$15,000 was the estimated loss when fire gutted the 111-year old Malavolti building at the corner of Whitney and Dixwell Avenues on the night of February 18, 1941. The fire in the two-and-a-half story combination commercial-residential wood frame building was believed to have started when faulty electrical wiring led to an exploding gas meter.
Ten residents of the second floor apartments escaped without injuries. Hamden firefighters worked through the night to contain the blaze to the building of origin. The Hamden branch of the American Red Cross assisted the ten individuals who were displaced by the fire.
The building was condemned and razed, leaving a vacant lot on which local kids played softball until the Malavolti family built the Brown Stone House Restaurant on the site in 1949. We are grateful to G. Donald Steele for the newspaper articles and photos that are posted below.
What was to later become known as the Malavolti Building, started out as a hotel in the early 19th century. The former Centerville House, also known as the Sackett Hotel, fronted on Dixwell Avenue at the intersection of Whitney Avenue.
According to an article puiblished years ago in The Hamden Chronicle, the hotel was built in 1830 and also had a popular tavern. The wrap-around veranda disappeared sometime before it became a multiple commercial building in the early 20th century.
This beautiful Victorian Era edifice pictured on the northwest corner of Whitney and Dixwell Avenues was Hamden's first town hall, constructed in 1886.
This late 19-teens photo shows the prominently displayed Honor Roll of Hamden soliders and sailors who were then serving in the World War.
Accounts from annual town reports in the early 1920s indicated that the building's foundation was sinking on one end, causing some interior walls to crack.
The enormous cost to repair the foundation, coupled with the fact that the building was by then becoming inadequate in size, forced the town to build a new town hall. The old town hall was razed in early 1924 to make way for construction of Hamden's new Memorial Town Hall.
1924 Cornerstone Laying Ceremony at Memorial Town Hall
Courtesy of the Hamden Historical Society
According to Rachel Hartley's "The History of Hamden Connecticut, 1786-1936" (1943), "Memorial Town Hall [was] Hamden's lasting tribute to her military heroes. It was erected in 1924, at a cost of $160,000."
The cornerstone for the new town hall was laid during a ceremony led by Hamden's government and civic leaders.
There is no record of the contents of the cornerstone.
CLICK the cornerstone!
1925 Memorial Town Hall Dedication
- - - 91 years ago this week - - -
On Monday, February 23, 1925, Hamden's new town hall was formally dedicated to the memories of those Hamden souls who had fought and died in every war since the Revolution.
The names of Hamden's fallen are engraved on the walls of the rotunda, beneath the names of wars in which they fought and died. World War II, Korea, Vietnam and the Gulf War have been added in the many decades since the dedication.
The original dedication program is pictured at right. CLICK on the image to read it. Lots of history there!
CLICK to enlarge
Excerpt from February 22, 1925 article in the New Haven Sunday Register, courtesy of the Hamden Historical Society
North End of Town Hall Shortly After Completion
Fire station bay doors are hidden from view on the north side
Centerville Fire Station 90 Years Ago
Centerville Volunteer Fire Co. 4 was quartered in the far north section of the new town hall, where Station 4 is located today. The bay doors faced School Street until 1940.
The building at the far right was heavily damaged by fire in December 1964 and was razed shortly thereafter. Eli's-on-Whitney now occupies the building that replaced it. The building next door to the town hall with the American Legion billboard was demolished in April 2013 to make way for present extension of Eli's building.
This previously unpublished photo was taken by an employee of the United Advertising Co. around 1925. The original negative was discovered in a Whalley Avenue antique store several years ago.
Station 4 - 1924-40
Photo courtesy of Gil Spencer
When the Memorial Town Hall was constructed in 1924, the town provided room for the Centerville fire company in the northeast corner of the new building.
As can be seen in this photo taken in 1938, the fire station bays doors did not face Whitney Avenue. They were located on the north side of the station, facing School Street.
After exiting the station, apparatus had to make a ninety-degree righthand turn in order to exit onto Whitney Avenue.
Work to relocate the bay doors to the Whitney Avenue side of the town hall began in November 1939. The renovation was completed in early 1940.
Official Town of Hamden stationery continued to show a pre-1940 rendering of the town hall until well into the 1970s.
Station 4 - 1940 to present
Station 4 in 1940 - Asst. Chief R.C. Spencer and Ff. Edward Kromer pose with the 1938 Diamond-T "Squad" and Engine 4, a 1939 Diamond-T pumper, in front of the newly-renovated bay doors that once faced north. The plaques above the doors have yet to be installed. Photo scanned from the 1940 Hamden Town Report, courtesy of the Hamden Historical Society.