WATERBURY TIME MACHINE III

Conclusion Of The Vintage Images Tour Of The Brass City

WASHINGTON HILL NEIGHBORHOOD

"Where men were men and so were half the women"

 

 

Washington School on Baldwin Street. The neighborhood is known as Washington Hill

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Bishop Thomas B. Beavan of Springfield dedicated the church of St. Francis Xavier on Baldwin Street on March 24, 1907.

 

 

  

Another faith-generated institution, a parish school (left) located near the church and staffed by the Sisters of St. Joseph of Chambery, was dedicated on February 10, 1924. The church rectory is at right.

        

Washington Hill was a blue collar middle class family neighborhood in the '40 & '50s. Most of the men worked at one of the brass mills that gave Waterbury its "Brass City" nickname, or at the nearby Waterbury Button Co. on South Main Street, and lived with their families in a two or three family house like these on lower Lounsbury Street.

The children went to school at either the Washington School or St. Francis Xavier School, and walked to the Cameo Theater on Baldwin Street to see Bugs Bunny, Porky Pig, Gene Autry, and Roy Rogers on Saturday afternoons. They played on the swings, see-saws and monkey bars at the playground and cooled off in the wading pool in Washington Park on Sylvan Avenue in the summer. The women dried the laundry on backyard clotheslines and phoned in their grocery orders for delivery to the house from one of the neighborhood markets on Baldwin Street.

 

 

First National Stores was one of America's largest grocery chains. The company operated First National (later Finast) stores throughout the northeast. In the early 1940s there were 15 First National Stores in Waterbury, four of which were on Washington Hill. A typical store was about the size of a 7-11 today. 

 

  

 

  

        

 

Baldwin Street was Washington Hill's "Main Street" for decades. Some neighborhood businesses on Baldwin Street in the 1950s: Cameo/Win Theater, Harmon's Tavern, DeRosa Furniture, (George) Corey's Market, Dunphy's Pharmacy, Brophy's Market, Kelly Funeral Home, Hogan's Restaurant, (Marshall) Matney's Market, Washington Hill Pharmacy (Bernie Litsky & Emil Bria), Mary's Luncheonette (Mary LaFreniere), Simpson's Market, Patsy's Barber Shop (Patsy Iacovino), a Fulton Market, McGrath's Tavern, (Ray) Cruess's Market, (George) Hatch's Radio & TV Repair, a First National Store (became Gracie's Superette), (Sam) Pisani's Cleaners & Tailor Shop, Cadet Liquor Shoppe, Lou's Market (Lou Ciarlone), (Richard) Derouin's Flower Shop, Pay-Less Laundromat, Haddad's Corner Market, and the (Leon & Michael) Dervis Brothers' Market.

There were two doctors on "The Hill" in the 1950s:

 

 

 

Dr. Whalley's home and office was at 720 Baldwin Street,

 

 

 

 

 

and Doctor Quinn was at 730 Baldwin Street.

 

  

 

A 1955 ad for Hogan's Restaurant at 798 Baldwin Street ("The Friendly Spot on the Hill") in the Waterbury American, and a recent view of what remains of the building.

 

In 1907, construction began on Station 4 at 823 Baldwin Street to house Waterbury Fire Department’s newly formed Engine Co. #4. Engine 4 replaced Rose Hill Vol. Co #5 in 1908. The first apparatus assigned to Station 4 was a 1908 horse drawn hose wagon. In 1915, Station 4 received its first motorized apparatus, a type 12 American LaFrance.

During World War II, Station 4 also housed a civil defense unit. This unit served an important purpose as Waterbury’s brass production played a vital part to the war effort and was a potential target of attack. In 1962, Engine 3 was reassigned to Station 4 from the Brooklyn Section of Waterbury when their firehouse closed to make way for the new highway (Route 8). Engine 3 disbanded in the late sixties, returning Station 4 to a single company house.

During its long dedicated service to Waterbury, Station 4 also housed the “Line Gang” whose responsibility was to maintain the Waterbury network of Gamewell Boxes. This was the primary means for citizens to report an alarm to the fire department for many years.

The Washington Hill Pharmacy was in the left half and Matney's Market was in the right half of this building across the street from the firehouse. The building is now the home of the Washington Hill Athletic Club, whose "athletics" are limited to watching sports on TV while drinking beer at the bar.  

 

  

   

 

 

The Washington Hill Pharmacy sold drug products distributed by The Penslar Company in addition to the national brands.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Their penny candy was in high demand with Washington Hill children.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Patsy Iacovino opened his barber shop at 845 Baldwin Street in the 1930s and provided tonsorial services to The Hill's men and boys for over forty years. His son Patsy Jr. joined him in the business in the late 1940s.

 

 

 

   

McGrath’s Tavern on Baldwin Street was a typical blue collar neighborhood public bar in the 40s & 50s.

The building site is now a vacant lot.

Sam Pisani's Tailor & Clothing shop was on the ground floor of this six unit "block" apartment building at the top of The Hill, which is now the site of the Family Food Market convenience store. The satellite dishes are relatively recent additions.

 

 All the bars and taverns on The Hill were owned and operated by Irishmen, but the only liquor store, the Cadet Liquor Shoppe at 900 Baldwin St., was owned and operated by Paul Merluzzi, an Italian. WBRY radio Chief Engineer John Tomasiewicz owned J T TV Service next door in the building.

 

 

 

 

A typical three family house on The Hill like this one on the corner of Baldwin and Lounsbury Streets provided twice the living area of a six family "block" apartment.

    

Mulcahy Grammar School on Fairmount Street was gutted by a fire in the early 1950s. (brasscitylife.org photo) Many Washington Hill boys played football and stickball in the Mulcahy schoolyard in the late 1950s, when the building was used as a schoolbook storage warehouse. The building was demolished in the 1970s for the William Kelly Apartments elderly housing.

 

 

 

 

The Dervis Brothers' Market, Ieronimo's Barber Shop, and Haddad's Corner Market were in this building on the corner of Baldwin and Madison Streets.

 

 

 

 

 

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Paul Lord's Servicenter Sunoco Station was directly across Baldwin Street at the corner of Madison St.

War Workers' Housing, Madison Street, 1919. English cottage version of contemporary suburban styles employed by the federal government in its first public housing venture. These duplexes, pairing five- and six-room units, were erected for skilled brass workers.

The Renting Office in the previous photo, at 103 Madison St., and the duplex next to it at 107 & 111 Madison St., 85 years later.

 The WATR Radio transmitter "shack" was in the woods past the Warren Street cul-de-sac near Edgewood Avenue.   

  

 

 

 

 

A recent view of the Washington Park Community House on Sylvan Ave.

 

 

 

This World War I German Krupp cannon was in the playground at Washington Park for more than 80 years. The rare 210 MM Krupp Gun was given to the City of Waterbury in appreciation for the city's contribution of $36.5 million in War Bonds during the war. A few years ago, the cannon was removed from the park amid much controversy, then later returned after it was refurbished by the Waterbury Monuments Committee.

 

 

Ralph Parlato's Market on Sylvan Ave near Washington Park is now an apartment house.

 

 

 

 

 WASHINGTON HILL MEMORIES

I remember the Good Humor man coming around after dinner in the summer and you could hear the bell ringing as he would come down the street. And there was a sensation of anticipation associated with that. Even on a hot day, when you'd make your decision of what you were going to buy (my favorite was the toasted almond bar), just the cooling sensation you'd get when he'd open the freezer door on the side of the truck, and you could feel the cool and you could see your ice cream coming toward you.

From James G. Doyle 

I lived for 14 years in the intellectual part of Waterbury, Washington Hill -- an area where men were men and so were half the women. A hotbed of Irish influence. Almost all of us went to St. Francis Xavier Church on Baldwin Street. I was one of the heathens in the public school, however. I went to religious instructions on Thursday afternoons, Saturday mornings and Sunday, after Mass. This is principally why I’m such a sterling fellow today. There were and still are nicknames: Bibber, Mudder, Gizzo, Bobbo, Buster, Happy, Neddy, Cabbage Head, Dogface, Horse, Packy, Tocko, Joe-Joe the Louse and other colorful sobriquets.  

From Janet Harnick Descoteaux:  

Thanks for the memories. I was 13 years old and an 8th grader in Sister Louisa's class at St. Francis Xavier in 1957. I remember the return of our CYO champs as we waited on Washington Street - the crowd was overwhelming. It's fifty years for me but I will never forget "the family that we were", and think we all have to thank God, SFX, our heritage and most of all being lucky enough to have grown up on Washington Hill. Again, thanks for taking the time to make us all remember.

From Kathleen Desmarais Ream:  

I remember going to Washington Park many summer evenings while my father played American Legion baseball. When we got tired of sitting in the bleachers, my brothers and cousins would run around the park. How different things were then. We were basically unsupervised and never had a problem. We also just knew that we should never leave the park. I remember the old cannon that was there.  

From John Slattery (John Slattery grew up on Washington Hill at 989 Baldwin Street in the 1940s & 1950s, and is a 1955 graduate of Crosby High School. He lives in Alfred, ME, e-mail address: jslattery@ccb-inc.com  

Some of the Laval Street families and people I remember from the 1950s: Bobby Capaldo - his Dad was with the City of Waterbury. I think Mr. Gorman was a cigar salesman for Summerdale and Silverdale Cigars, he lived next to the Riggi Family. The Riggis owned a 3 family house with the Budd family as one of the tenants - next to them were the O’Donnells where the Father and one or two sons were Firemen and another son worked at Scovill’s accounting dept. I remember Jerry Greaney who is about my age. Mr. Delaney was a CR&L bus driver, and Mr. Breeney was the custodian at St. Francis Xavier Church. Mr. Linden owned a gas station on Thomaston Avenue and bought a new Hudson every couple of years. The McQuinns moved from Lounsbury Street to upper Laval near the Kalituses and Cristolinies. I was pals with Billy McQuinn, Jackie White and Donny Heffernan. Also I remember the Kane family, the father was a piano refinisher for McCoy’s House of Music, he was an artist in his trade, sons Frankie and Herbie. The Berniers, Andre and Barbara, lived on Laval St. near the corner of Baldwin Street. Andre passed away and Barbara lives in Boston and talks with my sister Sue Ann on occasion. The Creels (Ronnie and others) lived at 970 Baldwin Street across from us.

 

 

From Kay Curley Nicholas

Awesome. What memories this site evoked. Parents George and Mildred Curley. So Main St. til 1952 then Fairmont in Waterville. Graduated from SFX in 1955 (Sisters Louisa, Ladislaw, Stanislaus, Genevieve) Saturdays at the Win double features, Washington Park, Catholic High (Class of 1959), Ambrosians with Mother St. Reine, awful gym outfits/uniforms, great education, St. Michael’s CYO! St. Mary's School of Nursing (Class of 1962), life lessons in compassion and caring for one's fellow man, great Docs- the Audets, Moore, Lebreque, Warren, Standard. Other touchstones -  Mulligan’s (owned by an uncle), The Green, especially at Christmas. Have been in No VA since? but Waterbury will always be "home".  kaynicholas@verizon.net 

 

From Bob Neagle:

 

Your website is a wonderful blast from the past for anyone who lived in Waterbury during the ‘40s, ‘50s, or ‘60s. Having lived on Washington Hill for the first 20 years of my life, I remember all the buildings and most of the businesses and names mentioned on the South End page, as well as all the Downtown and Uptown buildings shown.

I haven’t been back to Washington Hill for more than 20 years, and it is sad to see how much it and most of Waterbury has deteriorated since then, but most old manufacturing cities have experienced the same or worse decay since the ’70s.

Unfortunately, when it comes to Waterbury, Thomas Wolfe’s famous words ring true: “You can’t go home again”.


 Irish return to old neighborhood / St. Patrick's Day parade fills walks on Baldwin Street

 Sunday, March 12, 2006  

BY ROBYN ADAMS  Copyright © 2006 Republican-American  

WATERBURY -- Washington Hill in the city's South End was once a bastion for the Irish. But now, it is a mixture of various ethnic groups, particularly Latinos. Though no longer dominated by Irish-Americans, the Hill has remained the locale for the annual St. Patrick's Day parade. On Saturday, hundreds of people watched the Ancient Order of Hibernians' annual parade of green floats, people wearing green and waving the flag of Ireland.  

"The neighborhood has changed," said Ruth Dempsey, a 50-year resident of Fairlawn in the East End. "It really was very Irish but it is changing now, which is good." In 1990, census figures reported 19,325 Irish were living in Waterbury. A decade later, 12,537 Irish call Waterbury home. 

The parade featured floats sponsored by the Ancient Order Of Hibernians (AOH), Elks Lodge No. 283, as well as Civil War re-enactors, the Prospect Drum Corps, the AOH's Little Miss Shamrock Ashleigh Buono, as well as city firefighters, and volunteer firefighters from Wolcott and Prospect. The Mattatuck Drum Band, established in 1767, Waterbury Police Explorers, the Waterbury Police Fife and Drum Band proved to be crowd pleasers. Members of the newly formed Hopeville Neighborhood marched holding their club banner.  

"This is good for the kids to get them out of the house," said Carrie Eichman who is of German descent. Eichman came with friends Barbara Santiago, Santiago's children, Destiny, 4, Evealise, 3, and Santiago's niece, Dorian Gonzalez, 6. Eichman also had another motive; her father, Fred Eichman, plays the fife with the Mattatuck Drum Band. 

Tom Chute, general manager for radio station WATR, the parade emcee, welcomed everyone to the St. Patrick's Day parade."It is a beautiful day, a magnificent day for St. Patrick's Day parade," said Chute before promoting Connie Collins' 42nd year of playing Irish music at the radio station today. 

The parade had a good showing of officials, including Waterbury Police Superintendent Neil O'Leary, Mayor Michael J. Jarjura and numerous politicians who wore green hats or green ties. It started with former State Rep Tom Conway, the official parade marshal, raising the American and Irish flags in front of the Washington Park house on Sylvan Avenue. Debbie Sullivan sang national anthems, then the parade, led by police officers on motorcycles began. George W. Kearney, who will be inducted as the Irish Mayor for the Day on Friday at City Hall, rode in a convertible. 

The parade passed by Jacqueline Lombardo's home on Sylvan Avenue, across from the entrance to Washington Park. Jacqueline Lombardo has lived on Sylvan Avenue for 20 years. "We have the best seats in the house," said Lombardo, who sat near the curb on a small wooden chair. A few feet away, her mother, Rae Lombardo, 90, sat on the front stoop.Jacqueline and Rae Lombardo, who are Italian, remember when the neighborhood was predominantly Irish. 

Jacqueline Lombardo talked of her next door neighbors -- the Scully family, a prominent lot that included former Mayor Martin Scully. "That park should be named Scully Park," Jacqueline Lombardo said, referring to Washington Park. It was the former mayor who donated the land to the city to be used for a park. "I watched all four of the Scullys go," Jacqueline Lombardo said in reference to the neighborhood's changing fabric "But, it is still nice to watch a parade, Irish or not."  


A day for sharing memories: Washington Park holds dedications

Sunday, October 15, 2006  

Copyright © 2006 Republican-American  

WATERBURY -- It was a big day for memories to live on at Washington Park on Saturday.  

Theodore Martin never got to know his big brother, Eugene Martin. But he and his sisters were steps away from the site where their brother and two other boys were killed 66 years ago at the park. Eugene was 16 in 1940 when he, George Holmes, 18, and Francis Carroll, 15, died during a fierce lightning storm at the park off Sylvan Avenue.  

Holmes was the assistant playground supervisor. Carroll and Martin were helping Holmes put away playground equipment when the electrical storm rolled in. The boys sought refuge beneath a huge tree just as a bolt of lighting struck and killed them. "We heard all the commotion that day," said Dorothy (Martin) Grimshaw, who is Eugene and Ted's sister. Everyone had come to the park, but, they would not let me get near."  

Shortly after the boys died, a fountain memorial was placed in the park near the big tree. Through the years, vandals demolished the fountain. But this year, through people's generosity and hard work from Mohawk Park Civic Club members Antoinette D'Almeida and Sue Cegelka, the fountain was restored and a new plaque erected opposite the original plaque. Grimshaw and Ted Martin, both of Waterbury, and their sister, Betty (Martin) Flanigan, of Fort Worth, Fla., attended the dedication. Members of the Holmes family also were there.

A few minutes earlier in front of the Washington Park House, another ceremony was held to dedicate two benches to the late Maurice Timothy Cremins and the late Dennis V. Keane. Cremins' granddaughter, Betty Jane Wesson, and Keane's grandson, John Keane, a Waterbury firefighter, shared memories of their grandfathers. 

Cremins was the park foreman and lived in a four-room flat above the park house from 1961 until suffering a heart attack in May 1971. A plaque on the bench reads "In loving memory of Washington Park Foreman Maurice Timothy Cremins. Each day, a new beginning." 

Dennis Keane loved his Washington Hill neighborhood and was a parade marshal for the annual St. Patrick's Day Parade. He walked to the park every day of his life, said John Keane. And, after holiday dinners, he walked the youngsters to the park. John Keane remembers going to the park with his granddad and to the World War I cannon in the park. A few years ago, the cannon was removed amid much controversy, then later returned after it was refurbished by the Waterbury Monuments Committee. The cannon was relocated in front of the park house.The plaque on the Dennis Keane bench reads: "Lifelong resident of Washington Hill. Shake the hand that shook JFK's hand." Dennis Keane, a Waterbury firefighter, was assigned to downtown duty when the late John F. Kennedy came to Waterbury during his presidential candidacy. "My grandfather would say this is terrific," John Keane said. "We cannot thank you enough for bringing the cannon back to the park and locating it next to my grandfather's bench. It is truly an honor." 


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