August 18, 2022

Essex Historical Society – Life in a Village

In 1873/1874, Samuel Merrit Comstock built a store in the center of Ivoryton. The Ivoryton Store, later called Rose Brothers served as the anchor for the plan “of a village built around a factory and a factory around a village” (quote from Houses of Essex by Don Malcarne). The second floor of this structure was known as Comstock Hall where Company and social functions were held until 1911.

The Essex Historical Society held a program called “Life in a Village” on Wednesday, November 9, from 7-9 pm at Gather, the present name of the Ivoryton Store. The main speaker, Chris Pagliuco, spoke about “the transition of Ivoryton from a rural farming community to an industrial village in a larger economic, political and cultural context.”

Chris Pagliuco, Essex Town Historian, giving the presentation at Gather

Chris was recently named the Town Historian of Essex, which was originally comprised of three villages Centerbrook, Essex and Ivoryton. He contrasted the fundamental differences in the pace, routines and relationships of our daily lives with those of Ivoryton residents 130 years ago. He also paid tribute to the thoughtful planning Mr. Comstock gave to creating the industrial village of Ivoryton. He included “references to many of the features of the village still present today.”

Marie Negrelli, a resident of the area during the World War II era brought a personal perspective of the Ivoryton village. Marie told of “growing up in Ivoryton, sharing memories of Ivoryton Grammar School, Ivoryton Playhouse, Ivoryton Store, Pratt –Read, Clarks Pond and Jone’s Store.” She brought unique memorabilia and enlargements of her own postcard collection to share with the appreciative crowd. Marie credited Ivoryton Librarian, Robbie Storms with sharing historical documents to give insight to her memories. Marie frequently looked to her sisters Mary Lombardi and Joann Stone for confirmation of details. When Marie described the smell of sawdust or the thrill of skating on a frozen pond we actually felt those sensations. Some members of the audience added their stories and both old and young related to their comments.

Rose Brother’s Store and village gathering spot, as it was almost a century ago

The Ivoryton Store has changed in appearance, in owners and in services and goods offered. However, it represents a glorious example of the Industrial Revolution in the lower Connecticut River Valley. So we gathered with owner Deanna Pinette of Gather as she graciously opened 104 Main Street, Ivoryton after hours for a night of reminiscing.

Gather today. The building is practically unchanged from a century ago when it served as the location of the Rose Brother’s Store (photo by Jody Dole)