G. Fox & Company, the legendary Hartford department store, was founded as a fancy goods store in 1847 by Gerson Fox. It was later expanded into a department store under the leadership of his son, Moses Fox, and then his granddaughter, Beatrice Fox Auerbach (1887–1968). After renting space during its early years, G. Fox built the first building of its own on Main Street in Hartford in 1880-1881. Damaged during a fire in the Averill building next door in 1887, four years later Moses Fox purchased the building that had replaced the Averill for his expanding store. A devastating fire destroyed the G. Fox properties along Main Street on January 29, 1917. The store soon rebuilt, constructing a grand eleven-story building, designed by Cass Gilbert, the leading master of the Neoclassical Revival style. In the 1930s, Beatrice Fox Auerbach updated the store’s interiors in the Art Deco style and added the prominent Art Deco marquee to the front of the building. G. Fox closed its doors in 1993 but, a decade later, the building found new use as the home of Capitol Community College.
The Bank of Commerce of New London was chartered in 1852 and became a national bank in 1864. As related in A Modern History of New London County, Connecticut, Volume 2 (1922), edited by Benjamin Tinkham Marshall:
The first business transactions of the bank were in the office of Williams & Havens, whaling merchants, on October 14, 1852, when notes aggregating $11,000 were discounted—a fair day’s business for an infant institution. Subsequently the bank obtained permanent quarters in the second story of the Union Bank building, at the present location of the Union Bank and Trust Company. When the Crocker house building was constructed, the National Bank of Commerce took a lease of its present location for fifty years from April 1, 1872.
The directors, desiring to furnish their patrons with the best convenience and comforts for transacting business, decided to erect a building which the bank would occupy at the expiration of its lease of the Crocker house quarters, or earlier if possible. To this end a lot was purchased on State street, next east to the First Baptist Church, extending around the church, with a frontage on Washington street as well as on State street, and the present fine home of the National Bank of Commerce is the result of its decision to own its own home.
At 17 Shipyard Road in Middle Haddam is the former Parker and Judson Factory. Built in 1865, the factory produced hardware, toys and silk ribbons. In 1909 it was converted into a residence. Next to the former factory is the old Parker and Judson stone dam, constructed before 1830.
The house at 1015 Worthington Ridge in Berlin was built circa 1895. It was the home of Leland Gwatkin, whose father Walter Gwatkin resided in the house at 1006/1008 Worthington Ridge. Leland W Gwatkin (1882-1949) was secretary and manager of the White Adding Machine Company of New Haven.
Baptists in New London first organized a church in 1710 and constructed a meetinghouse on Niles Hill, called the “pepperbox” because of its unusual hip-roofed shape. This church broke up in 1771, but a Baptist church was reformed in 1792, formally organizing in 1804 as the First Baptist Church. Local resistance thwarted their attempts to buy land for a new meeting house and the Baptists had to resort to subterfuge to acquire land at the corner of Union and Pearl Streets. As related in Frances Manwaring Caulkins’ History of New London (1856):
The church which now bears the designation of the First Baptist Church of New London, was constituted in February, 1804, by a colony of about fifty members from the Waterford Baptist church, most of whom resided within the limits of New London. [ . . .] The position chosen for their house of worship, was a platform of rock, on a summit of the ledge that runs through the central part of the city. It was commenced in 1805, and was occupied nearly ten years in an unfinished state; the beams and rafters left naked, and with loose, rough planks for seats. The interior was then finished, and the whole edifice has since been enlarged and improved. [. . .] In 1847, under the ministry of Rev. Jabez S. Swan, the members of this church amounted to six hundred and twenty-five, probably the largest church ever known in New London county. It has since colonized and formed another church. The number of members reported in 1850, is four hundred and five.
This rapid growth of the First Baptist Church led to the need for a new church, which was built at the corner of State and Washington Streets in 1856. The Romanesque Revival edifice was designed by W.T. Hallett, who also designed such other New London buildings as the City Hall (original facade) and Lawrence Hall (since demolished), both also built in 1856. The interior was not completed until the 1880s and the church’s stained glass windows were dedicated in 1892. The window on the State Street side was added in 1931.
At 18 Town House Road in Durham is a Federal-style house with a sign that indicates it was built in 1790 by Colonel Samuel Camp. According to Durham’s Historic Resources Inventory listing for the house, it was built in 1831 by Elias B. Meigs, who had purchased the land the year before from Ebenezer Camp.
At 48 North Street in Watertown is a Greek Revival house built by Eli Curtiss (1804-1878) in 1837. Next to the house is a carriage house, built at the same time. Curtiss was a manufacturer of Panama hats. As related in Vol. III of the History of Waterbury and the Naugatuck Valley, Connecticut (1918):
Colonel Eli Curtiss spent the greater part of his life in Watertown, where he first took up his abode in 1820. He was born in the town of Huntington, Connecticut, June 16, 1804, and his mother was Elizabeth Wooster, a descendant of Ephraim Wooster, a brother of General David Wooster. In his native town Eli Curtiss spent the period of his boyhood and early youth, removing to Watertown in 1820. when a lad of sixteen years. Here he found employment in the store of Benjamin de Forest, with whom he remained as a clerk until 1826, when he purchased the interest of his employer and continued the business on his own account until 1850. He built up a business of quite extensive proportions and employed several clerks. He was engaged in the manufacture of what was called the plant hat. He procured the material for the hat, cut it into strips and braided it for headgear, employing in this work women from Bethlehem, Morris, Woodbury, Middlebury, Plymouth and surrounding towns. They profited much by such employment, receiving their pay in goods from Mr. Curtiss’ store. In this way he became the most extensive and successful merchant in all that section, people coming from as far as Waterbury to trade with him. In 1850 Colonel Curtiss entered the New York store of the Scovill Manufacturing Company, where he spent eighteen years. He then returned to Watertown in 1868 and retired from active business, spending his remaining days in the enjoyment of well earned rest from further business cares.
While no longer active in trade connections’. Colonel Curtiss was a prominent figure in public affairs of the community. He served as postmaster of Watertown for several years and was a member of the state legislature in 1861. In 1877 he was chosen to represent his district in the state senate and both in the house and in the senate he carefully considered the questions which came up for settlement and gave earnest support to those which he believed of vital moment and consequence to the commonwealth. He was also a fellow of Yale College and assisted in electing Professor Porter as head of the institution. Colonel Curtiss had an interesting military experience. He was a member of the state militia and served as colonel of the Twelfth Connecticut Regiment, thus having thorough training in military procedure of that period. His entire life was actuated by high ideals and his course was ever in harmony with his professions as a member of the Congregational church of Watertown, of which he was a faithful member and liberal supporter. He contributed to many other worthy causes and took a deep interest in all those activities which have to do with the common good. He was a man of enterprise, of progressive ideas, of marked business ability and of sterling personal worth, devoted to his family, to his home city and to his country.
After his 1832 marriage to Alma Southmayd DeForest (1813-1861), who was from a wealthy Watertown family, Curtiss moved to a new house at 90 DeForest Street, built circa 1840. After the death of his first wife, he married Mary Frances Davis of Boston in 1868.