The City's History and its historic downtown
Waterbury, long known as the Brass City, is Connecticut's fifth largest city. Home to famous authors, inventors, and innovators, Waterbury can justly boast of a proud and prosperous history that is much in evidence in its historic downtown. Waterbury's founding dates to 1674, when 26 families migrated from the Farmington River Valley to settle in "Town Plot," now a neighborhood near the banks of the Naugatuck River. The Algonquin name for the area was "Matetacoke," which evolved into Mattatuck, meaning a "place without trees."
W hen Waterbury prospered into an industrial giant in the late 19th century, the City's industrialists built their grand homes downtown, often within walking distance of their factories, offices, churches, and schools. Shops and restaurants opened up around the Green, on Bank Street, Grand Street, and neighboring streets in the vicinity. Today, these shops, churches, and schools are the landmarks of Waterbury's Downtown Business District, surrounding the Waterbury Green.
I n its entirety, the City now occupies 28.9 square miles and is home to approximately 105,000 people.
Exploring the Downtown Business District
A s you begin to explore downtown, you may be surprised at the treasure trove of architectural splendor and finely—crafted monuments throughout the area. Many downtown buildings are historically significant and preservationists and developers have worked together to maintain the intent of the original builders.
T he Waterbury Green has been praised by urban planners as one of the most attractive downtown parks in New England. This two-acre park is often used for political rallies and cultural programs.
O n the Green is the Veterans Memorial, built by Luis Fucito, to commemorate all Waterburians who have served their country, and the Clock-on-the Green, a 15 foot granite tower designed by Paul Lux of the Lux Clock Company. The timepiece found a home after Charles Colley, the Chamber president from 1913 to 1917, lobbied fiercely to have it placed on the Green. To this day, it is still referred to as "Colley's Clock."
A lso on the Green is the Carrie Welton Fountain. Caroline Josephine Welton was the only daughter of prominent 19th century businessman Joseph Welton and his wife, Jane Porter Welton. Carrie, who had an intense love of animals, was a familiar sight in Waterbury riding her black stallion Knight in all kinds of weather. In 1874, Ms.Welton's father was accidentally killed by a kick to the head from Knight. After Ms. Welton's death in 1884 her relatives contested her will - which left a fortune to the ASPCA. Her will also stipulated that Knight be memorialized with a statue, hence Waterbury's famous "brass horse" on the Green.
A djacent to the Fountain is Exchange Place, where Waterbury's major east-west and north-south thoroughfares intersect. Exchange Place, the "hub" of downtown businesses since the City was incorporated, is the place where public transportation (trams and later buses) from Waterbury's neighborhoods converged, allowing for frequent and easy connections to other parts of town.
A cross West Main Street is St. John's Episcopal Church with its classic clock steeple. The Church contains several stunning Tiffany windows. The building across from the Church is St. John's Rectory, which housed Episcopal rectors and their families until 1971. It is now used as an office building.
N ear St. John's Church is the Soldier's Monument, a Civil War memorial representing the theme of a united nation arising from the tragic war between the states. Waterbury native George E. Bissell was the sculptor.
A lso on the Green, the Mattatuck Museum focuses its efforts on the arts of Connecticut and cultural history of the central Naugatuck Valley and southern Litchfield County. It is the only museum in the state dedicated solely to collecting and exhibiting Connecticut's art and history, including its industrial history. The Mattatuck boasts a newly-renovated café, and offers a diverse calendar of events throughout the year.
I mmaculate Conception Church is modeled after a 17th century Roman basilica. The exterior is adorned with exquisite ornamental work.
T he Elton Hotel building, located at Prospect and West Main, was once Waterbury's social and business center. Designed by Wilfred Griggs and built in 1905, the Elton Hotel prospered for years as Waterbury's grand hotel with 170 rooms, ballrooms, and restaurants. The Elton now enjoys a new lease as an assisted-living facility.
A t the start of Bank Street is the Apothecary Building, built in the Renaissance Revival style with Venetian style balconies. Midway on Bank Street stands the 17-foot tall M.A. Green Clock, an historic two-dial clock made by the Seth Thomas Company.
A cross the street is the Howland-Hughes Building. For years, Howland-Hughes was Waterbury's major department store, catering to every need. With a tradition going back to 1890 at this location, many Waterburians have great memories of shopping trips to Howland-Hughes. Keeping its great retail tradition alive, Howland-Hughes is now known as The Connecticut Store, selling only items made in Connecticut — from Wiffle Balls to original crafts.
G rand Street is the home of the Waterbury Post Office. Designed by George Oakley Totten in 1931, the facade includes eleven panels showing the history of communication and transportation.
A lso on Grand Street are City Hall and the Chase Municipal Building, both designed by renowned architect, Cass Gilbert. City Hall, built in 1914, is made of brick, marble, and granite and includes an Italian sunken garden in its central enclosure. Located in City Hall Plaza is the statue of Christopher Columbus, erected in 1984 by Frank C. Gaylord. For more than four decades after its construction in 1919, the Chase Municipal Building served as headquarters of the Chase family's corporate and charitable ventures. In 1963, it was sold to the City of Waterbury for one dollar.
T he Silas Bronson Library, constructed of bronze and glass, was built in two sections in 1963 and 1968. The statue of Benjamin Franklin sitting on a bench in the Library's plaza, was sculpted by Paul Wayland Bartlett in 1919.
T he semi-circular brick building at the corner of Grand and Meadow Streets is the site of the Superior Court. The building was formerly used as the headquarters of the Anaconda American Brass Company.
T he Waterbury Republican-American building, once Union Station of the New York, New Haven & Hartford Railroad, is dominated by a 240-foot clock tower, modeled after the Torre Del Mangia at the Palazzo Publico in Siena, Italy.
W e hope you've enjoyed this introduction to Waterbury, a city with a richly-textured past and a promising future that make it an exciting place to work, shop, dine, and explore.