This week’s column is reader-generated. I get dozens of emails and comments each week from Patch readers responding to Middletown history topics. Some people write to add important new information, to correct me, and to suggest history topics they would like to learn more about.
NEIGHBORHOOD STORES: Richard Mozdziesz responded to the article about the Staddle Hill stores.
He grew up on George Street and rode his bike into town through Staddle Hill, stopping at many of the stores I wrote about in my article from July 23. He let me know that the building that housed Marsalek’s Store on Middlefield Street is still standing. The store was on the same lot as the family house, both shown here.
I particularly love the house. It is constructed of decorative cement blocks, which were painted to give the house the appearance of being stone. This construction style was popular among immigrants to the United States, especially Polish families, at the turn of the 20th century. If interested, there are many examples in Middlefield and Middletown. Once you look around, you’ll be surprised how many there are.
Rich also let me know the location of the neighborhood store on West Street that was run by John W. Johnson in the 1950s. The lot, at the southeast corner of West Street and Butternut, opposite the old Mattabasett Grange (now a day care center), is vacant and wooded.
Like all of us kids who frequented neighborhood stores, Rich reminded me that they were primarily a place that we went to buy candy and ice cream. I am sure our parents used them in much more practical ways.
Other readers wrote to make sure I covered their favorite childhood stores in future articles. I will be sure to share the history of stores such as Moncardi’s, Marino’s, Community Market, Mohecan Market, Economy, Hillside Dairy, and many others. It is my goal to get to them all in the next few months!
MIDDLETOWN DUMPS: Rich also wrote to quiz me about Middletown dumps … literally, the places we dump our trash. I can honestly say, it is a topic I’d never thought much about. Today our garbage is brought to a site off the east side of Newfield Street. Rich let me know that there were several previous dump sites in town.
The City Yard at 485 Washington Street, which is nestled between Butternut Street and the railroad, was used as a dump in the 1940s and 50s, according to Rich. Prior to that, Middletown residents dumped their trash near the corner of Ridge Road and Mill Street, on the site where Marine Crane currently stores its equipment.
As you can see below, the site has since been built up and underneath all of that fill is the old dump. My grandmother lived on West Silver Street and she used to tell me about when that ravine was a millpond. In the 1920s, the town used the area on the other side (west) of Mill Street to dump our garbage.
Hubbard Park, at deKoven Drive and Main Street Extension, which houses Romegialli Field, was used as a dump in the 1890s. Believe it or not, at that time, this area was somewhat remote and considered unusable.
Lastly, in the 1870s, the site of the former Super Food Mart on Washington Street, formerly Waldbaum’s, Grant’s and Topps, was used for the final resting place of Middletown’s trash. Rich reminisced about his childhood in the 1950s, when the site was an open meadow. He recalls the big billboard in the 1960s announcing the “Future Site of Topp’s.” Wow. It is hard to imagine.
Please, keep the feedback and requests coming! I appreciate any comments and corrections. Research works well, but there is nothing like the memories of folks who were living the history! I look forward to hearing from you.