Ponemah Mills in Norwich once boasted the largest textile mill in the world under one roof. The mill buildings were constructed near a dam along the west bank of the Shetucket River. The investors who founded the company were led by Edward and Cyrus Taft of Providence, Rhode Island and the manufacturing village of Taftville was built next to the mill to house and serve the mill workers. The earliest workers were Irish immigrants. After a strike in 1875, the Irish were replaced with French-Canadian workers. The first Ponemah Mill building was constructed between 1866 and 1871. A massive mansard-roofed structure, it features two tall stair towers with roofs that have classical detailing, dormers, cupolas and turrets. In the twentieth century the mill converted to the production of synthetic fabrics. It finally closed in 1972. Later occupied by various small manufacturers, it then became the home of the Helikon Furniture Co., makers of high-end office furniture. More recently, Helikon moved out of the building and the mill is being restored to contain apartments under the name the Lofts at Ponemah Mills.
The Unitarian Universalist Church of Norwich began in 1820 as the “Society of United Christian Friends in the Towns of Norwich, Preston and Groton.” The Society erected a church in 1821, but did not have a settled pastor, the pulpit being occupied by temporary ministers. A church was finally organized in 1836, when the “First Universalist Society in Norwich” was established. A new brick church replaced the old one in 1841 on the same site on Main Street, facing Franklin Square. It was enlarged and rededicated in 1848. The church was demolished for the construction of the Chelsea Savings Bank. A new church, later called the Unitarian Universalist Church of Norwich, was erected in 1910 at 148 Broadway. Constructed of random granite ashlar, the church is also known as the Church of the Good Shepherd for the subject of its large stained glass window. The church’s bell, earlier located in the congregation’s Franklin Square church, was one of several bells salvaged from sacked churches after an uprising in Spain in 1833 that were shipped to New York for sale. With a dwindling congregation, the Unitarian-Universalists sold the church in 2009. It then became the Fount of Salvation Missionary Church.
The manufacturing village of Taftville in Norwich was established in 1866 and centered on the Taftville Mill, which later became the Ponemah Mill, the largest textile mill in the world under one roof. The company gave land to the village’s Congregational Society, which built the Taftville Congregational Church in 1904. The asymmetrical building has a shingled exterior.
Henry B. Norton was one of the most prominent businessmen in Norwich in the nineteenth century. Born in Branford, he arrived in Norwich as a penniless young man in 1824, eventually forming a merchant partnership with Joseph Backus in 1827. Norton rose to leadership of the Norton Brothers Grocery store, the Norwich Bleaching, Dyeing and Printing Company, the Norwich & New York Transportation Company (he owned shares in steam ships) and the Attawaugan Mill, which manufactured cotton cloth. He was also a founding trustee of the Norwich Free Academy and the Norwich Y.M.C.A. His Greek Revival house, at 188 Washington Street, was built in 1840. After his death his death in 1891, his two unmarried daughters continued to live in the house into the twentieth century. In recent years, the house has been restored.
The house at 242 Broadway in Norwich was built c. 1865. It was once the home of James Lanman Hubbard (1832-1890), a wealthy paper manufacturer and director of the Thames National Bank. His sister Marianna was married to the manufacturer John Fox Slater. James L. Hubbard married Charlotte Peck Learned in 1854. They moved to the house at 242 Broadway in 1869/1870. It was later the home of their son, Charles Learned Hubbard (1855-1918), who was by 1910 the wealthiest man in Norwich. By that time, he had already sold the house at 242 Broadway to John Porteous, who was the president of the Hislop, Porteous and Mitchell dry goods store.
In 1760, Eleazar Lord, Sr. deeded an acre of land at what is now 86 Town Street in Norwich to his son, Eleazar Lord, Jr., who proceeded to build a tavern (c. 1760-1770). Lord’s Tavern was also called the Compass House because it faces due north. The tavern popular with lawyers, who came to attend session at the court house which was located across the street. The tavern’s hooded entryway is a nineteenth-century addition. At various times, the ell of the building was used as a post office. Lord’s Tavern was in danger of being torn down in 1972. After a lengthy court battle, the building became the first purchase of the Connecticut Trust for Historic Preservation in 1976. Today the restored building is used for offices.
Dr. Joshua Lathrop (1723-1807) graduated from Yale in 1743 and joined his older brother, Dr. Daniel Lathrop, in Norwich, where they opened the first drug store (apothecary), in Connecticut. As explained by Frances Manwaring Caulkins in her History of Norwich (1866), soon after graduating, he
went to Europe, where he prosecuted his medical studies in London. On his return, after an absence of several years, he brought with him a large quantity of medicines, as well as various other merchantable goods, and established himself in business in his native place. His shop was on the main street, near his family residence.
Dr. Lathrop furnished a part of the surgical stores to the northern army in the French war. He often received orders from New York. His drugs were always of the best kind, well prepared, packed and forwarded in the neatest manner. This was the only apotliecary’s establishment on the route from New York to Boston, and of course Dr. Lathrop had a great run of custom, often filling orders sent from the distance of a hundred miles in various directions.
Indeed, I think I see now his small, well knit, perfectly erect form, his mild, benevolent brow, surmounted by the large round white wig, with its depth of curls, the three-cornered smartly cocked hat, the nicely plaited stock, the rich silver buckles at knee and shoe, the long waistcoat, and fair ruffles over hand and bosom, which marked the gentleman of the old school; and he never yielded to modern innovation. A large oil portrait of him, in this costume, with one of his beautiful wife, courteously presenting him a plentiful dish of yellow peaches, adorned their best parlor, covered with green moreen curtains, at which I gazed when a little child with eyes dilated, as on the wonders of the Vatican.
He was a man of the most regular and temperate habits, fond of relieving the poor in secret, and faithful in all the requisitions of piety. He was persevering to very advanced age in taking exercise in the open air, and especially in daily equestrian excursions, withheld only by very inclement weather. At eighty-four, he might be seen, mounted upon his noble, lustrous black horse, readily urged to an easy canter, his servant a little in the rear. Continual rides in that varied and romantic region were so full of suggestive thought to his religious mind, that he was led to construct a nice juvenile book on the works of nature, and of nature’s God. Being in dialogue form, it was entitled “The Father and Son;” and we, younglings, received a copy with great gratitude from the kind-hearted author. It was stitched in coarse flowered paper, and sometimes presented as a Thanksgiving gift to the children of his acquaintance, or any whom he might chance to meet in the streets. How well I recollect his elastic step in walking, his agility in mounting or dismounting his steed, and that calm, happy temperament, which, after he was an octogenarian, made him a model for men in their prime.
In 1763, Joshua Lothrop had a house built at 377 Washington Street in Norwich, across the street from his brother’s home. Benedict Arnold may have stayed in the house when he was an apprentice to the Lathrop brothers.