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 »
The house at 136-138 Collins Street in Hartford was built in 1870. An impressive mansard-roofed Second Empire-style house, it was once owned by Isaac Frisbie. He was superintendent of the Hartford Alms House, which once stood on a property to the rear of his house. The Alms House and adjacent Town Farm were abolished in the 1890s when Hartford’s town government was consolidated with its city government. Today the house on Collins Street is used as a halfway house for federal and state inmates who are transitioning back to freedom. The house once had a one-story veranda–traces of its roofline can be seen along the facade of the western half of the house.
The house at 72 Broad Street in Guilford was built c. 1847 for Edward Sherman Fowler, who was born in 1817 in the house at 66 Broad Street to Samuel and Sophie Fowler. He soon moved to New London where he worked as a railroad conductor. In 1855 the Guilford Institute acquired the house and sold it in 1868. A later owner was Alfred N. Wilcox, who served in the Civil War as a sergeant in Co. G, 14th Regt., Connecticut Volunteers. Yet another owner operated a blacksmith shop on the property until 1968. Around 1870, a French Second Empire Mansard roof was added to the house, which had previously had a flat Italianate-style roof. The current front porch was added in 2003.
The Mansard-roofed house at 111 Whitney Avenue in New Haven (pdf) was built in 1870. It is known as the William H. Taft Mansion because the former President (1909-1913) (soon to be Chief Justice of the US Supreme Court) owned the house around the time of the First World War, although he never actually lived in it. He sold the house in 1921. Extensively remodeled in 2008, the house was recently used as the offices of Research Edge, an independent research firm, which later became Hedgeye Risk Management. More recently, the house has become home to the William F. Buckley Jr. Program, a Yale conservative group founded in 2010.
In 1842, Luther Boardman invented and patented an improved mold for creating britannia silverware. He established a factory in East Haddam where he produced britannia spoons. In 1864, Luther Boardman entered a partnership with his son Norman S. Boardman, under the name L. Boardman & Son. This successful business peaked in the 1860s and 1870s. Norman Boardman had already built the Italianate house at 8 Norwich Road when another grand residence was constructed next door circa 1875. A more eclectic house than its neighbor, it features an Italianate design and an octagonal rear tower on west side with a mansard roof and Eastlake-style iron cresting. There is some confusion over who built the house. The National Register of Historic Places nomination for the East Haddam Historic District lists the house as the Norman S. Boardman House, while an 1880 bird’s-eye-view of East Haddam lists it as the residence of his father, Luther Boardman. An online collection of images from the Boardman Collection at the East Haddam Historical Society has a photo of the house with the description “The Lawton House owned by the Boardman Family.”
The Mansard-roofed house at 127 Pearl Street in Thompsonville, Enfield, was built c. 1874-1880 for David Brainerd. As recorded in The Genealogy of the Brainerd-Brainard Family in America (1908), by Lucy Abigail Brainard, David Brainerd
was registrar of voters, notary public and justice of the peace, collector of taxes, and represented the town of Enfield in the state legislature in 1862. He was appointed assistant assessor of internal revenue in the first congressional district by Abraham Lincoln, in 1862, a position he held for nine successive years. He has always been active in politics and is a Republican and ready to aid in all advancement for improvements in town, school or church. He has been Elder in the First Presbyterian Church in Thompsonville, Conn., where he resided, and is honored for his sterling worth and noble character.
David Brainerd married Caroline King in 1844. After her death in 1859, he married his first wife’s sister, Henrietta King, who died in 1901. One of his sons, Horace, worked with his father in his agricultural warehouse business, then became purchasing agent for the Bigelow-Sanford Carpet Company, and later was manager of the Overbrook Carpet Company. In 1932, the house was acquired by the Masons, who converted for use by a Masonic Lodge and added a ballroom. In 2007, the house was purchased by Enfield Pearl Ballroom & Dance Studio. It was renovated to have four apartments and a ballroom studio, called the North American Dance Academy, which has two dance floors.