End of an era


Borough demolishes Building 25

Demolition of Building 25, the former administrative offices for the U.S. Rubber Co. at 58 Maple St. in Naugatuck, started Nov. 3. The work was expected to be finished this week. –LUKE MARSHALL
Demolition of Building 25, the former administrative offices for the U.S. Rubber Co. at 58 Maple St. in Naugatuck, started Nov. 3. The work was expected to be finished this week. –LUKE MARSHALL

NAUGATUCK — A small group of borough residents and officials gathered Monday morning on the corner of Maple Street and Old Firehouse Road to watch the last remnant of the U.S. Rubber Co. come down.

“It’s an end of a big era,” Naugatuck resident Kevin Bird said.

Demolition of the building at 58 Maple St., known as Building 25, started Monday. The work was expected to be complete by the end of this week.

The building was built in 1895 and served as the administrative offices for the U.S. Rubber Co., which eventually became Uniroyal. Uniroyal closed the building down in 1979 and it has sat vacant for the past 35 years. The company shuttered all Naugatuck production in 2001.

The Naugatuck Historical Society tried to raise money to make that building the home of a future society museum, dedicated in large part to the local rubber industry. The society had a sign on the side of the building at one point proclaiming there was more than $600,000 set aside for the project.

However, the cost to repair continued to rise to over $2 million dollars.

Much of the money raised was a promised state grant that Naugatuck never used and most of the rest was promised donations that people said they would give if the project moved forward. Those who did hand over money were offered their money back, historical society members have said. But most of the donors told the society to keep it for the general society fund, historical society leaders have said.

The borough received permission to demolish the building, which was on the National Register of Historic Places, from the state’s historic preservation officer earlier this year. The state also approved allowing the borough to use state funds previously given to the borough for other projects to put toward the demolition and preservation of the Bronson B. Tuttle House at 380 Church St. The historical society is planning to move from its current location, 195 Water St., into the Tuttle Building once the Board of Education moves to its new offices in Naugatuck High School.

The Board of Mayor and Burgesses awarded a $98,000 contract to Cherry Hill Construction of North Branford to tear down Building 25.

Tearing down Building 25 is viewed by some as a necessary step to redevelop Parcel C, the 2.1-acre piece of land on the corner of Water and Maple streets. Two developers have plans to build a medical center and a restaurant on the land.

Naugatuck Economic Development Corporation CEO Ron Pugliese said demolishing Building 25 is a step in the right direction for the progress of downtown Naugatuck.

“We’ve told the citizens that it’s coming down,” Pugliese said. “It shows that when we say we’re going to do something we will do it. It shows progress is being made. That’s the single most important thing — we are fulfilling what we said we are going to do.”

Pugliese hopes to soon announce that a well-known medical facility will be built on Parcel C.

For Richard Clark, who has lived in the borough for 66 years and is the nephew of former Mayor Charles Clark, the destruction of Building 25 to make way for new development is a bittersweet process.

“It’s modernization I suppose,” Clark said.

Clark said he was upset that the building had not been restored as was originally proposed.

“It’s the past being destroyed. It’s like tearing down the Washington Monument. It’s been there since the beginning of time and now it’s gone. Poof,” Clark said.

Naugatuck resident Art Gliford said it was a shame Building 25 had to be destroyed.

Gliford said he used to work for the trucking company W.F. Clark and would make deliveries of cloth to the factories for the sneakers and haul loads of shoes and boots to warehouses.

“It’s too bad, but it’s the sign of the times. The younger people don’t care. It’s the older people who worked in Uniroyal and saw it when it was open, they’re the ones who care. But their kids don’t remember any of that, so it’s not important to them,” Gliford said.

Naugatuck Historical Society President Wendy Murphy said the demolition of the building represented the end of an era for the borough.

“It’s the end of an era. Building 25 was the last remaining remnant of the rubber shop, which was a significant economic force in the town for quite some time,” Murphy said.

Even though the building has come down its legacy will still live on at the historical society.

“We are fortunate that we are still going to be able to tell the story of Building 25 through exhibits we’ve been able to salvage,” Murphy said.

Murphy said the historical society was able to salvage telephones, etched glass that partitioned the offices, a chair and the “25” off the side of the building.

The historical society has also been collecting oral history of the rubber company from people who worked there, Murphy said.

“We’ve been collecting their stories in a variety of forms to tell the personal side of the rubber shop,” Murphy said.

Using everything the society has gathered, Murphy said, it hopes to be able to tell the story of what Naugatuck was like when the factory was open. The exhibit will be installed when the society moves to the Tuttle Building in 2015.

The society is also trying to save some of the bricks that made up the building,
Murphy said. After the demolition is complete, she will work with the town to salvage what bricks she can.

If the bricks are free of contaminants, they will either be sold to people or be used in a patio near the Tuttle Building as a memorial for Building 25, Murphy said.

The Republican American contributed to this article.