The town experienced a big change with an influx of Irish immigrants, many of whom came through the area as railroad workers in the early 19th century and stayed to farm land abandoned by earlier farmers. Most of the early Irish residents lived in the Sandy Hook and Walnut Tree Hill neighborhoods, as well as farms along Route 25 in the Botsford section of town. "The Irish were very polarizing socially, religiously, and politically in town," said Daniel Cruson, the town historian, in a 2007 interview. "There was very little Catholic presence in town when the Irish moved in, and with the increase in the Irish population, St. Rose (Roman Catholic Church) saw a big lift in membership, for instance."
Photo: View northeast showing façade of main factory building. (Tod Bryant)
The proportion of the town's Irish-American population went from 5.6 percent in 1850 to 41.8 percent in 1890, and by 1900 it was up to 44 percent. Many of the immigrants came to Newtown from one small area of County Clare, according to Harlan Jessup, a local genealogist.
Many found work in the local factories and button shops. At one point, according to Jessup, the New York Belting and Packing rubber factory in town employed 200 people — 185 of whom were Irish. Many Irishwomen worked as domestic laborers, seamstresses and lace makers.
Tensions between the Yankees and Irish ran high. One Irishmen, James E. Madigan, published the popular Newtown Chronicle from 1880 to 1882, a Democratic, working-class rival to The Newtown Bee, a self-professed independent newspaper then hobbled by poor management. The Chronicle devoted one page of each four-page issue to news from Ireland. Not until after World War II were the Irish finally accepted.
"History of Newtown, Connecticut," Wikipedia, accessed 10/7/2014
[ view source ]
Ransom, David F., New York Belting and Packing Co./Fabric Fire Hose Co., National Register of Historic Places Nomination, 1982.
The principal 60 x 196-foot building of the factory has an east-west orientation with a tower on the south elevation. A canal leads from the mill pond on the south to the hydroelectric plant at the east end of the factory. Additions have been built at the west end of the main structure and there are two outbuildings remaining on the site.
A drive curves in from Glen Road in a northwesterly direction over the canal and down to the factory. The one-story building on the left probably pre-dates the factory building. It is 20 x 36 feet, constructed of brick with a gable roof, and has an iron door and iron shutters on its east elevation. At the gable ends the eaves return, forming a Greek Revival style effect with a dentil course of brick. Two other wooden outbuildings in the mill yard have been demolished recently because they were superfluous to the adaptive re-use of the factory building as offices.
The architectural style of the building is set by a 19-foot-square Italianate tower that rises two stories above the main structure on the south elevation. The top stage of the tower, under a low pyramidal roof, has two round-arched blind recesses in each face. Each recess has a tall, narrow, round-arched aperture. Several of the apertures are glazed and several are bricked in, apparently never having been glazed. The recesses are supported by a string course over a central oculus window, on each face, and rise to the bracketed overhang of the low, pyramidal roof. The front door is at the bottom of the tower. It is protected by a shed roof supported by diagonal brackets with drops.
The section of the main building to the right of the tower has 12 bays. The windows are 8-over-8 at the first and fourth floors and 12-over-8 at the third. Apertures have segmentally-arched lintels of two rows of vertical headers plus one row of horizontal headers. The sills are made of one row of flat headers. At the second floor new sash of three horizontal sections were installed about 40 years ago as part of a conversion of this section of the building to office space. In each wall space between the windows there is a star washer marking the termination of a short, interior tie rod that is bedded in a beam. To the left of the tower there is an 18 x 30-foot, three- story addition that served as the office of the factory. To its left is a further 32 x 54-foot, four- story addition. These additions probably were built about 1870. Their fenestration, different from that of the main building, consists of paired 9-over-6 windows alternating with a single 12-over-l window in the first, third and fourth floors, while the second (main) floor has paired 6-over-6 windows alternating with a single 12-over-12 window.
The front corner of the office section, near the entrance platform, and the southwest corner of the larger addition are rounded, with inverted conical corbeling at the top of the rounded sections. A further two-story addition runs across the west end of the building, and the boiler house is at the northwest corner. The boiler house is a high one-story structure, 48 x 60 feet, with a monitor roof. Its two large doorways have big, half-round fanlights. The metal stack is an early 20th-century replacement for a brick stack.
The hydroelectric plant, which is supplied by a large metal pipe from the canal, is housed in a 33 x 56-foot, three-story building at the east end of the factory. Its windows are 12-over-8, and it has a plain, low, gable roof. The southeast corner of this building is rounded with the inverted conical corbeling, indicating that it may have been built at the same time as the office and adjoining addition on the south elevation. The north elevation presents the full 24 bays of windows, 8-over-8 on the first and fourth floors, 12- over-12 on the second and 12-over-8 on the third floor. On this elevation, grade is lower and the full four stories of the factory are above grade.
The main building has a low gable roof with two square, wooden belvederes that complement the picturesque composition of the Italianate tower. The belvederes have a 12-over-8 window in each face under a projecting, bracketed, flat-roof overhang. The main roof surface is built up with roofing paper and covered with a coat of aluminum colored paint.
The basic structural system of the factory is exterior brick bearing walls laid up in common bond and interior post-and-beam construction with thick floors and no joists, known as the "slow- burning" system. Each wooden member is thick and heavy, so that it would tend to char rather than flame in a fire. The scheme, effective in reducing fire losses, was an important 19th-century advance in mill construction technique.
The building is located in a ravine on the Pootatuck River one mile north of the main intersection of the Sandy Hook section of Newtown, Connecticut. The 12.8 acre site includes a dam, a large mill pond, and a hydroelectric plant. Rocky Glen State Park lies across the river from the factory. The heavily wooded park slopes sharply down to the river's edge, to form the ravine. Up river to the south there is another dam and factory.
Glen Road, running parallel to the river, forms the eastern edge of the site. Modest frame houses are well spaced from one another along the eastern side of the road. To the north of the site the Pootatuck flows into the Housatonic River.
Common Name: Rocky Glen Office Campus Date(s): Built 1856 Style(s): Italianate Historic Use: Manufacturing Present Use: Offices
Exterior visible from public road.
Interior accessible (public spaces and office business).
The Irish experience has had a profound impact on Connecticut's past, and its narrative spans all periods of the state's history and touches every one of its eight counties and 169 towns.