Norma Bartol: New owners spare building from wrecking ball

December 8, 2016 GMT

We certainly have many tear downs as we all know, which is why I was quite startled when I saw a headline in the paper, “CL&P Building Dubbed Historic Place” (Greenwich Time, Business, Dec. 2). It would seem that the commercial buildings are being saved.

The building is at 330 Railroad Avenue and has been approved for listing on the Connecticut Register of Historic Places. In 1928, which also happens to be the year I was born, it was designed for Connecticut Light and Power. The building was distinguished by its Art Deco design.

Although it did not come into my view just then, it did later on when I started riding my bicycle from Belle Haven. As I have said before, I remember the building being rather large for those days, or maybe it only looked that way to me since I was little and on a bicycle.

Evidently, Eversource Energy sold the property in March to 330 Railroad Avenue LLC, which is now working on fixing it up so that it can be used for commercial space. According to the article in the paper, the renovations will keep the “industrial bones” to maintain the character while updating almost everything else.

Although it is registered on the Register of Historic Places, this does not mean that it cannot be wrecked. As we all know, so many historic houses have been razed. I certainly thank 330 Railroad Avenue LLC for saving a commercial building. Unfortunately there is no one else so far, except for those wonderful people who have arranged it so their houses cannot be destroyed. The first people to do this were the Frank Snyders on Round Hill Road, and my good friend and riding companion Sandra Hillman. What a wonderful thing for them to do.

As you all know, I spend a good deal of time rummaging through my files and I can’t believe what I found. It is a column by my good friend and former editor of Greenwich Time, Bernie Yudain. Interestingly enough, I had arranged with a reporter to talk about the buildings that have been up and down Greenwich Avenue and around town. Stores that were with us in the past but some of them are not anymore. Since no one can do a job that Bernie can do, I will give it to you from his column. No one can do it better than our wonderful friend Bernie Yudain.

Bernie tells a story that he received from Ted Walworth from an article that ran in the Greenwich Press in 1921. It seems as though a turkey broke loose from Conyers Farm and ran down Greenwich Avenue, passing several stores along the way. He names The Trust Company with a sign over the second floor, “Home Bakery, Oppt. Depot Meals served at all hours, etc.” Next to that building is the Greenwich Economy Company, which sold groceries, fruit and vegetables. Above that, a sign, “The Greenwich National Bank, Smith Bldg.” Across the street, “Greenwich Trust Company - a Greenwich Bank for Greenwich People, estb. 1887.” Then Boswell Drug Co. and above that White Stripe Taxi, as a horse-drawn milk wagon — “Round Hill Farms - Pasteurized Milk & Cream” advertised on the side — darts to safety from the ensuing chase of the turkey. Other signs: “Joseph Rivers - Rickenbacker Cars - sales & service” and “Oscar Thomsen & Co., plumbing and heating.”

Bernie goes on to say, “There’s Mead Stationery flogging rulers, pencils, penholders, Eversharp pencils, etc. … And J. R. Johnson Garage - Norwalk tires … Bang’s Gas … Repair Shop … Essex & Hudson.” There’s a Piggly Wiggly grocery store sign promising “high-grade groceries at a low-price level.” Then there’s Martin Clothing Co. — men’s and women’s wear of every description. It’s all very fetching, and as Bernie says, the story must have amused the readers of the Greenwich Press. I felt so lucky to have found Bernie’s article and only wish that I had more.

I do know that you history buffs do enjoy my historical bits and pieces. I certainly enjoy researching and then writing them for you. Our town has a fascinating history and I can only hope that the destruction of houses that is going on will not destroy part of that history. And again, I thank 330 Railroad Avenue LLC for keeping a historical building rather than contributing to the tear downs for which we are known. What a wonderful thing for them to do.