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10 Facts about Waterbury, Connecticut

Updated on April 11, 2014
Waterbury, Connecticut
Waterbury, Connecticut | Source

Waterbury, a city in Connecticut, is located in New Haven county, 90 miles (145 km) northeast of New York City. Situated in the Naugatuck River valley, Waterbury is Connecticut's fifth-largest city in population -after Bridgeport, Hartford, Stamford, and New Haven. With hills of granite to the east and west, the city parallels the north-south course of the Naugatuck River. The Mad River flows through the eastern part of the city and then curves to the west, where it joins the Naugatuck. It is a metropolitan center of a 13-town region known as the Central Naugatuck Valley Region.

10 Facts about Waterbury:

1. The city's earliest industry began about 1750. Some 50 years later the first brass mill began operation. Soon Waterbury gained a worldwide reputation as a brass center. The foundries produced brass and bronze for further fabrication into sheets, rods, and tubing. The mills also processed aluminum, steel, and numerous alloys. By the 1970s the brass industry had declined -although Waterbury is still known as the "Brass City"- as technological innovations, federal regulations, and the use of plastics increased. Cheap watches also formerly were manufactured in great numbers, and the well-known Waterbury and "dollar" watches originated there. Goods other than brass include electrical equipment, computer components, machine tools, precision instruments, chemicals, rubber, and plastics. The Waterbury Button Company, in business for 200 years, manufactures buttons for America's top fashion designers, retailers, and all branches of the U.S. military.

Downtown Waterbury
Downtown Waterbury | Source

2. Educational institutions in Waterbury include public and parochial elementary and secondary schools. A well-known private school is Chase Collegiate School. Higher education facilities include Post University (1890), Naugatuck Valley Community College (a merger of Waterbury State Technical College and Mattatuck Community College), and a branch of the University of Connecticut.

3. Opportunity for informal education is provided by the Silas Bronson Public Library. The Mattatuck Museum is a treasure house of collections focusing on over three centuries of the heritage of the region and the master artists of Connecticut; it also houses a genealogical library and is run by the Mattatuck Historical Society.

Mattatuck Museum
Mattatuck Museum | Source

4. Waterbury's architecture is enhanced by several buildings by Cass Gilbert, a noted 20th-century architect whose work features a combination of white marble and red brick. Another red brick structure, the railroad station designed by the architects McKim, Mead, and White and completed in 1906, is particularly elegant. The renovation and restoration of the Palace Theater, which was closed in 1986, has transformed the 1920 historical landmark into a state-of-the-art facility.

5. Holy Land, a 17-acre (7-ha) hilltop site dominated by a 52-foot- (16-meter-) high cross that replaced the first 32-foot- (9.8-meter-) high cross in 1968, has attracted thousands of tourists, with its statues of the saints, representations of biblical events, and 200 miniature buildings that are meant to depict Jerusalem. Holy Land took 30 years to complete.

6. Known to the Indians as "Matetacoke" (land without trees), later contracted to Mattatuck, the site of the Waterbury settlement was first deeded by the Indians to Euramericans in 1657. The area in this deed later became a part of the Mattatuck grant, which was subsequently incorporated as a town in 1686 upon being separated from the town of Farmington.

7. The first settlement in 1674 was on a plateau at the top of a steep rise to the west of the Naugatuck River and was known as the Town Plot. The name Waterbury was chosen because of all the streams flowing into the Naugatuck. This settlement was abandoned in King Philip's War, and soon thereafter a new settlement was made, on the east side of the river, which became the present city of Waterbury.

8. For more than a century the town's growth was slow. In addition to the natural disadvantages of its location for a community dependent on agriculture, it underwent such calamities as the "great flood" of 1691 and the "great sickness" of 1712. In 1902 a disastrous fire practically wiped out the city's business section, and in 1955 a devastating flood caused severe property damage.

9. Owing to political and personal wrongdoings by two of its mayors, Waterbury had to deal with serious financial setbacks in the latter part of the 20th century. Years of corruption by the city's leaders and some of their staff had a negative impact on the city.

10. The government consists of a mayor and a board of aldermen. Incorporation as a city took place in 1853. From 1895 until 1960, when county government in Connecticut was abolished, Waterbury was one of two county seats of New Haven county.

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