Do you know where Staddle Hill is? If you do, you probably live there or are a historian. When asked, my mother even commented, “I remember my mother talking about Staddle Hill, but remind me where it is.”
It is a rare event when my mother doesn’t know something about Middletown or a particular neighborhood. Unlike Farm Hill and Westfield, the designation of Staddle Hill as a neighborhood has generally gone out of use.
Staddle Hill, basically, was at the center of Middletown, with Middlefield as its western border, and West Long Hill on the south (or Wadsworth Street). The eastern edge was at Indian Hill Cemetery, Cross Street and Long Lane and extended almost to Westfield Street to the north. In the 1870s, there was even a North and South Staddle Hill.
Although primarily a rural, agricultural neighborhood, Staddle Hill had several good mills in the 19th century, particularly Starr Mill between Boston Road and Middlefield Street. This mill was started by Nathan Starr in the first decades of the 19th century and had a U.S. government contract for swords during the War of 1812. By 1874, Russell Manufacturing Company had bought the mill on the West River (or Coginchaug or Arawana River).
A residential neighborhood developed around the mill on Beverly Heights and Egan Road for the mill workers in the mid-19th century.
As you can see on the map shown here, in 1874, there was also a large nursery in Staddle Hill owned by Peter H. Ashton at the corner of Aston (named after the Ashton family?) and Middlefield streets. The lot also included his home.
Just four years earlier, however, according to the federal census of 1870, Ashton lived and ran a nursery in South Farms. He was quite wealthy, with $15,000 in real estate, which probably included the Staddle Hill property. He had come here from England and married Sarah Stowe, and they subsequently had three children. Sarah was a widow by 1900 and living in their Staddle Hill house with her unmarried sister, Martha.
The beautiful 1746 Georgian House built by Judge Seth Wetmore is another Staddle Hill landmark. In the mid-18th century, Wetmore was a notable figure in Connecticut who served as deputy of the colonial General Assembly and judge of the Hartford County Court.
His house was such pure elegance in his day that the parlor was purchased in 1986 by the Wadsworth Atheneum, dismantled, and reconstructed for the museum’s permanent exhibit. The Atheneum then recreated an exact replica of the room for the house at 1066 Washington St.
Not too long ago, the house was threatened with demolition when Route 66 was widened, and the heirs of Wesleyan professor Samuel Green sold the house to new owners. John Bolles, the new owner, agreed to restore it to its former beauty. I encourage folks to visit the Atheneum to see the room exhibit to marvel at this fine example of Georgian architectural detail.
Because the interior of Staddle Hill had few areas of concentrated population, neighborhood stores were found in only a few areas. John P. Burke owned the first neighborhood store in Staddle Hill in 1910, but the location isn’t clear to me. At that time, the roads in some of the outlying districts were not officially assigned names, so the City Directory only referred to his store being in Staddle Hill.
By 1915, two more grocers opened stores: Meik Baron on Boston Road and Joseph Farrell at West Street. The city directories list Bridget Farrell as the West Street store's keeper in 1930, after which time the Farrell’s connection to the store ends. John W. Johnson later ran this store at 72 West St., whose building, as far as I can tell, is no longer standing.
Meik Baron and his wife Mary were immigrants from Slovakian Hungary who arrived here in 1899. He was a clothing merchant before opening the store about 1915. By 1940, he was known as Mike Baron. His widow, Mary, assumed control after he passed away sometime before 1950. Her store at 224 Boston Road, shown here, remained open into the 1970s.
Josef Marszalek opened a grocery on Middlefield Street about 1930 near the corner of Villa Street that remained open until at least 1965. Operated in later years by Stephanie Marszalek, the store closed after 1960. The building that housed the Marszalek store doesn’t appear to exist either.
The Staddle Hill neighborhood was a mix of farming and manufacturing for most of its history. Once transportation improved and people could easily reach the center of town, the area became more suburban and drew more people to build homes and start small businesses in the neighborhoods.
I’d love to hear from readers who remember the neighborhood grocery stores (or have pictures) or can share some stories about life in Staddle Hill.