At 668-670 Harbor Road in Southport is a 1787 building that was significantly altered in later years. It may give the impression of being a nineteenth-century mansard-roofed commercial block, but the upper floors began as the homestead of Miah Perry. It was possibly altered and expanded in 1834. By that time the building displayed the influence of the Dutch Colonial style with two low-pitched gambrel roofs intersecting at the street corner. In the 1870s, the house was raised by Nehemiah Jennings to sit above a commercial section. In one part of the new ground floor Jennings ran a market and post office, while the other part contained the John Wood dry goods store. Miss Mary Allis (1899-1987) purchased the building in 1947 and refurbished it the following year. She had started renting space for her antiques store on the southeast corner in 1945. Mary Allis was a major figure in the world of folk-art collecting.
This the 3,000th post at Historic Buildings of Connecticut! That’s 3,000 great buildings throughout the state!
Mrs. Benjamin Pomeroy, the wife of a shipping merchant, had the house at 658 Pequot Avenue in Southport erected for herself and her daughters. The Second Empire-style house, which features an elaborate front porch and mansard roof, was designed by the architectural firm of Lambert & Bunnell. Constructed in 1868-1869, the house’s builder was Gamaliel Bradford of Fairfield. The house remained in the family until 1946. The house’s carriage house was erected around the same time as the main house.
The Glastonbury Knitting Company (begun as the Glastenbury Knitting Company in 1855) later expanded to Manchester with a mill at Manchester Green. A mill was first built on the site in 1851 and rebuilt after a fire in 1861. The mill produced men’s long woolen underwear. An interesting item that appeared in the September 2, 1911 issue of Fibre and Fabric: The American Textile Trade Review (Vol. 54, No. 1382) stated that:
The Glastonbury Knitting Co. shut down their mill at the Green last Saturday for a week. So many of the employees desired a vacation that the managers decided to shut down. The company is fairly busy, and at the present time gives employment to about 70 hands.
The mill was expanded over the years (did it reach its current form in 1901?), but closed in the 1920s (although the company’s mill in Glastonbury was in operation until 1936). Since that time the old mill building (501 Middle Turnpike East) has been used as an antique store, drug store, bar, a printer’s shop, a shoe store, a warehouse, a bookshop and two different furniture stores. Read the rest of this entry »
At 98 Fair Street in Guilford is a mansard-roofed house built c. 1869-1870 in the French Second Empire style. It was built by Edwin Alonzo Leete (1822-1870), a cabinetmaker and undertaker. Behind the house is a building (1090 Boston Post Road) he used as his workshop and display room. Leete had previously lived in an octagon house on Fair Street. A veteran of the Civil War, Leete served six months in Co I, 14th CT Regiment and fought at the Battle of Antietam. After his death, his son Edward and grandson Earle continued the undertaking business and also developed an interest in antique furniture. As related in Vol. II of A Modern History of New Haven and Eastern New Haven County (1918):
Edward Morris Leete acquired his education in the schools of Guilford, Connecticut, and there learned the furniture business with his father and also mastered the undertaking business. He continued in the furniture trade in Guilford until 1912. His wife [Eva Bishop] from 1885 had been dealing in New England antique furniture and the business grew so extensive that in 1912 the E. B. Leete Company was incorporated and the modern furniture business of Mr. Leete was discontinued in order that he might concentrate his entire attention upon the antique furniture trade which had been developed.
[. . .] The parents and second son [Earl Bishop Leete] are all interested in the antique furniture business which is carried on under the name of Mrs. Leete as the E. B. Leete Company, for the trade was developed and built up by Mrs. Leete, whose fame as a dealer in colonial and antique furniture is very wide. She is the president of the company and has been dealing in this line of goods for thirty years. She is probably the best authority in New England on colonial furniture and is the largest dealer in and collector of New England antique furniture. She has four old houses in Guilford completely filled with this furniture on display and exhibition and she also has two large storehouses filled with it. Her collection of antique furniture is the largest in New England and many pieces in her possession are more than two hundred and fifty years old. She loaned the antique furniture for and furnished completely the Connecticut House at the Jamestown Exposition at Jamestown, Virginia, and through the Society of Colonial Dames furnished the Connecticut houses at the St. Louis and Chicago fairs. Her patronage is very extensive and gratifying and she has among her patrons many of America’s best known families. She has made a very close and discriminating study of the subject and her comprehensive knowledge of furniture, its value, its methods of manufacture and the period at which it was made enables her at all times to speak with authority upon the subject. Moreover, she displays a most enterprising and progressive spirit in the conduct of the business, possessing marked executive ability. She is also one of the organizers and a charter member of the Dorothy Whitfield Historical Society.
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.
Hoyt’s Theatre is a former music hall at 130 Washington Street in South Norwalk. It was built by I. Mortimer Hoyt, father of Ira Ford Hoyt, who also became a theatrical manager. As related in an article in The Norwalk Hour of February 3, 1922 (“Early Theatrical Days in Norwalk”):
Mr. Hoyt was manager for fourteen years of old Music hall . . . There came a day when he realized that a playhouse, in order to achieve a full measure of success, should be on the ground floor, easy of ingress and egress. The experience of getting scenery in and out of Music hall, frequently through third-story windows; the limited stage room for the production of some of the plays of that day; the two long flights of stairs leading to the auditorium, and still another flight to the gallery, were some of the difficulties Mr. Hoyt had to contend with. In 1890, after prolonged negotiations with the Marvin brothers for the land, he began the erection of Hoyt’s theater, which was formally opened in 1892, with Oliver Dowd Byron in “Across the Continent” as the attraction.
The theatre was first listed in the city directory in 1893 and by 1923 it was listed as the Rialto Theatre, operated by Warner Brothers as a movie house. The interior was remodeled in the Art Deco style in 1941. The theatre closed c. 1959-1961 and has since contained other businesses on the first floor with condominiums above. Read the rest of this entry »