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Settlement of the Hillside neighborhood north of downtown began in 1860, fueled by Waterbury's thriving industry. Middle-class workers built modest, impeccably designed Victorian houses within walking distance to work. Toward the top of the hill, the industrialists who owned the factories and mills built exquisite mansions, overlooking the city and their employees. By 1900, Hillside was virtually developed to capacity and its prosperity endured through World War II.
Vintage views of homes in the Hillside neighborhood north of downtown. Most of the captains of the brass industry and other members of the Waterbury gentry lived in this area in the early 1900s.
A vintage view of homes on Woodlawn Terrace in the Hillside neighborhood.
The administrative and faculty offices of the Waterbury campus of the University of Connecticut were in the old Benedict-Miller Mansion on Hillside Avenue from 1955 until 2002, when the new campus opened downtown on East Main Street. Classes were held in a new building in back of the mansion.
Wilby High School on Grove Street near Willow Street was Waterbury's second public high school when it was built in the early 1900s. Unlike the old Crosby High School building, Wilby was spared from the wrecking ball when the new school was built in Bucks Hill, and was converted to an apartment house.
The Sutherland - Bailey Funeral Home on Willow St., circa 1932
Actress Rosalind Russell grew up in this house on Willow St. It was converted into Snyder Funeral Home in 1933.
The name Piggly Wiggly is now associated primarily with supermarkets in southern states, but there was a Piggly Wiggly Supermarket at 422 Willow Street in Waterbury in the 1940s.
The D trolley/streetcar operated on Willow Street in the Hillside neighborhood.
The hundreds and hundreds of Victorian houses lining the streets of this neighborhood stand almost untouched by time. Waterbury's Hillside District could have been transplanted from the 19th century, were it not for the signs advertising businesses and, in some cases, heinous neglect. Businesses keep their doors locked even during the day in this part-treasured, part-trashed neighborhood, which spans north of the Green along Willow Street. It's one of the ironies of living in the nation's richest state, that one street can be miles deep in poverty, the next suited for members of a yacht club. In Hillside, they collide.
The innocent dollhouse facades of the Victorian houses sometimes belie their occupants. A few years ago, the area was plagued by a serial arsonist. Vandalism and theft are still common. More than a few prostitutes have been arrested along its sidewalks. It's a symptom of a neighborhood with rich history that is expensive to preserve. For businesses and preservationists, maintaining the Victorian character of a home is essential. For families and landlords, it is often unrealistic. The result: quintessential Victorians next to ones eviscerated by reckless renovations and neglect. If cost is the main consideration, owners may have a disincentive to maintain their homes. Many properties are assessed at above-market values, leading to excessively high property taxes.
The Lewis Fulton Memorial Park, which sits nestled between the Crownbrook, Burnt Hill and Overlook neighborhoods of Waterbury, is the largest of the city's major parks. Occupying nearly 70 acres, Fulton Park encompasses two large ponds, a babbling brook that runs between them, playground areas, scenic walkways, a poolhouse, basketball courts and a baseball field.
The Overlook neighborhood west of Fulton Park, developed by Cornelius Cables in the late 1800s, was originally known as Cracker Hill. The neighborhood east of the park is known as Burnt Hill.
This magnificent victorian on Cooke Street was used as a sanitarium in the 1920s.
The First Lutheran Church is still at the same location
The Southmayd Home is a retirement home for independent, self-sufficient women over the age of 60 at 250 Columbia Blvd.
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The North Square was one of the city’s first neighborhoods, with homes and businesses settling there by the 18th century. Historically a place that housed residences, manufacturing and commercial activities in close proximity, the area grew after the Civil War as the mills along Great Brook expanded into factories and were joined by additional manufacturers. By the 20th century, the area was home to 6,000 people, many of whom worked in the Waterbury Clock Factory and the Chase Brass Mills on North Main Street.
A view of North Square in the early 1900s from the intersection of Grove Street and North Main Street near Bishop Street.
Businesses on or near the Square in the 1950s included Brandolini's Cosmopolitan Store, Central Lunch, the Carroll Theater, Moe’s Smoke Shop, Freddie's Joke Shop, Schmidt’s Hardware, the Violante & Perrotti Store, and Hamzy’s ice cream parlor. There was a Clark's Discount Department Store on North Main Street in the old Waterbury Manufacturing Co. factory near the Square in the 1960s.
Phil Becker's on Bishop Street in the North End was Waterbury's "hot spot" in the 1950s.
The 1950 City Plan identified a 22-block area in the North End containing 2,000 dwellings on 128 acres of land as a priority area for redevelopment. Following racial and economic tensions in the area in the 1960s, the city implemented a federally-funded project to clear dwellings categorized as substandard. Many homes and businesses in the area were removed. At the same time, the urban renewal project relocated factories out of the area and other manufacturing plants ceased operations in a changing national and world economy.
The A W Haydon Co. manufactured electric motors in this building on North Elm St. It is now occupied by New Opportunities Inc., the private nonprofit Community Action Agency providing social services to Waterbury, Meriden, Torrington and the surrounding communities since 1964.
The Scovill Manufacturing Company built two-story single-family duplex row houses during World War I on Wood Street and Oak Street, each with a different façade to reflect a different national style, for their managers. The workers got barracks.
WWCO disk jockey "Wildman Steve" Gallon broadcast many of his shows from his Sportsmen's Club restaurant / bar / nightclub at 196 North Main Street in the 1950s. The club was the closest thing in the Waterbury area to a southern black juke joint.
William "Billie" Fitzpatrick Jr., who operated a used car dealership at 1660 East Main St. near Hamilton Park, established his own discount department store at 262 North Main St. in 1955. (Photo courtesy of William J. Fitzpatrick III)
Worden's Dairy was one of many local dairies in Waterbury during the 1940s and 1950s. The giant milk bottle on the roof of their Cherry Street plant was a local landmark.
Mark Leavenworth was the largest clock fabricator in Waterbury for twenty years. In 1811, he purchased a third interest in Lawson & Sperry, a creator of wooden movement tall clocks. He bought out his partners in 1814 and began selling both clocks and movements. For a time his establishment, located on Great Brook near Cherry Street, was thriving. His business manufactured and sold more than 13,000 wood movement clocks from 1824 to 1829. Leavenworth continued his enterprise until 1836 when wooden clocks were replaced by brass.
After nearly 40 years of struggles and failures, in 1867 Silas B. Terry formed the Terry Clock Company in Waterbury with the aid of his four sons. It was his final chance to achieve business success and financial security. Lack of operating capital spelled doom to his firm just four year after Terry's death in 1876. Though revived in Massachusetts for a few years, the firm disappeared forever in 1893.
The Waterbury Clock Co. was founded in 1857 as a subsidiary of the Benedict & Burnham Manufacturing Company in the area of North Elm Street, Cherry Street, and Cherry Avenue. Clocks were made in two buildings- one for movements (above right), and one for cases (left). By the end of the 19th century, it employed 3,000 workers and turned out an amazing 20,000 clocks and watches a day. Spelter, brass, and silver novelty clock caseswere also manufactured in the cases building with the Benedict Mfg. Company name.
At the turn of the 20th century, Sears Roebuck sold large quantities of Waterbury's timepieces through their mail order catalog. In 1922, the Waterbury Clock Company purchased the Ingersoll Waterbury Watch Co. whose business had begun to sour and had gone bankrupt two years previously because of poor management.The Great Depression sent the Waterbury Clock Co. into receivership, and the company was eventually sold to the United States Time Corp. (Timex) in 1942.
After production of Timex watches was moved to a new factory in Middlebury CT in 1944, Benrus produced watch cases in the case factory building until the 1960s .
The women who worked at Waterbury Clock were dubbed the Radium Girls after the greenish radium paint used to make the watch dials glow in the dark. They were encouraged to apply the paint by moistening the bristles on their lips before dipping the brush into the paint. Fifteen Waterbury Clock factory workers, mostly women hired because of their smaller fingers, died from exposure to radium in the 1920s and 1930s, and many others had significant health problems for the rest of their lives.
Waterbury Clock Co.'s old manufacturing plant on Cherry Street well illustrates the one-time grandeur and large scale of the clock making industry, its precipitous collapse, and the potential for reuse of these once-majestic and productive structures. As much as six stories tall, and arrayed in various shapes and sizes, the imposing redbrick complex occupies more than a city block. Large portions are derelict, empty shells with broken glass and cracked, spalling masonry where weeds grow and trash collects. But a large part of the multi-level factory — with its long, narrow windows and elegant corbelling— has been handsomely redeveloped into apartments with neatly kept grounds. Looking at the abandoned and reused buildings standing side-by-side is an instant education in industrial history.
Beth Israel Synagogue on Kingsbury Street, the first synagogue in Waterbury, was built in 1907. Beth El Synagogue was established downtown on Park Place in 1924
St. Margaret’s School for Girls on the corner of Cooke and Grove Streets was operated by the Episcopal diocese of Waterbury from 1875 to 1928, when it moved to a new building on Chase Parkway. It is now the Chase Collegiate School.
Not to be confused with St. Margaret's School for Girls, St. Margaret's School at 212 Chestnut Ave. was a Catholic parochial school. This building has been demolished, and the school is now at 289 Willow St.
Some Japanese-Americans relocated from the west coast during World War II lived in the Warner Gardens Housing project on Warner Street. This project had apartments ranging from 1 to 4 bedrooms in size, renting for approximately $29.50 to $38 per month.
The refillable oil can oiler was invented in Waterbury in the late 1800s by Frank Paul Noera and manufactured by the thousands at his Noera Manufacturing Company on Griggs Street, which became a Chase Brass and Copper company in the 1920s.
The Waterbury Manufacturing Company factory building on North Main St. was demolished in 1960
Scalo's Market was on Easton Ave. in the North End
The Webster School on Easton Ave. is now an apartment house.
Bacco's Restaurant was on on North Main St. until the 1970s. It is now located on Thomaston Ave.
Clark's Discount Dept. Store opened in an abandoned factory building on North Main St. in 1959
A view of the 800 block on North Main Street from East Farm Street in the early 1960s. Stanley's Appliance & Furniture is on the left and the Capitol Supermarket is in the center.
Coca-Cola was bottled at 1150 North Main Street in Waterbury for over 50 years. The bottling plant city and state was embossed on the bottom of all Coca-Cola bottles from 1916 to 1958.
The Pilgrim Electronics store on North Main Street in the 1950s. The houses in the background are on Winchester Street.
North Main Street near Winchester Street in 1966
St. Thomas Convent on Beacon St. is one of the oldest buildings still standing in Waterbury. It is now a group care home operated by the Morris Foundation.
St. Thomas School, which was across the street from the convent, has been demolished.
Built in 1953, Berkley Heights on Long Hill Rd and Harris Circle was an infamous low income housing project in the 1950s, and still has that "rep".
Barker's Garage on Thomaston Avenue in the Waterville neighborhood was a typical 1940s era gas station (they pumped the gas for you and cleaned your windshield).
Henry L. Welch in 1870 started the business which in 1890 he incorporated as the H. L. Welch Hosiery Company in Waterville. In 1895, on the death of Mr. Welch, his interest went to his daughter, Mrs. F. Samson of Hartford, and to her children. It was doing a big business in fine knit underwear and under the management of Frank B. Buck grew so that its Waterville building was enlarged. In 1914, at the beginning of the war period, many of its best hands left it to go into munition-making lines and the business began to drop off. The buildings were disposed of in 1916, the realty going to John W. Hard, who was the purchasing agent for the Chase interests. All the machinery and stock were sold to other concerns in this line of manufacture. In September, 1917, the papers dissolving the corporation were filed with the Secretary of State.
The American Pin Co., which manufactured pins, hooks and eyes, and ornaments for small brassware, was founded in Waterbury in 1846. In 1894, the business moved to this large new factory on Thomaston Ave. in Waterville. The company was acquired by the Scovill Manufacturing Company in 1923.
The American Pin Co. dam on the Naugatuck River
The Waterville Post Office on Thomaston Ave. in the 1960s. The Ville Theater was next door.
1955 flood cleanup
Eugene Jacques was a theater impresario in downtown Waterbury whose Jacques Theater held vaudeville shows. He decided that what went over well inside could do just as well outside and built an open air theater on piers that stood on land he leased at the Great Brook reservoir. There, visitors could enjoy vaudeville while placing their drink orders with tuxedo-clad waiters. In 1911, when a group of Waterbury investors bought the 15-acre property and installed a merry-go-round, roller coaster and dance hall, it became a boisterous amusement park that was renamed Lakewood Park. For a 5¢ fare, local residents could board a trolley car and ride from any part of Waterbury out to the Lakewood site.
A group of investors bought the amusement park in 1921 and renamed it Roseland Park. Patrons were greeted by a beautiful new appearance including the new Roseland Ballroom dance pavilion. Newer rides included a Shimmy Auto, Old Mill, aeroplane swing and a fun house. By 1928 Roseland owed $20,000 in back taxes and it became necessary for the city to take over the operation and dismantle the amusements.
In 1930, the city fathers entered into an agreement for a new amusement park at the site. The famous Philadelphia Toboggan Company agreed to construct a $45,000 wooden roller coaster at no cost to the city for a share of the revenue. The company also installed a 3 row carousel along with other rides and amusements. For various reasons the venture was not successful and the roller coaster was dismantled in 1936 and moved to Canobie Lake Park in Salem, New Hampshire, where it is still in operation as the Yankee Cannonball.
Philadelphia Toboggan Company employees, possibly along with Waterbury dignitaries, are shown during the installation of the carousel in 1930. The carousel was moved to KiddieLand in Melrose Park, IL, in 1947. As late as 1953 Lakewood Park still had two rides and three concessions operating under the direction of the Waterbury Superintendent of Parks.
Located in the Northeastern corner of Waterbury, near the Plymouth and Wolcott town lines, Bucks Hill is bisected by North Main Street and Bucks Hill Road. Books on Waterbury's history suggest the name was derived from a buck that leaped from a rock on the hill, or possibly after a Buck family among early settlers.
John Bunnell grew and packaged horseradish at his farm on Buck's Hill Road in the 1930s and 1940s.
Square dances were held on Saturday nights in the 1950s at The Roost on Grassy Hill Road, operated by Richard and George Lawton on their poultry farm in a barn in back of their house.
St. Mary's Orthodox Church -- also called Nativity of the Holy Virgin Mary Orthodox Church -- got its start in 1906 when the cornerstone for its first building on Crown Street was installed. The last service was held there in 1974, the year the building was sold to the Deliverance Church of God in Christ congregation. As the Crown Street neighborhood began to expand, the parish purchased 12 acres of land on upper North Main for the future site of the church. Construction of the Novgorod-style church with three gold-leaf domes began in 1972. About two years later, the cornerstone from the Crown Street property was transferred to the new church in the Bucks Hill neighborhood.
Louis Biondi and his 1906 Autocar were featured in this 1953 national magazine ad for Gulf Motor Oil. Louis lived on Goff St. near Bucks Hill Park, and was still driving the car fifty years later.
NORTH END MEMORIES
From Vin J. Rossi: I grew up in the North End section of town, great memories of the summer "block dances" at the intersection of Pearl and Hopkins St. (across from the "Q"). We practically lived in Fulton Park...those magical summer days when we played baseball, fished, played cowboys & indians, or just sat under a shade tree drinking nickel Cokes we just bought at Petruzzi's Market on the corner of Pine & Bishop St. The Park cops we got to know who always kept an eye on us. The Park "bums" - "Jim The Bum" who slept off many a hang-over in the park, but always had a kind word for us as we played ball or fished. We walked or rode bikes all over the North End and felt perfectly safe.
The North End" had a mystique about it that will never be re-captured - the "Carrol Theater", the many smoke shops, "Brandolini's", "Two Bruces Produce Market”, "Jimmies Pool Hall”,"Moe’s Smoke Shop"...these are just a few places that stand out in my wonderful memories of the North End. And all the wonderful families that we knew - Marinaros, Lorussos. Ciarlos, Vacarellis, Jannettys, Dinatos, Albinos, Prilligs, Kemplers, Adlers, Shores, Shultzes, and many more people and families that made growing up in the North End a wonderful experience.
From R. Landolfi: I remember Freddie’s Joke Shop in the North Square. We used to go there before we went to the Carroll Theater and buy sneezing powder and stinky stuff and throw it around the theater while the movie was playing. Roger Mahan, the owner of the Carroll, would go crazy trying to find out who was throwing the stuff around.
I also remember the Fulton Park Drugstore run by John Jalkow. They had a great soda fountain and he made the best cherry and vanilla cokes and other great drinks. I still remember him behind the counter with a cigar in his mouth.
Bernice Johnson provided some unpleasant memories of life in the north end of Waterbury in the 1950s and 1960s to the Waterbury Hearings of the Connecticut Commission on Human Rights and Opportunities in 1968:
Bernice has been living in North Square, the principal residential area for Waterbury's 12,000 Black citizens, for 22 years, raising her twin boys and trying to deal with the problems around her. She says, "for twenty-two years I have been begging for good housing...people would tell us that they just didn't want to have anything to do with colored people or Puerto Ricans either. So we would ask what is their reason and they would just say, 'Well, we have our personal reasons that we don't talk about.' So this has been going on for 22 years. Some of the people would say, 'Well, what kind of people are you?' I said, 'Very kind people.' So she couldn't understand me. I understood her very well." Frequently when she telephoned for rentals people would ask her the color of her skin. She also knows that, even though she must accept the dilapidated two- and three-story housing of faded wood and brick in North Square, she must also accept higher rent charges than white people who get better apartments.
"I think that you realize that by this time we're a little - I am anyway - a little frustrated because of our lives," she told one Civil Rights group. "We have been sitting around talking about injustice that is being done. I wish I didn't have to do it. It is not really a pleasant thing. It makes you sick on the inside. I have been to every board in Waterbury for some help or some aid or to be recognized just as a human being. And it is the same thing as talking to the four walls. I think we have been to every organization that makes up Waterbury. You get the same thing. Everybody feels sorry for you. You are a human being, but then you stay over there, you don't belong. If there is something wrong there, that's all right, you stay there. This is the way it is. People are beginning to feel it's really too much of an irritation.
She is further distressed by the situation in the schools. Her children have attended schools, as do most Black children in Waterbury, that were declared unfit for use two decades ago. She has also heard that reading books for children in the nearly all white schools include "Little Black Sambo," which she considers highly offensive, and the sort of thing that will keep her and her people in the ghetto for generations to come. White children will grow up thinking that Blacks are lazy, stupid, and good for nothing but to say "Yazzuh" to Whites.
She hears the young people cursing the police, talking about how the police use the Rat Pack Motorcycle Club to intimidate Blacks into submissiveness. These white men operate out of an old diner on Meriden Road, have guns, and ride around on their Harley Davidsons beating up Blacks, brandishing their weapons, and threatening law-abiding citizens who simply wish to present their grievances. The police turn their backs, or actually ride around with them on off hours. And when they are on duty, they have used Mace on a pregnant woman and on grammar school girls, administered beatings in back alleys, and beaten and jailed a group of fathers who went to police headquarters to complain about police brutality against their sons. There are only 8 Black policemen on the force of 250 - how can anyone say that the police department gives equal protection to the citizens of North Square?
Bernice is sick of the violence that has spread through the city recently, but she understands it, and does not see any way it can be avoided unless all leaders join together to change things immediately.