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Middletown's Onetime Center of Town: Staddle Hill

One notable landmark of the area was the 1746 house built by Judge Seth Wetmore, such a fine example of Georgian architecture, one room was dismantled and is now at the Wadsworth Atheneum.

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.

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Barbara July 23, 2011 at 11:55 AM
Oh my God. I went to Staddle Hill School for a short time maybe a year or less. When Snow School was built we all went there.
John Brush July 23, 2011 at 02:40 PM
Although not the in Staddle Hill District, the Wetmore-Starr House (1752) further down Washington Street bears the family names mentioned in the author's account. Does she know of a connection? (photo) http://www.flickr.com/photos/brushbin/4355053376/ also read description at: http://historicbuildingsct.com/?p=174
Elizabeth Warner July 28, 2011 at 04:51 PM
Hi John... yes, they are connected. Thomas Wetmore (Whitmores) was among the proprietors in Middletown in 1650 and his descendants were in town for awhile. I will make a point of writing about these two house and the Wetmore family, if it is of interest to the Patch readers...
John Brush July 28, 2011 at 05:16 PM
Yes, please do write more about this interesting history.
Lew Southard October 17, 2011 at 10:18 PM
Peter H Ashton Peters father and brother, both gunsmiths, were born in England but Peter was born in Connecticut on December 20, 1816. He first married Irene who died on January 14, 1850 age 32. He then married Sarah J. Stow born September 11 1819 died December 19 1912. They had a least one daughter Martha Ashton born March 22, 1860. She died January 24, 1934 age 74. Martha Ashton was a successful school teacher for 30 years. The History of American Manufactures lists Peter Ashton as a gun barrel maker in 1864. Ashton rented the old Simeon North factory and invested heavily in machinery to make the musket barrels. Ashton delivered 9000 barrels before going bankrupt. By 1859 Peter Ashton established a nursery and agriculture business. He won prizes for his products at the state fair in New Haven Connecticut in 1859 He received a First Premium prize of $8 for his display of twelve varieties of apples. Peter H. Ashton died on November 20, 1888 and is buried with his family in Middlefield Cemetery The road is named fo Henry H. Aston who was born in England and was a local military pistol maker. In fact Peter Ashton was a partner in a firm known as H. Aston and Company. I like your Middletown Patch I did nto know where Ashton's home and property ws located Cheers Lew Southard Virginia
Elizabeth Warner October 17, 2011 at 10:31 PM
Wow, Lew! Many thanks!
Bob Satagaj December 23, 2012 at 03:56 AM
Elizabeth: Thanks for shedding light on staddle hill. My grandmother lived on beverley heights. The Marszalek grocery store still stands. It's the last structure on the right, heading toward midldefield, before you would turn in to Starr Mill. That access road into Starr Mill is now blockaded. We hung out there as kids, and if you ever watched the Andy Griffith show, it was a lot like that. Baseball , fishing, sitting on the store porch with soda pop, and trading baseball cards. I just recently googled staddle hill because I am interested in gathering information and data on the staddle hill baseball team. I was surprised to see any information there. My concern is that the Staddle Hill baseball team will be forgotten, and not recieve the recognition the team and its fans deserve in being very instrumental, if not the key factor in developing Palmer Field into one of the premier baseball venues in the state, and setting a precedent for high achievment in sports, which is prevalent in Middletown , notorious, and mostly unrivaled. My understanding is that Mr. Marsalek, the grocery store owner, was at one time the coach of the staddle hill team . I would like to hear from anyone who has knowledge of, experience with the staddle hill baseball team. Thanks. Bob S.
Alice K. Gorman February 12, 2013 at 01:36 AM
Query on Middletown Patch I have been on a tear for months attempting to find information about Staddle Hill School's Principle, Anna Bibeau McCarthy. I attended Staddle Hill School from 1st through 4th grade, until the school closed. I then attended West Side School (renamed Spencer School, I think) until my family moved to Cromwell in 1953. Mrs. Anna McCarthy was the principle of both Staddle Hill and West Side School. I resided on Starr Mill Road until I was 5 years old and then Boston Road until our relocation to Cromwell My sister and I continued to interact with Mrs. McCarthy and her husband Edward at 163 College St. Middletown. Mr. McCarthy died abt. 1956-57. After graduation from Cromwell High in 1959, I lost contact with Mrs. McCarthy; except meeting her once at St. Pius Church, Westfield abt. 1965. She no longer resided on Broad Street. My interest in Mrs. McCarthy is that I have begun tracing my family history and find that my grandmother Marie Lavallee King (a.k.a. Roy) who resided on 20 Boston Road has many Bibeau's in her ancestry. Is there anyone out there who may be able to shed a light as to where Mrs. Anna Bibeau McCarthy may have lived out her life? I am hoping to find her death record. I have lived on the East Coast of Florida for a number so I do not have the resources to access CT records easily from this distance. Incidentally, Bob S. I remember both Marsalek’s and Baron’s stores quite well. Alice G.

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