South End: The Early Factory District

The flat river plains of the Naugatuck and Mad Rivers supported mills and later factories, including some of the city’s largest: Scovill, Benedict and Burnham (later American Brass), Waterbury Buckle, Waterbury Clock, Waterbury Button, among many others.  The heaviest concentration of 19th century transportation routes, including the rail lines, depots and warehouses followed these patterns in the south end, and state highways, Routes 8 and 63, took heavy commercial traffic south to the national markets through this neighborhood.


" the bottom of Washington Street there was the Waterbury Buckle Company, the Waterbury Button Company and American Brass Company. That's where most of the people worked from the hill...."
~ Dr. Lawrence Shea


South and east of the river plains, the high rocky hills were gradually developed for housing for the workers employed in the ever expanding mills.   Before the Civil War, only the blocks near the factories were occupied, with factory owners and Irish workers living in single and two-family houses on Liberty, Clay, Mill, Union and Baldwin Streets.  Below Baldwin Street, the rural fields were known as “Horse Pasture District” and were outside the borough limits.


"My great-grandfather came to Waterbury from Ireland... between 1840 and 1850.... [He lived] on Dublin Street, which is Hamilton Avenue now... "
~ William Coss


As the mills expanded after the Civil War, real estate developers subdivided the empty lands along Dublin Street (later Hamilton Avenue) and as far south as Lounsbury St.  The blocks closer to town were provided with city water, but no sewers.  The population increased to more than 20,000 people living in the south end by 1930, many of them walking to work.  Triple decker housing, multi-family apartment “blocks” and rooming houses increased population density, while contributing to close-knit neighborhoods within the South End.


"They all had back porches.  And the back porches would meet each other.  These people could live on one street and talk to people on the other street because their houses were back to back."
~ Joseph Graziosa


"My social life was around my neighborhood.  It was secure.  There was lot of security there and friendship -- friendships that you made for a very long time."
~ Claudette LaFlamme