Cass Gilbert, the leading master of the Neoclassical Revival style. In the 1930s, Beatrice Fox Auerbach updated the store’s interiors in the Art Deco style and added the prominent Art Deco marquee to the front of the building. G. Fox closed its doors in 1993 but, a decade later, the building found new use as the home of Capitol Community College.
At 428-432 Main Street in Middletown is an Art Deco building that was built as a Woolworth’s store (F.W. Woolworth Co.) in 1939. An horrific tragedy took place in 1989, when a 9-year old girl, having walked out of the store during a street fair with her mother and sister, was fatally stabbed by a mental patient from the Connecticut Valley Hospital, a psychiatric institute in Middletown. The Woolworth’s store closed in late 1993 and the building is now home to Irreplaceable Artifacts.
The former Southern New England Telephone Company Administration Building is an Art Deco skyscraper built in 1937-1938 at 227 Church Street in New Haven. Also known as The Eli (after its conversion to luxury apartments in 2004), it was designed by Roy W. Foote and Douglas Orr, who made extensive use of Stony Creek pink granite. When it was built, it was the city’s tallest building.
Built between 1927 and 1929, the Bridgeport City Trust Building, at 955 Main Street in Bridgeport, is a 10-story art deco building designed by the firm of Dennison & Hirons. It is part of a group of buildings, called the CityTrust Complex, that were constructed between 1917 and 1930. After the Bridgeport Citytrust Company failed in 1991, the building was restored and is now called the City Trust Apartments.
Congregation Adath Israel was organized in 1902. A two-story building in Portland was purchased in 1908 and converted into a synagogue. The current synagogue, at 48 Church Street in Middletown, was built in 1929. In the 1940s, the congregation changed from its original Orthodoxy when the Charter was changed to Conservative.
The former headquarters building of the Hartford Steam Boiler Inspection and Insurance Company, at 56 Prospect Street in Hartford, is currently vacant. An Art Deco structure built in 1932, it was designed by Carl J. Malmfeldt. This block of Prospect Street was once the site of two lost Hartford landmarks: the old headquarters of the Travelers Insurance Company and Parson’s Theatre. To learn about the founding of Hartford Steam Boiler and find out about other great sites in downtown Hartford, check out Tour 1 in my new book, A Guide to Historic Hartford, Connecticut.
In 1914, Father Francis P. Nolan built a house in the Blue Hills section of Hartford. In 1924, he was named founding pastor of St. Justin Parish. Fr. Nolan, who had a degree from Yale’s Sheffield Scientific School and had worked as a civil engineer, was much involved in planning the new church with architects Whiton & McMahon. Built in 1931-1933, the church is an Art Deco structure and has Art Deco ornamentation in the interior as well. Read the rest of this entry »