REPRINTS


North End - On the Other Side of the Tracks
by Susan Barlow, Manchester Historical Society

The North End is not forgotten! Recently, several callers responded to my question about a house pictured in an old post card. Where was the Loomis homestead and what railroad station was it near?

The callers took a moment to reminisce about Depot Square, its turreted buildings, the train station, and some of the beautiful houses just across the tracks on Main Street.

The picture that sparked the phone calls shows the Loomis Homestead, which sat at 6 Main Street, about where Farr’s Sporting Goods store is today. It was set back from Main Street on a hill. A green lawn extended from the house to the street. The house is noted on the 1849 map of Manchester, so it pre-dated the railroad depot in the post card, and it pre-dated the c 1869 Cheney railroad, which was right behind it.

Many Loomises are noted in the old town directories – eleven in 1894 – and some lived in the North End. Some were businessmen and farmers in other parts of town, including The Green. According to the 1886 “Memorial History of Hartford County, 1633-1884,” by J. Hammond Trumbull, there was a Joseph Loomis, who in 1832 “sold the privilege already occupied by a sawmill and gristmill [in the Oakland section] to Hudson.” The 1860 business directory lists John T. Loomis as “carriage, coach and sleigh builders.”

The old Loomis house and Depot Square itself were torn down during Urban Redevelopment in the 1960s. Although many historic buildings survived and are now part of the Union Village Historic District, the little Downtown and railroad station are all gone now. Of the several nearby houses “on the other side of the tracks” from the Depot, the only one remaining is the site of a branch office of Enfield Federal Savings & Loan Association at 23 Main Street, on the corner of Hudson Street.

Elegant House

The Loomis Homestead “was an elegant house,” according to Doris Kennedy, who, with her husband, Earl, and sons lived there from roughly 1949 to 1966, when the house was demolished. Doris remembers that it sat on a little hill across the tracks from the Depot. The Kennedys had purchased it from the Willis family, who owned the lumber and coal yard behind the house. The house had been turned into two apartments.

“My husband put up a fence when the boys were little to keep them away from the tracks. The house had nine rooms – four rooms in the back apartment, and we had two bedrooms and a bathroom upstairs, and on the first floor a big kitchen with a black stove, big living room and dining room. There was a square archway between the living room and dining room. The columned porch went around three sides of the house, and we used to sit out there in the summer. There was a big yard – it was a great place for the boys to grow up, and we loved living there.”

Doris’s youngest son, Stewart [or Bill], made a model of the house, and Doris lent me pictures of it.

“The North End had everything – grocery stores, hardware and appliance stores, barber shop, fish market, and of course, the “Y” and the library. Our children went to Robertson School, which had a big playground across the brook.”

Doris is now 90 years old, but still remembers the house fondly. “It was our first house together, and I felt bad about leaving it when they were going to tear it down.”

1849 and 1869 Maps

Brent Griswold phoned me to add information about the house. He had his grandfather’s 1849 map of Manchester, and there’s a dot showing the house, with C. Loomis written next to it. Brent’s grandfather was a Civil Engineer, and used the map in his work, adding notations on the map in pencil.

In reading nineteenth-century town directories, I noted that Griswold is a familiar name in the North End. Brent was kind enough to bring the map along on a recent walk I led at Salter’s Pond. The participating hikers were fascinated to see the names of property-owners and mills, but noticed that names of streets are mostly missing.

The 1869 map shows “N. Loomis,” next to a rectangle representing the house (see illustration.)

Visited the Kennedys

Bill Baldwin, who still lives in the North End, remembered visiting the Kennedys at the house on Main Street. “I went to school with John, and visited the house – you’d walk up on the porch to the front door. It was a nice house, and it was a shame when they tore it down. I was sad when the North End was torn down – the red stone buildings were beautiful and had interesting architecture. The North End was its own little community, with lots of stores and all. It took a little of my heart away when they tore it down. It deserved to be saved.”

Will Douglas and the "White House"

Will Douglas lived in the “Loomis” house with his parents, who were Irish immigrants. They rented from Mr. Willis, another familiar North End name, from the mid-1930s to about 1940.

“Walter and Maude Coolidge lived in the back apartment. Mrs. Coolidge used to mention Mr. Loomis, the original owner of the house. He had something to do with the water company – the Eighth District. We lived in the front apartment, which was up-and-down-stairs. There were two boilers for the house, one for each tenant, and the cellar was made of stone. It had a slate roof. To me, it looked like the ‘White House’ in Washington, D.C., with the columns. The house sat about 200 feet back from Main Street, and the driveway went all the way around the house to the Willis Coal and Lumber Company in the back. As a kid, I used to run across the tracks to the store. I used to help out at the Railway Express on Saturdays. I would go out with the deliveryman from the Depot, all around town.”

Will’s father worked at the Bon Ami plant nearby on Hilliard Street, and later at Cheneys and Pratt & Whitney Aircraft. It was Will who helped me contact Doris Kennedy.

Other Buildings on this Block

On the same side of Main Street as the Loomis house, were both the office of and the actual coal and lumber yard, with various owners over the years. Nearer Hilliard Street was the Don Willis garage for car repairs, which has been transformed into offices for the Eighth District.

Across the street, at the corner of Hudson, the former Leclerc Funeral Home is now a branch of Enfield bank It’s still an interesting building with interesting architectural elements.

The Leclercs, who had had a funeral parlor on North Main Street, bought the house form the Robertsons in 1941, and had their funeral parlor downstairs, and residence upstairs.

Another interesting house was the former home of Dr. Francis Whiton, who donated funds for the library of that name. This house, with a huge barn in the back, was the next-to-the-last house on that side of Main Street, before Woodbridge. The barn served as Dr. Whiton’s carriage house.

Old pictures show the Whiton house as large and lovely. After Dr. Whiton’s death in 1922, the house was converted to a three-family house, and had a little restaurant added onto the front. Orlando Moriconi ran the Chef’s Diner there. Later, Sam Giglio bought the business and ran the diner. His widow, Dorothy, said that Sam “loved to cook. He had worked as a milkman, but bought the diner from his friend Orlando. There were two tables and the counter, and people came over for meals from the lumberyard, the firehouse, and Lydall and Foulds, too. I remember that big barn out back – it became a used-furniture place. I still have some of the furniture that I bought there. The house, barn and all were going to be torn down during Urban Redevelopment, and my late husband opened ‘Sam’s Lunch,’ up on Green Road.”

Mystery Solved

So, now we know the location of the postcard view of the house in the North End, but there are always more questions and fascinating research to be done. Where are the photos of the North End buildings that were replaced during Urban Redevelopment? Part of the process of obtaining federal funds for redevelopment was to document what was being torn down. But I haven’t been able to find where those photos are.

Maybe someone will call with clues? Or email the Historical Society through this web site.

Meanwhile, thanks to the above-mentioned history buffs and also to Judy Leclerc Barry, Jonathan Benson, Tom Mason, Sylvia Osgood, and Shirley and Joe Tully, who provided information about the Loomis house and the North End.

Click on the following small images to see larger views of each: