Throughout the first half of the 20th century Waterbury had large industrial interests and was the leading center in the United States for the manufacture of brassware (including castings and finishings), as reflected in the nickname the "Brass City" and the city's motto Quid Aere Perennius? ("What Is More Lasting Than Brass?"), which echoes the Latin of Horace's Ode 3.30. It was noted for the manufacture of watches and clocks.
The original settlement of Waterbury was in 1674 as a Town Plot section. In 1675 King Philip's War caused it to be vacated but the land, was returned to in 1677, this time west of the first settlement. Both sites are now marked. The Algonquin name for the area was "Matetacoke", meaning "place without trees." Thus the settlement was named "Mattatuck" in 1673. The name changed to Waterbury on May 15, 1686, when the settlement was admitted as the 28th town in the Connecticut Colony. It then included all or parts of the later towns of Watertown, Plymouth, Wolcott, Prospect, Naugatuck, Thomaston, and Middlebury. The name Waterbury was chosen because of all the streams flowing into the Naugatuck River. Growth was slow during Waterbury's first hundred years. The lack of arable land discouraged new settlers, and the residents suffered through the great flood of 1691 and the great sickness of 1712. After a century, Waterbury's population numbered just 5,000.
Waterbury hit its stride as an industrial power in the early 19th century when it began to manufacture brass. The new brass industry in this small city attracted many workers from all over the world, leading to an influx of immigrants from every nationality. As the "Brass Capital of the World", the city gained a reputation for the quality and durability of its goods. Waterbury was incorporated as a city in 1853. Waterbury supplied brass and copper used in Boulder Dam in Nevada. Waterbury brass was used for many other things in the United States such as minting disks for nickels, but the brass also went into South American coins.
Another famous Waterbury product of the mid-19th century was Robert H. Ingersoll's one-dollar pocket watch, five million of which were sold. After this, the clock industry became as important as Waterbury's famed brass industry. Evidence of these two important industries can still be seen in Waterbury, as numerous clocktowers and old brass factories have become landmarks of the city.
South Main Street, about 1910
Downtown on East Main Street in 1954
At its peak during World War II, 10,000 people worked at the Scovill Manufacturing Co, later sold to Century Brass. The city's metal manufacturing mills (Scovill Manufacturing, Anaconda American Brass, and Chase Brass & Copper were the largest) occupied more than 2 million square feet (180,000 m²) and more than 90 buildings.
Established in 1894, St. Joseph's Church holds the distinction of being the first Lithuanian worshiping community in Connecticut.
The first Unico Club was founded in Waterbury in 1922. It now has 8,000 members and 150 regional groups. The membership is composed of business and professional people of Italian lineage or those who are married to an Italian-American. The clubs sponsor educational, cultural and civic programs.
Sacred Heart was the first Catholic high school in Connecticut, September 6, 1922.
One of the first full-length sound motion pictures was made in the 1920s at the studios of the Bristol Co. at Platts Mills by Professor William Henry Bristol, who experimented for years with sound pictures.
W1XBS in Waterbury was one of only four radio stations in the country that began experimental high fidelity broadcasting in 1934. The station broadcast at 1530 kc, and joined the CBS Radio Network on December 1, 1938. They moved to 1590 kc and changed the call letters to WBRY in 1941, in accordance with the North American Radio Broadcasting Agreement. The station's broadcasting license was cancelled in 1998 to allow New York's WWRL to be upgraded; at the time it had been known as WQQW.
Victor Zembruski started his Polish Eagles show on Waterbury radio station WATR in 1934. It is now the oldest continuously broadcast show on American radio.
The Chase Dispensary, a medical clinic for employees of the Chase Brass & Copper Co., opened one of the first birth control clinics in the country in 1938.
According to the United States Census Bureau, the city has a total area of 29.0 square miles (75.0 km2), of which 28.5 square miles (73.9 km2) is land and 0.42 square miles (1.1 km2), or 1.46%, is water.
Waterbury's neighborhoods are shaped by the history and geography of the city.
Ethnic communities distinguish the city's 25 neighborhoods. Clusters of shops at the street corners created villages within the city. For many people, home, work and community life was contained within their neighborhood. Downtown, a short walk away, was "the city", offering live theater, fancy stores, parades and spectacles.
Commuting in the Greater Waterbury area consists of multiple public transportation options. CT Transit operates a significant amount of city buses running from the city center at Exchange Place to various neighborhoods in the city.Metro-North Railroad runs commuter trains multiple times a day between the Waterbury station and Bridgeport, with connections to Grand Central Terminal in New York City. The two main highways that run through the heart of the city are I-84 (Yankee Expressway) and Route 8. In the downtown area, I-84 and Route 8 are located on the elevated William W. Deady Bridge, known locally as the "MixMaster" with eastbound traffic on the upper deck and westbound traffic on the lower deck. The interchange is ranked as one of the most heavily congested traffic areas in the New York/Connecticut region.
As of the census of 2010, there were 110,366 people, 42,761 households, and 26,996 families residing in the city. The population density was 3,866 people per square mile (1,449.7/km²). There were 42,761 housing units at an average density of 1,492.0 per square mile. The racial makeup of the city was 58.8% White, 20.1% Black or African American, 0.6% Native American, 1.8% Asian, 0.1% Pacific Islander, 14.2% from other races, and 4.6% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 31.2% of the population.
Waterbury has a heavy Italian-American population with 21.46% of its residents claiming Italian heritage. The Italian influence is especially strong in the Town Plot, Brooklyn, and North End neighborhoods. Additionally, the city is home to thriving Puerto Rican, French-Canadian, Portuguese, Lebanese, Lithuanian, and Albanian communities. Waterbury has strong Irish roots as well, especially in Washington Hill and Overlook sections - the Willow Street area was nicknamed "cracker hill", which is home to the city's annual St. Patrick Day's Parade, which, oddly enough, is rarely held on St. Patrick's Day itself. At the beginning of the 21st century, Waterbury had a growing Orthodox Jewish population.
There were 42,622 households out of which 31.2% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 34.7% were married couples living together, 28.4% had a single householder with no husband present, and 36.9% were non-families. 31.4% of all households were made up of individuals and 12.1% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.46 and the average family size was 3.11.
In the city the population was spread out with 25.6% under the age of 18, 10.1% from 18 to 24, 27.4% from 25 to 44, 24.3% from 45 to 64, and 12.6% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 35.2 years. For every 100 females there were 89.9 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 85.8 males.
The median income for a household in the city was $40,254, and the median income for a family was $47,077. Males had a median income of $35,486 versus $27,428 for females. The per capita income for the city was $21,545. About 12.7% of families and 16.0% of the population were below the poverty line, including 23.6% of those under age 18 and 11.1% of those age 65 or over.
Orthodox Jewish community
Waterbury had a significant Jewish population in the 1960s, but by 1990 most members had moved to other cities and only one Orthodoxsynagogue remained. The Orthodox Jewish community has experienced a renaissance since 2000 due to efforts by educators and developers to create an affordable alternative to the high cost of living in established Orthodox communities in New York and New Jersey. This renaissance began with the founding of the Yeshiva K'tana of Waterbury in 2000; as of 2014 this full-service elementary and middle school has nearly 400 students. Other educational institutions are the Yeshiva Gedolah of Waterbury, which includes a mesivta high school and beit medrash program for approximately 230 students, a Bais Yaakov school for girls, and a kolel. As of the end of 2014, the Waterbury Orthodox community numbers 180 families and includes a mikveh, eruv, and community services such as Hatzalah and Chaverim.
Waterbury's economic decline in the 1970s and 1980s resulted in it being ranked as having the worst quality of life of 300 U.S. metropolitan areas by Money Magazine in 1992. Waterbury was also rated as one of the "Worst Places for Businesses and Careers in America" by Forbes Magazine in April 2008. Regardless, the city was named on the 100 Best Places to Raise a Family list in the same year.
According to the city's 2010 Comprehensive Annual Financial Report, the top employers in the city are:
Waterbury has about 52,000 registered voters, of whom about 24,000 are Democrats. There are about 7,800 registered Republicans and the balance are largely unaffiliated, with a smattering belonging to minor parties.
John S. Monagan, who was a prolific author in addition to his political responsibilities, served as Waterbury's mayor from 1943 to 1948. He also served as its district's congressional representative from 1959 to 1973. George Harlamon, a member of the Waterbury Hall of Fame, was the city's 40th mayor. He served from 1969 to 1970 during a period of racial tension. The city is known for its hard-nosed political culture compared locally to Cook County, Illinois, close elections, and a number of scandals. This reputation is so solidified that U.S. Senator Joseph I. Lieberman once joked that upon his death, he hoped to be buried in Waterbury so he could remain politically active.
Waterbury's scandalous past dates back to 1940 when Mayor T. Frank Hayes and 22 others were convicted of conspiracy to defraud the City of Waterbury. Hayes received a 10–15 year sentence and served six years. Ironically, the massive corruption scheme was exposed with the help of then comptroller Sherwood Rowland, grandfather of Gov. John G. Rowland, who was convicted on corruption charges in 2004. The 2007 lulu.com book, Publisher vs. Politician: A Clash of Local Titans, by author William A. Monti, is an account of the rise and fall of T. Frank Hayes and focuses on his election campaigns, his bitter fights with William J. Pape, publisher of two local newspapers, and his ultimate trial, conviction, and sentencing for corruption. Ironically, what appeared to have been a defeat for Hayes was not really a victory for Pape, and the stage was set for further corruption in Waterbury in the second half of the 20th century. Waterbury was in serious financial straits due to years of mismanagement, resulting in the city's finances being take over by the State of Connecticut. The State Oversight Board oversaw city business for several years and have since left following consecutive years of balanced budgets. The successors to Philip Giordano, former Acting Mayor Sam Caligiuri (2001) and former mayor Michael Jarjura (2001–2011) managed the city without major controversy since 2001. Democrat Neil O'Leary was elected the 46th Mayor of Waterbury on November 9, 2011. As of July 2012, the Mayor of Waterbury earns an annual salary of $119,306.
A number of presidential candidates have campaigned in Waterbury due to its pivotal role in statewide elections. The most famous was the election eve visit on the Green by John F. Kennedy in 1960. Forty thousand people waited until 3 am on the Green to greet Kennedy on Sunday, November 6, 1960. Sen. Kennedy spoke to them from the balcony of the Roger Smith Hotel (now called the Elton). Pierre Salinger later said it was the greatest night of the campaign. In September 1984 Ronald Reagan held a huge noontime election rally at the same location. In July 2006 former President Bill Clinton made a campaign appearance at the Palace Theatre for Senator Joe Lieberman during his campaign for re-election to the U.S. Senate. Shortly after the Democratic primary, Tom Swan, campaign manager for Lieberman's opponent Ned Lamont, described Waterbury as a place where "the forces of slime meet the forces of evil," after a large majority of the town's voters backed Lieberman. Swan claimed he was referring to former Mayor Philip A. Giordano and former Governor John G. Rowland.
Governor John G. Rowland served ten months in a federal prison until February 10, 2006. He was released from federal prison with the stipulation that he serve four months house arrest with an electronic ankle bracelet monitor until June 2006.
In January 2008 Waterbury Mayor Michael Jarjura announced that he would hire Rowland as an economic development advisor for the city. Rowland began work in February that year receiving an annual salary of $95,000 as the city's economic development coordinator funded in conjunction with the Greater Waterbury Chamber of Commerce.
In 2011, the Board of Aldermen voted to eliminate funding the city's portion of his salary and in November 2011 Rowland stated he would give up his position when his contract expired thus ending his quasi-city employment.
Later that year, following his victory over then Mayor Jarjura, new Mayor Neil O'Leary created the position of Economic Development Director as part of his new administration, removing the duties from the Chamber of Commerce and bringing them directly into City Hall, making Economic Development a cornerstone of his administration. Ron Pugliese was hired as the first Director to hold the position.
Waterbury is home to a total of 42 schools. That number breaks down to 9 high schools, 3 middle schools, 26 elementary schools (private & public), 2 Jewish schools and 5 colleges/universities. The city's public schools are operated by Waterbury Public Schools under the leadership of superintendent Dr. Kathleen Ouellette and a board of education that consists of ten elected members and the city mayor, who acts as the chairman ex-officio. Waterbury at one time had the designation of the most catholic schools in the State. However St. Thomas, St. Lucy, St. Margaret, St. Joseph, and St. Francis Elementary Schools have all closed over the years due to budget constraints.
The city of Waterbury is protected by the paid, full-time firefighters of the Waterbury Fire Department (WFD). The department currently operates out of eight fire stations located throughout the city.
The Waterbury Police Department (WPD) was founded in 1853. Headquarters is at 255 East Main Street, while the Waterbury police academy is located at the Waterbury Police Department Annex at 240 Bank Street. Chief of Police is Vernon Riddick, who holds the distinction of being the first African-American to hold the position in the departments history.
The Waterbury Police Athletic League (PAL)is one of the top-rated PAL associations in the nation. The PAL headquarters is located in the city's North End and consists of mix-use buildings and a state of the art athletic complex. The department's Community Relations division plays a key role in PAL's operations.
Exchange Place, the transportation and business center of Waterbury, in the early 1950s
The Apothecary Building, the focal point of Exchange Place in the center of Waterbury at the intersection of South Main and Bank streets, was built in 1893 and housed the Apothecaries Hall Pharmacy for over 70 years. In August 2010, PM Architecture in New York City announced plans to convert the Apothecary, into 12 luxury apartments. The project was completed in Fall of 2013.
The 2,500-pound (1,100 kg) statue on the Carrie Welton Fountain on the east end of the Green is in memory of Caroline Josephine Welton's black stallion, Knight, and her love of animals. The fountain was dedicated November 10, 1888.
Sculpted by former Waterbury resident George C. Bissell as a tribute to the whole Civil War experience, the 48-foot-high (15 m) bronze Soldiers' Monument on the west end of the Green was cast in Paris and cost $25,000. It was dedicated October 23, 1884. Other Bissell works include the Memorial to Scottish American soldiers of the Civil War located in Edinburgh, Scotland, and many statues in Riverside Cemetery, including one of Waterbury Civil War hero, Col. John L. Chatfield. The poem on the Soldiers Monument, by Dr. Joseph Anderson of Waterbury history fame, was included in the Library of American Literature: Brave men, who rallying at your country's callWent forth to fight – if Heaven willed, to fall:Returned, ye walk with us through sunnier yearsAnd hear your nation say, God bless you all!Brave men, who yet a heavier burden boreAnd came not home to hearts by grief made sore!They call you dead and lo ye grandly live.Shrined in the nation's love forevermore! Designed by Luis Fucito for the City of Waterbury for about $55,000, it was intended in honor of all those who have served in the wars of the United States. The 15-foot (4.6 m) star was dedicated on May 30, 1958, and is located on the west end of the Green.
Built in 1905, the Elton Hotel on the Waterbury Green was a grand hotel which served as the starting point for the "Ideal Tour". Created by the Elton's first manager, Almon Judd, this tour created a convoy of early automobiles which journeyed to New England resorts. The Elton was considered one of New England's most elegant hotels until the 1960s, when it became the Roger Smith Hotel. It is now an assisted living facility. President John F. Kennedy made a campaign speech from the balcony of the hotel on Sunday, November 6, 1960. Forty thousand people waited until 3 am on the Green to greet then Senator John F. Kennedy who spoke to them from the balcony of the hotel. A plaque was later added to the building to commemorate the occasion. Also on the building is a plaque commemorating the establishment of Unico National in the city in 1922.
The Cass Gilbert National Register District came about after nationally renowned architect Cass Gilbert won a competition to design Waterbury's City Hall building on Grand Street, which was completed in 1915. Gilbert was then hired to design the Chase Headquarters Building (facing City Hall and now a municipal building housing the mayor's office); a bank building next to City Hall; the Lincoln House and the Chase Dispensary buildings on Field Street; and the Waterbury Club on West Main Street (demolished in the 1960s); and coordinated the landscaping of Library Park with the Olmsted Brothers in the 1920s.
A Christopher Columbus statue was completed by sculptor Frank Gaylord of Barre, Vermont, for the Christopher Columbus Committee and the Waterbury Unico National Club at a total cost of $45,000, $25,000 for the statue and $20,000 for the base. The 12-foot (3.7 m) Christopher Columbus statue is made of granite and weighs 12,000 pounds (5,400 kg). Standing in front of City Hall, this statue was dedicated October 12, 1984. The Christopher Columbus Time Capsule, closed October 12, 1992 to be opened October 12, 2092, is behind the monument. The base of the sculpture reads: Cristoforo Columbo 1451–1506 Discover of America October 12, 1492
The Ben Franklin statue seated in front of the Silas Bronson Library on Grand Street was designed by renowned sculptor Paul Wayland Bartlett, a one-time Waterbury resident. The 1,700-pound (770 kg) statue was made possible by a $15,000 donation from Elisha Leavenworth. After completion, it made a 22-city tour, with celebrations in each city, from Baltimore to Boston and then to Waterbury where it was dedicated June 3, 1921.
The Waterbury Courthouse on the corner of Grand and Meadow streets, with its graceful curved facade and brass-bedecked entranceway, was the headquarters of the Anaconda American Brass Company for over 50 years. A large addition was put on the building in 1998.
Waterbury Clock Co. buildings
The [[Timex Group USA|Waterbury Clock Company buildingson Cherry Avenue were constructed in 1857. By the end of the 19th century, the company employed 3,000 workers and turned out 20,000 clocks and watches a day. The Great Depression sent the Waterbury Clock Co. into receivership, and the company was eventually purchased by Thomas Olsen (owner and operator of Fred. Olsen Shipping Co.) and Joakim Lehmkuhl of Norway during World War II to aid in the war effort, becoming the largest producer of fuse timers for precision defense products in the United States. The company was renamed the United States Time Corporation in 1944 following its wartime success. Manufacturing operations here ceased when production was moved to a new factory in Middlebury, Connecticut, in 1942, and the buildings now house several small businesses. The company still operates today as Timex Group USA, maintaining its headquarters in Middlebury.
Harrub Pilgrim Memorial
The 175 ton, 60-foot-long (18 m) Harrub Pilgrim Memorial was carved out of French granite by Hermon Atkins MacNeil of New York. Charles Harrub, an engineer for the American Brass Company, donated the $100,000 needed for the project to honor his wife and the Pilgrims. Dedicated October 11, 1930, at its original location at the entrance to Chase Park across from the Freight Street bridge, it was moved for the construction of the Interstate Route 84 / Route 8 interchange and is now located at the corner of Highland Avenue and Chase Parkway.
Chief Two Moon Meridas Laboratory is on East Main Street. He built it in 1925 and manufactured his world famous herbal medications there until his death in 1933. The Indian Heads and two moons engraved on the front exterior walls have recently been removed.
The Holy Land USA sign and cross in 1960
Holy Land USA was an 18-acre (73,000 m2) park in Waterbury, representing a miniature Jerusalem and Bethlehem. It was one of Connecticut's biggest tourist attractions in the 1960s and 1970s, with 50,000 visitors per year. Holy Land USA was built in the 1950s by local attorney John Baptist Greco. The 50-foot (15 m) cross was designed and built by Frank Veto Lyman. This steel cross was once lit up purple for Lent and red for the Christmas season. Holy Land USA closed in 1984. Comedy Central's The Daily Show with Jon Stewart spoofed Holy Land in a November 2002 segment with correspondent Stephen Colbert satirically comparing the park to Israel. The cross was one of Waterbury's most beloved and prominent landmarks. Illuminated at night, it was a beacon seen from many homes and thousands of motorists passing daily on highways below. Pilots even used it for orientation. The original cross was 32 feet (9.8 m) tall and was erected in 1956. The cross was dedicated to world peace in a ceremony attended by 1,200 people in November of that year. It was the beginning of Holy Land. That original cross was replaced in 1968, by a cross of steel girders and plastic that housed fluorescent lights that reached 56 feet (17 m) into the sky. That cross was dedicated to peace and also to the slain John and Robert Kennedy. In April 2008, workmen took down the former, damaged cross, and in June 2008, a new 50-foot (15 m) cross was blessed and rededicated by Archbishop Henry J. Mansell. On October 2013, the smaller, un-illuminated steel cross was removed to make way for a new 52 feet (16 m) internally lit steel cross, dedicated on December 22, 2013.
The Mattatuck Museum Arts and History Center is the only museum in Connecticut dedicated to collecting and exhibiting Connecticut artists and sculptors. Previously housed in the historic Kendrick House on the other side of the Green, the museum moved to the former Masonic Temple in 1986. The renovation and construction was designed by noted Argentine-born architect Cesar Pelli. Exhibits in the ground floor galleries reveal the history of Waterbury and surrounding towns. New additions to the history exhibit include an interactive display about the region's slavery history. Recent additions to the art collections include a gallery display about Alexander Calder and a "Giant Critter" designed by Calder in the museum's courtyard.
Looking east on East Main Street in Waterbury, Sacred Heart Church in center
Another educational landmark of Waterbury is the Timexpo Museum. The museum, which is in what were formerly factory buildings of the Scovill Manufacturing Company, opened to the public in May 2001. There are three floors of exhibits that explore the heritage of the world-famous Timex Group, tracing back to its early days as the Waterbury Clock Company. Visitors can witness the birth and growth of Timex, enjoying demonstrations of the inner workings of clock and watches. Within the museum there are a variety of hands on exhibits with craft activities, and computer interactions.
Before the Brass Mill Center Mall was built, the Naugatuck Valley Shopping Mall was the main shopping center of the area. It was located on Wolcott Street and built in August 1969. The Naugatuck Valley Mall first opened with an interior movie theater and two well-known anchors in the Connecticut area: Sears and G. Fox.
The Brass Mill Center & Commons is a shopping venue built on the site of old Scovill Manufacturing Co. factory buildings near the center of Waterbury. It houses many stores and restaurants including Old Navy, American Eagle, Hollister Co., Barnes & Noble, Chili's, IHOP, Bertucci's, Macy’s, JCPenney, Sears, Burlington Coat Factory.
Originally opened in 1922, the Palace Theatre was home to films and vaudeville shows. It operated for nearly seventy years before being closed in 1987. Thanks to the financial backing of the State of Connecticut and the support of then-Governor Rowland, the theatre reopened on November 12, 2004.
The Chase Collegiate School is a private day school formerly known as Saint Margaret's-McTernan established in 1865 by Chase Brass and Copper Company.
Minicucci's Men's Clothing Store, the oldest store in downtown Waterbury, closed in late 2009. Minicucci's was owned by Arnold Minicucci who inherited the store from his father, Erasamo Minicucci. The store was founded in the early 20th century and was located on Bank Street.
Waterbury-born John Fusco, noted screenwriter and novelist, wrote Paradise Salvage (Simon and Schuster 2001), a novel set in Waterbury. The Italian-American coming-of-age story was inspired by several incidents of civic corruption in the Brass City.
Gladys Taber's romance novel, Give Me the Stars (1945), was set in Waterbury and in the Chase Brass & Copper Company's factory, giving vivid depictions of factory life during World War II.
The Today Show on NBC was broadcast from the Hotel Elton on August 18, 1955, to cover the festivities for the world premiere of Waterbury native Rosalind Russell's movie The Girl Rush at the State Theater that evening. A major flood on August 19, 1955, caused over 50 million dollars in property damage and the deaths of 29 Waterbury residents; The Today Show provided live coverage of the flood to the country.
Waterbury appeared in Ken Burns' documentary miniseries The War as one of four American towns whose history and residents' experiences during World War II were examined in depth.
The musical Mad Bomber, written by Waterbury native Charles Monagan with music by Waterburian Richard DeRosa, premiered June 2011 at Waterbury's Seven Angels Theatre. The story, set in New York City and Waterbury, depicts the life and crimes (and capture) of Waterbury's notorious Mad Bomber, George Metesky.
The name "Waterbury" appears in the cargo hold on the ship when traveling across the ocean in the 2012 game Assassin's Creed III.
Waterbury is a main gathering point for rebels in "Requiem," the third book in Lauren Oliver's Delirium Series.
Waterbury shares a name with the setting of the movie Happy Gilmore, although it never mentions what state the city in located in. Sandler has stated the movie was based on his childhood growing up in Manchester, New Hampshire. Contrary to the movie there is no golf tournament named The Waterbury Open.
Robert Gallo, biomedical researcher, best known for his role in identifying the Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) as the infectious agent responsible for the Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS)
Mordechai Gifter, one of America's leading Torah scholars, served as rabbi of Waterbury's Jewish community from 1941 – 1945
Philip Giordano, former mayor of Waterbury (R), stripped of power in 2001 after a corruption investigation revealed alleged sexual acts with a minor and other possible pedophilia charges