In 1892 the Ensign-Bickford Company of Simsbury acquired a half interest in the Climax Fuse Company of Avon. By 1907 the companies merged. Following its practice in Simsbury, Ensign-Bickford erected housing for its workers in Avon, including a number of houses built c. 1913 around a small green called Farmington Court. Unusually for the time these were mostly single-family homes instead of multi-family tenements. This was part of a new movement in which industrial companies began erecting suburban-type neighborhoods for their workers. Farmington Court was renamed Columbus Circle in 1930, but which time the residents were primarily Italian-Americans. The Prince Thomas of Savoy Society, an Italan-American social club, built its headquarters nearby in 1932.
The older section (which has a window in the gable-end) of the building at 104 Baileyville Road in Middlefield was built in 1876 by George W. Miller for his bone and phosphate mill. The building was later vacant for some years until it was acquired by the Lyman Gun Sight Corporation in 1921. The company remodeled the building in 1927 for the making of telescopic scopes for rifles. A dam was built which created a pond, called Scope Shop Pond, to power the factory (it’s now used by the town for fire protection). Additions to the building were constructed in the 1930s and 1940s. The picture above was taken in 2014, when the building was having work done. The current owner hopes to revitalize this and the former Lyman Gun Sight Factory on West Street. Read the rest of this entry »
The unusual building at 926-940 Farmington Avenue in Kensington was built c. 1875 by the brothers, Augustine F. Wooding and Ralph A. Wooding. They started a business making dog collars, later expanding to harness trimmings and saddlery hardware. In the 1896, they built a dam and pond and were granted a contract to supply water to trains on the New York, New Haven & Hartford Railroad. The building’s tower was then erected to serve as a water tower. Known as the Tower House, in later years the building was used as apartments. Read the rest of this entry »
When the historic Silvermine Tavern, located in the Silvermine section of Norwalk, closed in 2009, it was the end of an 80 year local institution. Several buildings make up the original Silvermine Tavern complex, including an old mill with origins in the seventeenth century, a coach house and a gatehouse that has since been attached to the main Tavern building. This structure has a plaque indicating that it was built c. 1810 as the Joseph Cocker Cotton Factory. Cocker’s business was an expensive undertaking and when he passed away unexpectedly in 1812 he left an estate that was heavily in debt. His widow Sally died the following year and Stephen Abbott acquired the property, but he too fell into debt and sold it in 1816 to his son. By that time the building had had new wings constructed for living quarters and a weaving shop. The factory continued on under various owners until, including David Comstock, who manufactured hats, until it was acquired in the 1850s by Henry Guthrie, an immigrant from England who owned a shipyard and three water-powered mills. Guthrie produced knobs for doors and furniture and local girls sanded, varnished and packed them for shipping in what would become the Tavern’s living room.
Otto Goldstein purchased the building in 1906. He also owned the nearby Red Mill, built c. 1800, which he used for his fur processing business. Goldstein lived in the former factory where he also had a taproom where he sold drinks to the local community of Silvermine, which was then becoming an artists’ colony. With the repeal of Prohibition, J. Kenneth Byard bought the property in 1929 and named it the Silvermine Tavern, offering dining and overnight accommodations. Ownership of the Tavern passed to I.M. Weiss in 1948. The Whitman family operated it from 1955 until the restaurant closed in 2009. It then continued for a few years as a bed & breakfast.
In 2013-2014 the property was acquired by developer Andrew Glazer, who is currently redeveloping the site. He renovated the store to become his new office and the mill house (called the Red Mill, it once had a water wheel) next to the Tavern to become his residence. He also built four new houses and a community barn on the Tavern’s old parking lot, the profits from them to support the next phase of the project, which is to extensively modernize and eventually reopen the Tavern itself. The interior is being gutted and the restaurant adapted from the sprawling space that seated 200 to a new space that will seat 60. The picture above was taken in 2014, before the current renovation work on the main Tavern building began earlier this year.
The single-story brick structure at 9 State Street in North Haven once served as the Smith Brothers carriage parts factory. The nomination document for the Pines Bridge Historic District gives the building a date of 1868, although the North Haven Historical Society website says it was built in 1846 by John F. Bronson, possibly as a match factory, and was acquired by the Smith Brothers in 1856. Because of a plaque found in the building engraved “Runaway Hole” it has been speculated that it was part of the Underground Railroad. Around the turn-of-the-century Angelo Ghiselli acquired the property, which became a restaurant. It was next used as apartments and is now a private residence.
Across Church Street from the old Railroad Depot in Wethersfield (the subject of yesterday’s post) is an old factory building erected c. 1880. Early on, the factory was occupied by Hopkins & Chapin and then Bailey Manufacturing (aka Bailey & Co. book binders). The Elmer Tool Company occupied the building until c. 1914. It then remained vacant until 1919, when it was acquired by the National Machine Company (see “National Machine Co. Has Option on Wethersfield Plant,” Hartford Courant, October 18, 1919). It had remained in or had returned to an abandoned state by September 3, 1927, when the Hartford Courant ran a story: “Eight Boys Accused Of Vandalism: Charged With Having Damaged Abandoned Plant of National Machine Co. on Church Street.” It was reported that the boys tore slate off the roof, broke windows, stole a telephone and caused other damage. The following year the factory was acquired by the Gra-Rock Bottling Company. In 1980 the building became home to Clearing House Auction Galleries, a company operated by the LeClair family since 1955. Not long after the death of the company’s president, auctioneer and appraiser Thomas G. LeClair, in 2011, his sister decided to close the business. Earlier this year the Wethersfield Wetlands Commission approved a development proposal to convert the old factory for residential and commercial use and to erect a new building with 30 condominiums behind it.