Rubber Avenue landmark comes down

The old Thurston building at 410 Rubber Ave. is nothing but rubble now. The company plans to rebuild after the building's roof collapsed from winter snow. - LARAINE WESCHLER

NAUGAUTCK — On one frigid morning in early February, heavy snow doomed a building designed to make ice. Now, Thurston Energy is ready to rebuild.

The ice-maker-turned-energy-provider has made its home in Naugatuck since 1903 and its building at 410 Rubber Ave. has sat there since the early 1930s, according to Carl LaFavre, co-owner of the company. He said he found documents in an old safe that contained engineer plans for the building from 1932.

“It was a landmark. That’s for sure,” said Sue LaFezre, co-owner of Thurston for the past six years.

But the snow storms of this past winter proved too much for the nearly 80-year-old building.

Although the Rubber Avenue landmark is now gone, a new building is in the works to replace it. The new building will include a truck port and office space, according to Sue.

Much of the old building was an ice house that went largely unused since the company stopped making ice 15 years ago, according to Carl. The new building will also accommodate the propane division the company started three years ago, he said.

“It will just fit our needs better,” he said.

Thurston Energy has remained operational since the building’s roof collapsed, and will continue to work out of its temporary trailer office as the new building is constructed, Sue said.

Carl said he is ready to move out of trailer and looking forward to the future.

She said once started, the new building should take about three months to complete—just in time for the winter season.

Carl said he worked for the Thurston family when he was in high school and bought the company when the Thurstons were ready to retire. He helped make 300-pound blocks of ice kept in water tanks cooled to 10 degrees with ammonia, he said.

In its heyday, the company had three shifts, working 24/7 to make the ice before refrigerators put it out of the ice business and it switched its focus to oil and propane.

The company stopped selling ice five years ago, but still sells dry ice in addition to propane and propane-related products.

The company started out as the Spring Hill Ice Company, operating out of a family home that still exists and Howard Thurston is still in Naugatuck, Carl said.

The company moved to High Street before settling at its present location. The first Thurston building built on Rubber Avenue burned down in a fire, Carl said.