In the early twentieth century, many Italian immigrants were settling in Middletown, with large numbers coming from the Sicilian town of Melilli. Seeking to build their own church in Middletown, they launched a massive fund raising effort. Local companies donated materials for the building of St. Sebastian Church and many parishioners contributed their labor for its construction. The church was designed by architect Raymond C. Gorrani, who was heavily influenced by the design of the Basilica of St. Sebastian in Melilli. The first Mass was celebrated in the church in December, 1931.
The Central National Bank Building, at 363 Main Street in Middletown, was built in 1915. The bank was in business from 1865 to 1955. Considered to be the first modern office building in Middletown, it later housed Hartford National Bank and Trust and now Webster Bank.
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.
As described in yesterday’s post, Thomas Danforth I (1703-1786) was a prominent maker of pewter in Norwich. One of his sons, also named Thomas, established himself as a pewterer in Middletown in 1756. He handcrafted pewter in a combination workshop and store that was originally located in an artisans’ neighborhood along Henshaw Lane, now called College Street. Thomas Danforth II (1731-1782) had six sons who became pewterers. A grandson continued the trade in Middletown until 1846. The Danforth Pewter Shop was dismantled in 1979, when its College Street location was slated to become a parking lot. It was reassembled a few years later next to 11 South Main Street, at the intersection of South Main, Pleasant and Church Streets, near Union Green. The former pewter shop is privately owned and not open to the public.
One of the surviving nineteenth-century commercial buildings on Main Street in Middletown is the Stueck Building, built in 1893 (or perhaps as early as 1880?) at nos. 460 to 470. The building was constructed by Jacob W. Stueck, who operated a bakery. In 1914, his son, Philip Stueck, constructed an attached building on Washington Street that was home to a restaurant called Stueck’s Modern Tavern.
The mansion at 301 High Street in Middletown was built in 1838-1840 by Richard Alsop IV, son of the poet, Richard Alsop III. Sometimes attributed to architect Ithiel Town (the house resembles Town’s house in New Haven), it was probably designed by Platt and Benne of New Haven. The exterior and interior of the house are noted for their decorative trompe l’oeil murals (wall paintings). Alsop, a successful merchant and banker who lived in Philadelphia, built the house for his twice-widowed mother, Maria Pomeroy Alsop Dana, and it remained in the Alsop family until 1948, when it was purchased by Wesleyan University with funds given by Harriet and George W. Davison. The Davisons commissioned renovations of the house, completed in 1952 and directed by architect Arthur Loomis Harmon of Shreve, Lamb and Harmon Associates of New York. Since 1952, the house has been home to the Davison Arts Center.
Built around 1880, the Italianate house at 167-169 High Street in Middletown was occupied by the Hart and Root families before it became a residence for faculty of Wesleyan University. At various times it has housed a dining club, faculty apartments, departmental and administrative offices, the Wesleyan Argus and, most recently, the Shapiro Creative Writing Center and various offices at #167 and the Office of Religious and Spiritual Life at #169. The tower on the building’s northwest corner was once a story taller.