Waterbury is a city of neighborhoods. Their distinctive character, shaped by the history and geography of the city, has led residents to form an unusual loyalty to their neighborhood.
Vibrant ethnic communities distinguished the city neighborhoods. Clusters of shops at the street corners offered neighborhood residents everything they could desire, creating villages within the city. For many people, home, work and community life was contained within their neighborhood. Downtown, a short walk away, was "the city", offering live theater, fancy stores, parades and spectacles.~~
Settled in the 17th century by 40 families from Farmington, the early village was an agricultural center, organized within a block surrounding the present-day Green. Ringed by hills and cris-crossed by streams and rivers, the early streets followed the most level dry ground, along East and West Main, down South Main towards New Haven, and up the shallow grade of North Main towards Farmington.
In the 19th century, the city grew with the success of the local brass industry. From a population of 5,000 in 1850, Waterbury grew to more than 100,000 residents in 1920. By the end of the 19th century, the neighborhoods of Waterbury had scaled the hills, with new homes rising higher on the ridgeline each decade.
In an era before the automobile, residents walked to work, church and shopping, so the neighborhoods were compact. The population density in Waterbury was nearly 3,200 people per square mile in 1920, when many families occupied triple deckers and multi-family “blocks”.
Many of the new residents were immigrants attracted to jobs in the expanding brass mills. They brought distinctive traditions to the shops, churches and clubs that clustered in the lively neighborhoods of Waterbury.
Select a neighborhood to learn more about the people and the places that made it special.
Note: this site does not yet include all the great neighborhoods in Waterbury. Check back to see what’s been added.
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