Until the mid-1950s, suburban folks in Connecticut had to go to the big city to patronize a prominent national department store. That all changed at 9 a.m. on Thursday, August 19, 1954, when the Sears Roebuck and Co. department store opened at 2301 Dixwell Avenue.
The new Hamden Sears replaced the New Haven store on lower Church Street and was the first national chain department store to be located in the bedroom community of a major Connecticut city. The Hamden Sears was also the precursor to the Hamden Plaza, the first suburban shopping plaza in Connecticut, which opened the following year.
By the 1959 opening of the Hamden Mart, the stretch of Dixwell Avenue between Skiff Street and the parkway overpass, once dominated by the Peters Farm and apple orchard, would thereafter be known as the "Magic Mile."
Bill Hines (1950)
Bob Slater wrote to remind us that our own Bill Hines worked part time in the Customer Pick-up Department at the Hamden Sears store when he wasn't working days on the department. Bill's widow, Ernestine, told Bob that she thought he worked there from about 1957 until the late 1960s. Bob was part of Bill's crew when he was a lieutenant at old Station 3 on the 56-hour shift. Bob recalled that Bill knew just about all the part numbers of the various Sears appliances.
Lt. Bill Hines, like almost everyone else on the department, worked a part time job to help make ends meet, when even a lieutenant's annual pay was in the mid-four figures. Did any other Hamden firemen work at Sears?
Dolores Fortuna Experienced an Epic Hamden Event in the Sears Building
For a couple of years in the late 1980s, Dolores Fortuna worked in the Sears accounting department, up on the second floor in the front of the building. Dolores is the wife of Tom Fortuna, who, many of us will recall, served as Hamden's 2nd District Councilman for several years in the 1990s.
The Sears building played a significant role in Dolores' memorable "snapshot" moment of an event that was also experienced by tens of thousands of us other Hamdenites one summer afternoon in 1989. Click on her photo for, as Paul Harvey used to say, "the rest of the story."
CLICK for the rest of the story
The Hamden Chronicle, August 19, 1954 (Courtesy of the Hamden Historical Society) - CLICK to enlarge for easier reading.
40 Years Later - Ready for demolition - SAD!
Remember these admonitions near the escalator handrails?
Sears' Final Contribution to Hamden: Unique Fire Training Opportunities
Hamden's Sears store lasted just under 40 years, closing on March 13, 1993, the same day the area was hit with a massive snow storm. In the year and a half that followed, the Hamden Fire Department was permitted to use the building for training purposes. We preserved many images from that time.
On Saturday, October 8th 1994, all engine and truck companies on Platoon 3 conducted training in forcible entry and master streams at the soon-to-be-demolished Sears store on Dixwell Avenue. Here are some photos from that day.
NOTE: Following the five hour training session, just before change of shift at 1725 hours, Engines 2 and 3, Tower 1, Rescues 1 and 2, and Car 3 responded to 73 Newton Street on a house fire. Long day!
B/Cs Doherty and Mike Ambriscoe, who was working extra on E3 that day.
Ff. Ed Emerson at the controls of Truck 1.
Tower 1 crew - Capt. Dave Johnson and Firefighters John Longo and Harold Mangler.
Battalion Chief Tom Doherty and Ff. John Longo of Tower 1 pose on the roof next to one of Hamden's most recognized signs of the previous 40 years.
B/C Doherty and Longo in the bucket of Tower 1. The backdrop will never again look the same.
The Sleeping Giant will always be there in the background. But by the end of 1995, the Sears parking lot would be dug out for the future homes of Pep Boys, T.G.I. Fridays, and even a smaller Sears hardware store (now gone).
Harold and Shirley Mangler. Harold was on Tower 1 that day. Shirley took many Hamden Fire Department photos in the 1980s and 1990s, many of which are on this website - and many more will be in the future.
October 8, 1994 - Sears Parking Lot - Following a training exercise at the soon-to-be-razed Sears Department Store on Dixwell Avenue (where T.G.I. Fridays and Pep Boys stand today), Batt. Chief Tom Doherty poses with crews from Engine 5, Engine 9 and Tower 1. L-R: George Edwards, Lt. Clark Hurlburt, Austin Williams, Harold Mangler, John Longo, Jim Moore, Batt. Chief Tom Doherty, Ed Emerson, and Capt. Dave Johnson. (Photo taken by Shirley Mangler)
One long last look . . .
. . . and down she goes!
October 18, 1994 - Only ten days later, the wrecking crew was moving right along.
Before the Sears building was razed, the owner allowed the department to remove the OS&Y and pressure differential valves and gauges from the dry and wet sprinkler systems for use in future department training. Members of Platoon 3, under the direction of B/C Doherty, mounted the riser, valves and gauges on a steel plaform with casters and stored it in the Station 3 storage room that was accessible only from the outside. Unfortunately, shortly thereafter, the entire display went missing, possibly disposed of for its considerably valuable brass content.