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.
The former Machine Shop of the Cheney Brothers silk mill in South Manchester was constructed in several phases beginning in 1895. Extending from Elm Street to Pine Street, the 40,000 square-foot Machine Shop was built to repair German-made velvet looms. In later years, after the silk mill closed, David Rines operated a one-man machine shop on the lower level (Forest Street side) of the building from 1975 to 1995. Located at 175 Pine Street, the building was purchased by the Manchester Historical Society in 1999 and rehabilitated to become the Manchester History Center.
The complex of buildings along the Farmington River at 37 Mill Street in Unionville were once the factory of the Upson Nut Company. The company, which produced nuts and bolts, was founded by Andrew S. Upson (1835-1911), as described in his obituary in The Iron Trade Review, Vol. XLVIII, No. 14 (April 6, 1911):
After receiving his early education in public and private schools, he entered business on his own account. He bought a stock of nuts and bolts made by his brother-in-law, Dwight Langdon, in his shops at Farmington, and with horse and wagon sold his goods throughout New England. Finally he was engaged as regular salesman by Langdon. Upon the death of Langdon, in 1860, Mr. Upson and George Dunham bought the works, adding improved machinery. In 1863 a company formed including Messrs. Upson and Dunham, Samuel Frisbie, Dr. William H. Sage and Gilbert J. Hines, to purchase a patented hot forged nut machine, and in 1864 they organized the Union Nut Co. to manufacture hot forged nuts. In 1865, Mr. Upson purchased Mr. Dunham’s interests and in 1866 he sold out to the Union Nut Co., of Unionville, Conn.
In 1872 the Union company established a western branch in Cleveland, in partnership with the Aetna Nut Co., of Southington, Conn., and the Lamson & Sessions Co., of Cleveland, the organization being known as the Cleveland Nut Co., and erecting a large factory there. By 1877 the interests of the other partners had been purchased by the Union Nut Co., and in 1883, by act of the Connecticut legislature, the name was changed to the Upson Nut Co., the capital being increased finally to $300,000. In 1890 the Upson company absorbed the bolt works of Hotchkiss & Upson, Cleveland, and of Welch & Lea, of Philadelphia. Mr. Upson was elected president and treasurer of the company Sept. 3, 1864, and held the former office until his death. In 1866 he resigned the treasurership and was succeeded by Samuel Frisbie, who held this office and that of secretary until his death in 1897. In 1889, Mr. Upson removed his residence to Cleveland and from that time forward the Cleveland end of the company became the more important, although the works at Unionville have been maintained.
A gable-roofed brick building (c. 1860) is the oldest on the site, while another long flat-roofed building [pictured above] (29 Mill Street, c. 1870) has a facade enhanced by a stepped parapet. The buildings were later owned by the Pioneer Steel Ball Company (established in 1946), but they had been vacant for twenty years when restoration work began in 2013 to develop them for commercial and residential use.
The factory building at 52 Main Street in Manchester was erected in 1904 by Frank Goetz, owner of a large commercial bakery he had established in the late nineteenth century south of Depot Square. Goetz erected the brick masonry structure to replace an earlier wood frame building that had housed his bakery until it was destroyed by fire in 1902. This earlier building is probably the one mentioned in a notice in the Building New Supplement, Vol. IX, no. 8 (August 25, 1888):
Frank Goetz, proprietor of the Vienna bakery, has broken ground for a commodious building for business purposes on Main street, at the corner of Hilliard street.
The wood structure burned on February 17, 1904, during the most severe snowstorm of the season. Almost as soon as the new building was finished, Goetz sold the property to the Carlyle Johnson Machine Company, manufacturers of friction clutches and marine gears, and moved his bakery to New Haven. Carlyle Johnson later moved to Bolton.
The building which now serves the Town Hall of Bozrah was built in the mid-nineteenth century (between 1832 and 1865). Its original owner was Asa Fitch, who owned the local mill and was expanding the mill village of Fitchville at the time. The building was once used as a sericulture plant and then as a recreation center for mill workers. It was acquired by the town in 1949. In 2010-2012, the Town Hall underwent an extensive renovation, in which it was completely gutted and rebuilt on the inside and an addition placed on one corner.
A group of buildings surviving from the J & E Stevens Company manufacturing complex can be found on the north side of Nooks Hill Road in Cromwell. The J. & E. Stevens Company was formed in 1843 by brothers John and Elisha Stevens. The company, which operated into the mid-twentieth century, is noted for its manufacture of cast iron toys, especially mechanical iron banks and cap pistols. On the left in the image above, at the corner of Shadow Lane, is the earliest surviving Stevens factory building, a white-painted brick structure, which later served as the main office building (it once had a cupola, since removed). The adjacent brick structures to the right were erected sometime later in the nineteenth century: the Assembly Building (white-painted brick, center) and the Pattern Shop (unpainted brick, right). Across Nooks Hill Road is the factory‘s former 1865 foundry building (not pictured), which has been much added to over the years. Other structures that were part of the complex have since been torn down. The buildings above are now home to Horton Brasses, 49 Nooks Hill Road.