Brooklyn

The establishment of park-like Riverside Cemetery on the west side of the Naugatuck River brought developers' attention to the area between the river and the Town Plot ridge.  Soon streets were laid out south of the cemetery and small cottages were built there to house workers of the nearby brass mills: Holmes Booth & Haydens, Waterbury Farrell Foundry, Benedict and Burnham and the Waterbury Button Company were all within an easy walk.  With the arrival of the railroad at mid-century, Brooklyn was poised for growth as the factories grew.

 

"Brooklyn was a city in itself. It was a melting pot. You had Irish on Railroad Hill; St. Patrick's Church was an Irish parish. There was a great Lithuanian population, and then the Italians came. Everyone got along well. There was never a problem between kids from different ethnic groups."
~ Michael Colucci

 

Filled with an abundance of triple-deckers, six-family blocks and multi-unit tenements, Brooklyn  attracted many of the city's newest arrivals.  Irish, Poles, Russians, Lithuanians, Jews and Italians lived in the neighborhood, supporting a vibrant mix of grocers, bakeries, and shops catering to distinctive ethnic traditions.  The Lithuanian community flourished, establishing the first Lithuanian church in New England in Brooklyn in 1894, and organizing over 20 associations to serve Lithuanian interests in the area, including Lithuanian Girl Scouts, political clubs, choirs, bands, sports teams, saloons and a Lithuanian chapter of the Chamber of Commerce.

 

"I met my husband in St. Joe’s Hall at a dance.  At the 48 Club, they used to have dances Saturday, Sunday night, Friday night, anybody who knew how to do a band... we would gather together and dance.  It was the main thing."
~ Zita Smolskis

 

"St. Joseph's Church was a two-minute walk from us. That's where [most of the] Lithuanians went. Most of the Irish went to St. Patrick's.... [The Italians] went to Lady of Lourdes, up on Town Plot."
~ Ray Bozzuto

 

At its height, Brooklyn contained five grammar schools, three drug stores, three theaters, eight bakeries, two breweries, a library, a firehouse, a YMCA, and 22 taverns.  Those who grew up in the neighborhood remember the sports teams and social activities sponsored by churches and social organizations in the neighborhood, childhood adventures along the Naugatuck River and the Charles Street woods, the juke box at Lolly's and dish night at the Capitol Theater.

 

"It was a self-sustaining neighborhood. We had downtown Brooklyn, where there was a movie house. There were markets; you could buy your clothes there. You didn't have to go out of the neighborhood."
~ Frank C. Perrella