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.
The former residence at 208 High Street in Middletown was built sometime between 1859 and 1870. Its original appearance was in a different architectural style. It was a cross gabled building with projecting eaves and a Victorian porch. A one-story wing (later raised to two stories) was added to the rear in 1876. The brick house was built on a tract of land developed by Israel Bailey and was a rental property until 1892, when Jennie A. Bailey Sibley and her husband, Howard A. Sibley, acquired title to the property from other heirs of Israel Bailey. The house was altered early in the twentieth century when the current entrance porch and a classical pediment and cornice with modillions were added. The Sibleys occupied the house until 1920. The following year, it was acquired by Wesleyan University for use as housing. It is now Wesleyan’s Office of Public Safety.
Commodore Thomas Macdonough was a Naval hero of the War of 1812 who defeated the British at the Battle of Lake Champlain in 1814. Earlier in the war he had overseen the construction of gunboats in Middletown and after the war made his home in the city. At 66 Spring Street in Middletown is the Commodore Macdonough Elementary School, which was built in 1924 and dedicated in 1925.
The Capitol Theater, at 350 (354) Main Street in Middletown, was opened in 1926 by two Italian-immigrant brothers, Alessandro and Salvatore Sareceno. The theater originally presented vaudeville and silent films, later becoming a movie theater. By the early 1930s, the theatre was being run by Salvatore Adorno, also an Italian immigrant, who had built the Grand Theater (later called the Palace Theater), located next door on Main Street, in 1915 and was leasing both the nearby Capitol and Middlesex theaters. The Capitol closed in 1975 and the lobby was converted to become a liquor store. The Palace Theater was demolished in 1980 to be replaced by the Middletown Transit Authority bus station. The 1892 Middlesex Theater was demolished in 1984, but the lobby was saved and is now home to the Tuscany Grill restaurant. Over the years the Capitol Theater became dilapidated. Its interior ornamentation had been removed and holes in the roof left the interior exposed to the elements. Trees were also growing on the roof! The building was declared unsafe by the city in 2009 and was finally demolished late in 2011. Today only the former lobby facing Main Street remains.