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Throughout the first half of the 20th century, Waterbury had large industrial interests and was the leading center in the United States for the manufacture of brassware (including castings and finishings), as reflected in the nickname the "Brass City" and the city's motto Quid Aere Perennius? ("What Is More Lasting Than Brass?"). It was also noted for the manufacture of watches and clocks.
The land was originally inhabited by the Algonquin bands. According to Samuel Orcutt's history, some Puritan residents of nearby Farmington "found it expedient to purchase the same lands from different tribes, without attempting to decide between their rival claims." The original settlement of Waterbury in 1674 was in the area now known as the Town Plot section. In 1675, the turbulence of King Philip's War caused the new settlement to be vacated until the resumption of peace in 1677. A new permanent location was found across the river to the east along the Mad River. The original Native American inhabitants called the area "Matetacoke" meaning "the interval lands." Thus, the settlement's name was Anglicised to "Mattatuck" in 1673. When the settlement was admitted as the 28th town in the Connecticut Colony in 1686, the name was changed to Waterbury in reference to the numerous streams that emptied into the Naugatuck River from the hills on either side of the valley. At that time, it included all or parts of what later became the towns of Watertown, Plymouth, Wolcott, Prospect, Naugatuck, Thomaston, and Middlebury.
Growth was slow during Waterbury's first hundred years, the lack of arable land due to the constant flooding of the Naugatuck River in particular, discouraged many potential settlers. Furthermore, the residents suffered through a great flood in 1691 and an outbreak of disease in 1712. After a century, Waterbury's population numbered just 5,000.
Waterbury emerged as an early American industrial power in the early 19th century when the city began to manufacture brass, harnessing the waters of the Mad River and the Naugatuck River to power the early factories. The new brass industry attracted many immigrant laborers from all over the world, leading to an influx of diverse nationalities. Waterbury was incorporated as a city in 1853 and, as the "Brass Capital of the World", it gained a reputation for the quality and durability of its goods. Brass and copper supplied by Waterbury was used in Nevada's Boulder Dam among myriad applications across the United States.
A famous Waterbury product of the late-19th century was Robert H. Ingersoll's one-dollar pocket watch, five million of which were sold. After this, the clock industry became as important as Waterbury's brass industry. Evidence of these industries can still be seen in Waterbury, as numerous clocktowers and old brass factories have become landmarks of the city.
In June 1920, labor unrest occurred, with striking workers fighting with police on the street. Over 30 were arrested, mostly Lithuanians, Russians, Poles, and Italians. The strikers numbered some 15,000, with most being employed at Scovill, Chase Rolling Mill, and Chase Metal Works. One striker was shot to death by police.
At its peak during World War II, 10,000 people worked at the Scovill Manufacturing Co, later sold to Century Brass. The city's metal manufacturing mills (Scovill Manufacturing, Anaconda American Brass, and Chase Brass & Copper were the largest) occupied more than 2 million square feet (180,000 m2) and more than 90 buildings.
On May 24, 1962, the north side of the city was devastated by a high-end F3 tornado that caused widespread damage, destroyed numerous neighborhoods, and left one dead and 50 injured. Damage from the storm was estimated to be at least $5 million.
Waterbury Land Company was formed in 1807, for the purpose of settling a Connecticut Western Reserve Township named Columbia in Lorain County, Ohio. The draft allotment was purchased for $21,600.
Established in 1894, St. Joseph's Church holds the distinction of being the first Lithuanian worshiping community in Connecticut and second oldest in the country.
The first Unico Club was founded in Waterbury in 1922 by Dr. Anthony P. Vastola. It grew to 8,000 members and 150 regional groups. The membership is composed of business and professional people of Italian lineage or those who are married to an Italian-American. The clubs sponsor educational, cultural and civic programs.
Sacred Heart was the first Catholic high school in Connecticut, September 6, 1922.
One of the first full-length sound motion pictures was made in the 1920s at the studios of the Bristol Co. at Platts Mills by Professor William Henry Bristol, who experimented for years with sound pictures.
W1XBS in Waterbury was one of four radio stations in the country that began experimental high fidelity broadcasting in 1934. The station broadcast at 1530 kHz, and joined the CBS Radio Network on December 1, 1938. They moved to 1590 kHz in 1941, in accordance with the North American Regional Broadcasting Agreement. The station's broadcasting license was cancelled in 1998 to allow New York's WWRL to be upgraded after that station purchased it; at the time it had been known as WQQW.
Victor Zembruski started his Polish Eagles show on Waterbury radio station WATR in 1934. As of 2010[update] called "The Zembruski Family Polka Hour", it is one of the oldest continuously broadcast shows on American radio.
The Chase Dispensary, a medical clinic for employees of the Chase Brass & Copper Co., opened one of the first birth control clinics in the country in 1938.
According to the United States Census Bureau, the city has a total area of 29.0 square miles (75.0 km2), of which 28.5 square miles (73.9 km2) is land and 0.42 square miles (1.1 km2), or 1.46%, is water.
Waterbury's neighborhoods are shaped by the history and geography of the city.
Ethnic communities distinguish the city's 25 neighborhoods. Clusters of shops at the street corners created villages within the city. For many people, home, work and community life was contained within their neighborhood. Downtown, a short walk away, was "the city", offering live theater, fancy stores, parades and spectacles.
Commuting in the Greater Waterbury area consists of multiple public transportation options. CT Transit operates a significant number of city buses running from the city center at Exchange Place to various neighborhoods in the city.Metro-North Railroad runs commuter trains multiple times a day between the Waterbury station and Bridgeport, with connections to Grand Central Terminal in New York City. Waterbury's Union Station, built in 1909 for the New York, New Haven and Hartford Railroad, is now closed for use as a railway station and part of the building is now the headquarters of the Republican-American newspaper. Passengers traveling to and from Waterbury board and alight on a concrete platform adjacent to the old station. There are no ticket agents at Waterbury, which is currently the end of the line for the Waterbury Branch.
The two main highways that run through the heart of the city are I-84 (Yankee Expressway) and Route 8. In the downtown area, I-84 and Route 8 are located on the elevated William W. Deady Bridge, known locally as the "MixMaster" with eastbound traffic on the upper deck and westbound traffic on the lower deck. The interchange is ranked as one of the most heavily congested traffic areas in the New York/Connecticut region.Waterbury-Oxford Airport is the primary airport serving the city. The smaller Waterbury Airport is about 4 miles (6.4 km) from the city's central business district.
As of the census of 2010, there were 110,366 people, 42,761 households, and 26,996 families residing in the city. The population density was 3,866 people per square mile (1,449.7/km2). There were 42,761 housing units at an average density of 1,492.0 per square mile. The racial makeup of the city was 58.8% White, 20.1% Black or African American, 0.6% Native American, 1.8% Asian, 0.1% Pacific Islander, 14.2% from other races, and 4.6% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino people of any race were 31.2% of the population.
Waterbury has a large Italian-American population with 21.46% of its residents claiming Italian heritage. The Italian influence is especially strong in the Town Plot, Brooklyn, and North End neighborhoods. Additionally, the city is home to thriving Albanian, Cape Verdean, Dominican, Brazilian, Jamaican, Lithuanian,
Portuguese, and Puerto Rican communities. Waterbury also has a large Irish community, especially in the Washington Hill section which is home to the city's annual St. Patrick Day's Parade, which, oddly enough, is rarely held on St. Patrick's Day itself. At the beginning of the 21st century, Waterbury had a growing Orthodox Jewish population. Waterbury had a significant Jewish population beginning in the late 1800s, initially as a result of German immigration. The first synagogue in Waterbury opened in 1872. In the early 20th century, almost 9,000 Jews immigrated from Eastern Europe, with many fleeing persecution. The Orthodox Jewish community has experienced a renaissance since 2000 due to efforts by educators and developers to create an affordable alternative to the high cost of living in established Orthodox communities in New York and New Jersey. This renaissance began with the founding of the Yeshiva K'tana of Waterbury in 2000; as of 2014, this full-service elementary and middle school has nearly 400 students. Other educational institutions are the Yeshiva Gedolah of Waterbury, which includes a mesivta high school and beit medrash (undergraduate) program for approximately 230 students, a Bais Yaakov school for girls, and a kolel. As of the end of 2014, the Waterbury Orthodox community numbers 180 families and includes a mikveh, eruv, and community services such as Hatzalah and Chaverim.
There were 42,622 households, out of which 31.2% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 34.7% were married couples living together, 28.4% had a single householder with no husband present, and 36.9% were non-families. 31.4% of all households were made up of individuals, and 12.1% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.46 and the average family size was 3.11.
In the city, the population was spread out, with 25.6% under the age of 18, 10.1% from 18 to 24, 27.4% from 25 to 44, 24.3% from 45 to 64, and 12.6% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 35.2 years. For every 100 females, there were 89.9 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 85.8 males.
According to the 2014 5-year American Community Survey (conducted 2010-2014, data released December 3, 2015), the median income for a household in the city was $41,136, compared to $69,899 statewide. In Waterbury, 24.2% of the population, or 26,122 residents of the city, lived below the poverty line, compared to 10.5% statewide. In Waterbury, 36.8% of the child population age 0-17, or 9,984 children in the city, lived below the poverty line, compared to 14% statewide.
Waterbury's economic decline in the 1970s and 1980s resulted in it being ranked as having the worst quality of life of 300 U.S. metropolitan areas by Money Magazine in 1992. Waterbury was also rated as one of the "Worst Places for Businesses and Careers in America" by Forbes Magazine in April 2008. Regardless, the city was named on the 100 Best Places to Raise a Family list in the same year.
According to the city's 2010 Comprehensive Annual Financial Report, the top employers in the city are:
Paul K. Pernerewski, Jr. (D - president) 3rd District
Ernest Brunelli (D - majority leader) 1st District
Victor Lopez (D - president pro tempore) 2nd District
Christian D'Orso (D) 1st District
Belinda Weaver (D) 2nd District
Michael Salvio (D) 3rd District
Michael DiGiovancarlo (D) 4th District
Jetlir Kulla (D) 4th District
Sandra Martinez-McCarthy (D) 5th District
Brenda Liz Cotto (D) 5th District
Roger Sherman (R - minority leader) 5th District
Mary Grace Cavallo (R) 1st District
Vernon Matthews (R) 2nd District
Kelly Zimmermann (R) 3rd District
George Noujaim (R) 4th District
Waterbury has about 52,000 registered voters, of whom about 24,000 are Democrats. There are about 7,800 registered Republicans and the balance are largely unaffiliated, with a smattering belonging to minor parties.
John S. Monagan, who was a prolific author in addition to his political responsibilities, served as Waterbury's mayor from 1943 to 1948. He also served as its district's congressional representative from 1959 to 1973. George Harlamon, a member of the Waterbury Hall of Fame, was the city's 40th mayor. He served from 1969 to 1970 during a period of racial tension. The city is known for its hard-nosed political culture compared locally to Cook County, Illinois, close elections, and a number of scandals.
Waterbury's scandalous past dates back to 1940, when Mayor T. Frank Hayes and 22 others were convicted of conspiracy to defraud the City of Waterbury. Hayes received a 10-15 year sentence and served six years. Ironically, the massive corruption scheme was exposed with the help of then comptroller Sherwood Rowland, grandfather of Gov. John G. Rowland, who was convicted on corruption charges in 2004. What appeared to have been a defeat for Hayes was not really a victory for Pape, and the stage was set for further corruption in Waterbury in the second half of the 20th century. Waterbury was in serious financial straits due to years of mismanagement, resulting in the city's finances being taken over by the State of Connecticut. The State Oversight Board oversaw city business for several years and have since left following consecutive years of balanced budgets. In 1992 former Mayor Joseph Santopietro was sentenced to nine years in prison following a public corruption conviction. The successors to Philip Giordano, former acting mayor Sam Caligiuri (2001) and former mayor Michael Jarjura (2001-2011) managed the city without major controversy since 2001. Democrat Neil O'Leary was elected the 46th Mayor of Waterbury on November 9, 2011.
A number of presidential candidates have campaigned in Waterbury due to its pivotal role in statewide elections. The most famous was the election eve visit on the Green by John F. Kennedy in 1960. Forty thousand people waited until 3 am on the Green to greet Kennedy on Sunday, November 6, 1960. Sen. Kennedy spoke to them from the balcony of the Roger Smith Hotel (now called the Elton). Pierre Salinger later said it was the greatest night of the campaign. In September 1984 Ronald Reagan held a huge noontime election rally at the same location. In July 2006 former president Bill Clinton made a campaign appearance at the Palace Theatre for Senator Joe Lieberman during his campaign for re-election to the U.S. Senate. Shortly after the Democratic primary, Tom Swan, campaign manager for Lieberman's opponent Ned Lamont, described Waterbury as a place where "the forces of slime meet the forces of evil," after a large majority of the town's voters backed Lieberman. Swan claimed he was referring to former mayor Philip A. Giordano and former governor John G. Rowland.
Governor John G. Rowland served ten months in a federal prison until February 10, 2006. He was released from federal prison with the stipulation that he serve four months house arrest with an electronic ankle bracelet monitor until June 2006.
In January 2008 Waterbury Mayor Michael Jarjura announced that he would hire Rowland as an economic development advisor for the city. Rowland began work in February that year receiving an annual salary of $95,000 as the city's economic development coordinator funded in conjunction with the Greater Waterbury Chamber of Commerce.
In 2011, the Board of Aldermen voted to eliminate funding the city's portion of his salary and in November 2011 Rowland stated he would give up his position when his contract expired thus ending his quasi-city employment.
Later that year, following his victory over then Mayor Jarjura, new mayor Neil O'Leary created the position of Economic Development Director as part of his new administration, removing the duties from the Chamber of Commerce and bringing them directly into City Hall, making Economic Development a cornerstone of his administration. Ron Pugliese was hired as the first director to hold the position.
Voter Registration and Party Enrollment as of October 29, 2019
Waterbury is home to a total of 42 schools. That number breaks down to 9 high schools, 3 middle schools, 4 K-8 Public Schools, 24 elementary schools (private & public), 2 Jewish schools and 5 colleges/universities. The city's public schools are operated by Waterbury Public Schools under the leadership of superintendent Dr. Verna Ruffin and a board of education that consists of ten elected members and the city mayor, who acts as the chairman ex-officio. Waterbury at one time had the designation of the most catholic schools in the state. However, St. Thomas, St. Lucy, St. Margaret, St. Joseph, and St. Francis Elementary Schools have all closed over the years due to budget constraints.
The city of Waterbury is protected by the paid, full-time firefighters of the Waterbury Fire Department (WFD). The department currently operates out of nine fire stations located throughout the city.
The Waterbury Police Department (WPD) was founded in 1853. Headquarters is at 255 East Main Street, while the Waterbury police academy is located at the Waterbury Police Department Annex at 240 Bank Street. Former Chief of Police Vernon Riddick, who held the distinction of being the first African-American to hold the position in the department's history, recently retired to serve as Chief of the West Hartford Police Department. Former Deputy Chief Fernando "Fred" Spagnolo was appointed the department's 22nd Chief of Police on December 13, 2018.
Two newspapers are operated within Waterbury: the Republican-American, which covers 36 communities throughout Western Connecticut, and the Waterbury Observer.WATR 1320 AM, a radio station under the same family ownership since 1934 and broadcasting on the same frequency since 1939, operates a News/Talk/Classic Hits music format and is the only radio station broadcasting in Waterbury.
Two FM radio stations are also located in Waterbury: WWYZ 92.5, which plays a country music format and WMRQ 104.1, which plays alternative rock. They both transmit from 10 miles away in Meriden and have wide-reaching signals that can be heard clearly as far away as Bridgeport.
Holy Land USA is a park in Waterbury most notable for its illuminated cross on the hill that can be seen from both major highways and most points in the city. The original park contained miniature models of Jerusalem and Bethlehem. It was one of Connecticut's biggest tourist attractions in the 1960s and 1970s, with 50,000 visitors per year. In 2013 the park was purchased by a non-profit led by Mayor Neil O'Leary and has been undergoing renovations ever since. In December 2013 a new LED illuminated cross was installed. The new cross, funded by community donations and with work donated by local construction companies, is a steel structure that stands 65 feet high and 26 feet wide. The state of the art LED lighting system allows the cross to change color based on the Roman Catholic Liturgical colors. The cross is a beloved symbol of Waterbury and one of its most prominent landmarks. On August 11, 2018, thousands of worshipers filled Holy Land as Archbishop Leonard Paul Blair of the Archdiocese of Hartford celebrated a Mass at the park honoring the legacy of Father Michael McGivney, who is under Vatican consideration for sainthood. McGivney was the founder of the Knights of Columbus.
Exchange Place, the transportation and business center of Waterbury, in the early 1950s
The Apothecary Building, the focal point of Exchange Place in the center of Waterbury at the intersection of South Main and Bank streets, was built in 1893 and housed the Apothecaries Hall Pharmacy for over 70 years.
The 2,500-pound (1,100 kg) statue on the Carrie Welton Fountain on the east end of the Green is in memory of Caroline Josephine Welton's black stallion, Knight, and her love of animals. The fountain was dedicated November 10, 1888.
Sculpted by former Waterbury resident George Edwin Bissell as a tribute to the whole Civil War experience, the 48-foot-high (15 m) bronze Soldiers' Monument on the west end of the Green was cast in Paris. It was dedicated October 23, 1884.
Built in 1905, the Elton Hotel on the Waterbury Green was considered one of New England's most elegant hotels until the 1960s, when it became the Roger Smith Hotel. It is now an assisted living facility. President John F. Kennedy made a campaign speech from the balcony of the hotel on Sunday, November 6, 1960. A plaque added to the building to commemorates the occasion. Also on the building is a plaque commemorating the establishment of Unico National in the city in 1922.
The Ben Franklin statue seated in front of the Silas Bronson Library on Grand Street was designed by renowned sculptor Paul Wayland Bartlett, a one-time Waterbury resident. The 1,700-pound (770 kg) statue made a 22-city tour before it was installed, with celebrations in each city, from Baltimore to Boston in 1921.
The Waterbury Courthouse on the corner of Grand and Meadow streets, was the headquarters of the Anaconda American Brass Company for over 50 years.
Waterbury Clock Co. buildings
The Waterbury Clock Company buildings on Cherry Avenue were constructed in 1857. By the end of the 19th century, the company employed 3,000 workers and turned out 20,000 clocks and watches a day. During World War II to aid in the war effort, it became the largest producer of fuse timers for precision defense products in the United States. The company was renamed the United States Time Corporation in 1944 following its wartime success.
Harrub Pilgrim Memorial
The 175 ton, 60-foot-long (18 m) Harrub Pilgrim Memorial was carved out of French granite by Hermon Atkins MacNeil of New York. Dedicated October 11, 1930.
Chief Two Moon Meridas Laboratory is on East Main Street. He built it in 1925 and manufactured herbal medications there until his death in 1933.
The Mattatuck Museum Arts and History Center is the only museum in Connecticut dedicated to collecting and exhibiting Connecticut artists and sculptors. Exhibits in the ground floor galleries reveal the history of Waterbury and surrounding towns. New additions to the history exhibit include an interactive display about the region's slavery history. Recent additions to the art collections include a gallery display about Alexander Calder and a "Giant Critter" designed by Calder in the museum's courtyard.
Looking east on East Main Street in Waterbury, Sacred Heart Church in center
The Timexpo Museum, was in a former Scovill Manufacturing Company facility, and opened to the public in May 2001. It had three floors of exhibits that explored the heritage of the Timex Group, from its early days as the Waterbury Clock Company. The museum closed in 2015.
The Brass Mill Center & Commons is a shopping venue built on the site of old Scovill Manufacturing Co. factory buildings near the center of Waterbury.
Originally opened in 1922, the Palace Theatre was home to films and vaudeville shows. It operated for nearly seventy years before being closed in 1987. The theatre reopened on November 12, 2004.
The Chase Collegiate School was a private day school formerly known as Saint Margaret's-McTernan established in 1865 by Chase Brass and Copper Company. The school closed in 2020.
The Waterbury Reservoir System, a collection of five reservoirs which feed the city's water system, is located in Litchfield, Warren and Morris.
In the 1996 movie Happy Gilmore, the "Waterbury Open" is a golf tournament held in Waterbury.
Waterbury-born John Fusco, noted screenwriter and novelist, wrote Paradise Salvage (Simon & Schuster 2001), a novel set in Waterbury. The Italian-American coming-of-age story was inspired by several incidents of civic corruption in the Brass City.
Gladys Taber's romance novel, Give Me the Stars (1945), was set in Waterbury and in the Chase Brass & Copper Company's factory, giving vivid depictions of factory life during World War II.
The Today Show on NBC was broadcast from the Hotel Elton on August 18, 1955, to cover the festivities for the world premiere of Waterbury native Rosalind Russell's movie The Girl Rush at the State Theater that evening. A major flood on August 19, 1955, caused over 50 million dollars in property damage and the deaths of 29 Waterbury residents; The Today Show provided live coverage of the flood to the country.
Waterbury appeared in Ken Burns' documentary miniseries The War as one of four American towns whose history and residents' experiences during World War II were examined in depth.
The musical Mad Bomber, written by Waterbury native Charles Monagan with music by Waterburian Richard DeRosa, premiered June 2011 at Waterbury's Seven Angels Theatre. The story, set in New York City and Waterbury, depicts the life and crimes (and capture) of Waterbury's notorious Mad Bomber, George Metesky.
Greetings Tour a project created by Victor Fung and Lisa Beggs came to Waterbury and painted an 875 square ft mural. The mural depicts Waterbury's rich history