This article was transcribed from an image obtained online from ProQuest Historical Newspapers
This 1868 map of lower Centerville (CLICK to enlarge) shows the small building where, from the newspaper description, the fire likely got started. It communicated with the larger wood-framed buildings through a 50' long wood-lined shaft. The entire complex, built around 1840, was destroyed and replaced with a rambling mill-style factory building which remained on the site until 1940. (1868 Hamden Map courtesy of D.G.J.)
The New Haven Web Company
"The Web Shop"
March 1, 2013 - Today marks the 38th anniversary of one of the most famous, or infamous, fires in Connecticut history - the March 1, 1975 Shelton Sponge Rubber Co. Fire. So this week it seems oddly appropriate to feature an 1875 Hamden conflagration that destroyed a manufacturing complex that was of great importance to Hamden's economy exactly one century earlier.
One of the most notable Hamden fires of the 19th century for which there is a newspaper account occurred on Monday, September 27, 1875, when several buildings owned by the New Haven Web Co. burned on the east side of Whitney Avenue at the Mill River (see 1868 map above), approximately where the Route 15 overpass crosses over today.
According to an article (at left) published the following day in the Hartford Daily Courant, the fire began in a small building at the rear of the complex and spread through a wooden shaft to other, larger buildings which were all part of the New Haven Web Company factory.
Hamden had no organized firefighting forces or apparatus in those days. The entire complex was destroyed. It was replaced shortly thereafter by a rambling brick factory, which remained on the site until it was razed around 1940 to make way for the Wilbur Cross Parkway.
HFRA member Tom Doherty recalls that his grandfather and namesake, Thomas Doherty, was a dyer in a cloth factory in Taunton, Massachusetts, where he settled after arriving from Ireland in the late 19th century. Around 1900, the elder Doherty settled in Centerville with his wife and their ten children, which included Tom's father, Everett, who served on the Hamden Fire Department from 1927 until his retirement in 1966. While working as a dyer at the Web Shop, Mr. Doherty developed a process for making a permanent dye.
Hamden's first full-time fire marshal, Albert Purce (1903-1978) and Hamden firefighter Mario "Bucky" Serafino (1909-2001) both worked at the Web Shop prior to coming on the fire department. Centerville Co. 4 volunteer firefighter, Edward D. Meegan, was employed at the Web Shop at the time he was killed in the line of duty in December 1927.
CLICK on the photo below to view several more classic images of this impressive complex which, in its sixty-five years, provided jobs for hundreds of Centerville residents.
The Web Shop - c. 1910 (Photo courtesy of the Hamden Historical Society)
Former Site of the Web Shop (Photographed in March 1976 by DGJ)