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History Corner: I Guess They Don’t Remember...

November 16, 2023
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History Corner: I Guess They Don’t Remember...
Samuel Halliwell mansion

As time marches on, the history of the Town of Orange depends on those of us who keep learning about it and in some instances, as with my column, put it into writing.  The one part of Orange that seems to be a mystery within the citizenry is Tyler City, so named by two New Haven entrepreneurs, Samuel Halliwell and Philander Ferry.  Halliwell was the proprietor of the Elm City Tea Store which carried nearly a dozen varieties of teas, nine coffees, numerous spices and wine.  Ferry operated a confectionery shop that sold baked goods and ice cream.  The New Haven and Derby railroad ran nearby and the two decided to see where indeed the little train went as it made its way to Derby Landing.

Thinking globally, they sought to buy land within the boundaries of Orange to plan for a town within a town to be named for the president of the railroad, Morris Tyler.  They came upon a farm owned by Lewis Bradley whose 175-acre farm was purchased for $24,400.  All buildings, six milk cows, four oxen, all the farm utensils, all manure, one ton of straw and five tons of hay were part of this huge undertaking, Tyler City.  Additional parcels of land were purchased north of Bradley’s farm from the Russell family.

The partners hired a man by the name of George Beckwith to survey the land who, as an eccentric was often seen barefoot wearing a long-tailed coat and a white beaver hat!  In Mary Woodruff’s book of the History of Orange she refers to the effort as “The Tyler City Bubble”  BUT it did have its hay day.  The New Haven and Derby railroad opened on August 9, 1871 to offer a better freight, passenger and mail service between New Haven and the Naugatuck Valley.  The Little Derby, as it was called, was a good 10 miles shorter than the other line to the valley and a town in between was just the “ticket” for success and Halliwell and Ferry were on the prowl.

The resourceful duo was not about to neglect the railroad’s interest in their venture, seeking to entice them by naming streets for the NH&D officials with as above, Morris Tyler.  How could you possibly have turned down a venture like that with your name on it?  Well, let’s see.  Several of the streets are not part of the New Haven Avenue corridor which is the street that ran alongside the track.  We know Marble, Ferry, Halliwell and Quintard but Atwater, Sperry, Butler and Harrison are not part of the Orange “fabric.”  Russell and Bradley were but Bradley became Racebrook Road.  Alas, poor Lewis lost his farm AND a street named for him.

A well-publicized auction was held on July 2, 1872 to sell the 1000 lots for the future “new” town with lots measuring 50’ x 150’.  Deeds found indicate a sale price of $250.00 with some buyers purchasing two adjacent lots.  One buyer is known to have bought seven lots with a New York purchaser buying 6.  A 7-car train left New Haven on the morning of July 2 full of anxious buyers returning to New Haven for another “load”.  History tells of folks on horseback, cart and on foot for this heralded event of a lifetime.  By July 3, 40 people had purchased their lots.  Without zoning regulations, it is found that single lot owners could live on half and sell or rent the other half.  As advertised, this was a great opportunity for the common man to buy a plot of land, in the country, live well and prosper.

Tyler City Station on New Haven Ave.

Now for Halliwell and Ferry, they built mansions, mansions as seen in a newspaper account with the cost of Halliwell’s a whopping $50,000.  Tyler City was nevertheless booming at the start on paper but the promoters, building a two-story train station at their own expense, didn’t ward off the inevitable.  It did boast a general store on New Haven Avenue owned by Charles Amesbury where he conducted the Tyler City post office in 1874.  The house still stands on the north side of the avenue.  Education did not take a back seat to the commercial side of the “city” as the pair donated two back-to-back lots for a school which today encompasses Our Lady of Sorrows Church.  Classes were held in one of the waiting rooms of the station until the school could be built and by 1874, classes were held in the newly built Fifth District School.

Although Tyler City did not have a great many commercial ventures, it could boast a few unique ones indeed.  The Sackett Mfg. Co. made sewing machines and accessories, Edward Russell ran his creamery in the basement of Sacket’s building, making and selling butter, the New England Tricycle and baby carriage company flourished for a spell and there was the company that made plaster of Paris ceiling decorations some of which were to be found in the Halliwell mansion.

In spite of the initial interest and manufacturing firms, the growth of the “city” stalled.  The lack of city water requiring the drilling of wells, by hand and some drainage problems to say nothing of the isolation held the future in check.  The trains which were stopping on a regular basis were limited to a morning to New Haven and an afternoon to Ansonia with others flagged down as needed.  Buyers began to renege on their payments and properties were returned to the sellers.  Ferry sold out to Halliwell.  When Halliwell died his wife, Jane inherited the property and she paid the Town of Orange for the school property after the 5 districts were melded into one in 1909 allowing her to sell the property to Christ Church in West Haven.  Part of her estate, south of the tracks on New Haven Avenue was sold to the Orange Hills Country Club ca 1922.

Longing for his home, Lewis Bradley purchased his home from The Tyler City group later in his life and his 1770 homestead is still standing today on Racebrook Road.  I wonder If the owners know the history of their house.  I should probably stop by and ask.  The 1930 telephone book lists a total of six residences in Tyler City with phone service but the post office only lasted until 1916.  Deeds written after 1921 list the property location as Tyler City.  That’s kinda neat to see that history written in a legal document.

There were some interesting side stories at Tyler City while others were sad.  In 1883, Thomas Callahan, a prisoner being transported from Waterbury to the county jail in New Haven, jumped off the train in 1883 but was recaptured, in 1884, a young Alexander Berry had a successful operation to straighten his bowed legs, in 1885 another factory, one that processed tallow for candles, burned...boy that was a hot fire, in 1889 a construction vehicle rammed the rear of a stopped train, telescoping a passenger car but injuring no one seriously, in 1892 a locomotive “stole” a baseball from a trackside game and the crew tossed it back on the return trip from Ansonia, in 1897 John Beck set out for the Klondike gold rush and in 1903 a horse named Tyler City crashed through the fence at the Orange Fair racetrack...BTW the fair grounds were across the street from today’s fair grounds and there was an extensive racetrack there.  So, I think I have fulfilled my promise to a few Tyler City Road residents to enlighten them on the history of the name of their street and hopefully a few more...until I get inspired again...TTFN

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