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Waterbury Station/ Clock Tower

Foundations of America

QU201 Prof. Scott Leone

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Home Stony Creek Granite Sites Commercial Structures Waterbury Station/ Clock Tower

Waterbury Station/ Clock Tower

Stony Creek Granite-

Waterbury Clock Tower and Railroad Station

Waterbury (nicknamed the "Brass City") is a city in New Haven County, Connecticut, on the Naugatuck River, 33 miles southwest of Hartford and 77 miles northeast of New York City. The city has a total population of 107,902 and is the ninth largest city in New England, the fifth-largest city in Connecticut and the second largest city in New Haven County. Of Waterbury’s historical sites, the famous railroad station and clock tower are sites constructed of Stony Creek Granite.

Waterbury’s historic railroad station was built in 1875 and was the centerpiece of Waterbury Village for more than 75 years. Through the 1950s, Waterbury Station served as the gateway to Vermont attractions; among them alpine skiing at nearby Stowe, and the Mad River Glen. The Central Vermont Railway Ski Train brought tens of thousands of passengers to Vermont’s ski slopes and winter carnivals.

As the interstate highway system reached deeper into the Green Mountains, train travel began its decline. Waterbury Station saw its last steam locomotive in 1957, and a Waterbury exit ramp built on Interstate 84 in 1962 loomed as the beginning of the end of Waterbury’s rail history.

The world famous architectural firm of McKim, Mead & White of N.Y., the same firm that designed the Great Hall at Ellis Island constructed the Union Clock Tower. It was modeled after the Torre del Mangia at the Palazzo Publico in Siena, Italy. A handsome brown brick with Stony Creek granite foundation were used for the exterior, with a multitude of intricate brick patterns.

The quality of this construction has stood the test of time. Originally, the station clock tower was not included in the plans. An executive of the railroad had traveled in Italy, and returned, insisting that a tower be added to the station. Thus the slender 245 foot campanile (bell tower) was added. It cost $332,000 to build in 1909. The clocktower is 240 feet (73 m) high and has 318 steps. Seth Thomas Co. from nearby Thomaston, Connecticut made the clock, with a dial 16 feet (4.9 m) in diameter with 5-foot (1.5 m) tall Roman numerals. The eight she-wolf gargoyles are a reminder of the myth of Romulus and Remus. This is because, like Rome, Waterbury is surrounded by 7 distinct hills, with a river flowing though the center valley, the Naugatuck, which is also fed by the Mad River.

The Stony Creek Quarry Corporation recognizes the Waterbury Clock Tower as a site whose foundation is built mainly of Stony Creek Granite.

Waterbury’s railroads once were part of the ambitious scheme that connected New England railroads with Lake Erie. Thus the line was engineered to the wide gauge that the early Erie embraced. High, wide clearances allowed the New York & New England, as it was then called, to handle freight that could not be accommodated on the Shore Line. During the height of the passenger era, Waterbury handled some 86 passenger trains a day! In the summer of 1915, six passenger trains could be seen at one time in the station. Railroad offices occupied the station’s upper floors.

The station is situated in the heart of the downtown area at the foot of a hill, and a lovely view across a historic town green space greatly enhances the setting. The New Haven dominated southern New England, and this station is one of its best examples of that influence. In the 1950’s, railroad service began to decline, as Waterbury and the rest of New England began its slow migration away from manufacturing to a service based economy.

Due to its industrial prowess, Waterbury contributed greatly to the World War II cause both in production and in manpower. So much so, in a documentary titled “The War” about the American experience during World War II by renowned filmmaker Ken Burns, Waterbury was chosen one of four American cities to be featured. “By the 1920s, more than a third of the brass manufactured in the United States was made in the Naugatuck Valley, and Waterbury came to be known as the “Brass City.” Its skilled workers turned out screws, washers and buttons; showerheads and alarm clocks; toy airplanes and lipstick holders; and cocktail shakers. “Waterbury was an industrial city,” Ray Leopold said. A gathering place for some of the best mechanical, industrial talent probably in America. The talent there is just remarkable. There is no one nationality that seems to have a lead on it. They were Italian, Swiss, French, Irish, Asiatic, South American. This talent was very widespread.”

The city, like the rest of the country, endured hard times during the Great Depression, as industries imploded and thousands were thrown out of work. But all that changed when America began to gear up for World War II, and local factories retooled for war production. “Waterbury was the brass center of the world and we had every factory going full blast,” DeVico said. “Especially because it was the war. The war was going on. So we had factories. Everywhere you looked there were factories. And everybody — when they got out of school — went into the factories.” Because of its concentration of war industries, Waterbury was believed to be a strategic bombing target for the German Luftwaffe. Waterbury Clock, which would later be known as Timex during that time built a new plant in 1942 to accommodate the military’s demands for mechanical time fuses and other aircraft and artillery equipment.

The Waterbury newspaper, today known as the Republican-American, acquired the station. The paper is the193rd-largest newspaper (as of September 2005[update]) with an average Sunday circulation of 61,10. It was distinguished in 1940 with a Pulitzer Prize for Public Service "for its campaign exposing municipal graft" which is on public display. The name resulted from the merger of two newspapers in the early 1990s — the American and the Republican — by their owner, William J. Pape. The newspaper was founded and is still controlled by the Pape family through a holding company, American-Republican Inc., with William J. Pape II serving as current publisher. The executive editor is Jonathan F. Kellogg. The newspaper added a wing for its printing presses, and a second floor was inserted into the once-open concourse. Second floor office occupants enjoy the wonderful vaulted ceiling.

Passenger service all but disappeared as the New Haven fell into the chaos of Penn Central’s bankruptcy June 21, 1970, after only two years of operating following a merger. The Penn Central Transportation Company, commonly abbreviated to Penn Central, was an American railroad company that operated from 1968 until 1976. It was created on February 1, 1968, by the merger of the Pennsylvania Railroad and the New York Central Railroad. The New York, New Haven and Hartford Railroad was added to the merger at the insistence of the Interstate Commerce Commission (ICC) on January 1, 1969.


In present day, the Connecticut DOT has restored rail service to Waterbury with the Metro North operating the trains. The locomotives, although somewhat the worse for wear, and worn out, sport the New Haven’s famous "McGinnis" paint scheme from the 1950’s. Given the turnaround in commuter railroads in New England, perhaps one-day service will be expanded, and intercity passenger trains will once again call at this classic landmark


Commuters are boarding the 9:15 am departure to New York. Jon Rothenmeyer photo.

The clock tower in downtown Waterbury, originally part of Union Station train station  


Old Postcard of Waterbury Yard

Old Postcard of Waterbury Yard

Aerial view of Waterbury Yard from station tower (present day

Torre Del Mangia Clock Tower

Siena, Italy

(gargoyles pictured)







Works Cited

Dent,  Jin. "Great Railroad Stations - Waterbury, CT." TrainWeb for Train Travel, Model

Railroading, Railfans and the Railroad Industry. 06 Dec. 2001. Web. 18 Oct. 2010.

"History | Waterbury Station." Waterbury Station - Green Mountain Coffee Visitor

Center & Cafe. N.p., n.d. Web. 18 Oct. 2010.

Stony Creek Quarry Corporation. "Architecture." Stony Creek Quarry Corporation.

Web. 17 Oct. 2010.

“Train Stations of Connecticut in Pictures” Web. 10 Nov. 2010

"waterbury station history - Google Search." Google. N.p., n.d. Web. 17 Oct. 2010.



Last Updated on Friday, 12 November 2010 16:53  


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