THROWBACK THURSDAY: Yalesville — part of Wallingford, but different entirely

THROWBACK THURSDAY: Yalesville — part of Wallingford, but different entirely



reporter photo

Editor’s note: This story is part of a monthly series highlighting Wallingford history as the town approaches its 350th anniversary.

Despite its growth from a rural farming community into a populous residential area, Yalesville retains much of the character it had from the days of silver factories and one-room schoolhouses.

The village of Yalesville, founded in 1677 and formally named in 1808, continues to contribute to the growth and character of Wallingford. Several generations of the same family often live within blocks of each other. Many children attend the schools their parents did.

A Record-Journal story from 1984 summed it up: “Nothing seems to change the way Yalesville residents view their community: legally a part of Wallingford, but in the minds of those who live there, a different place entirely.”

Location

Yalesville lies in northwest Wallingford and was originally called First Falls, according to a history printed in the Record-Journal in 1933. The boundaries have blurred over time, but the core streets remain the same.

A 1936 map from town Engineering Department shows Yalesville as beginning by the Yalesville Square Trailer Park on Main Street and continuing north to Meriden. It’s bound by the railroad tracks and the beginning of the Tracy section on the east, and by Cheshire on the west.

Yalesville boasts its own branch library, post office, elementary school, funeral home, even a town green on Main and Chapel streets called Stanley P. Budleski Memorial Park.

Budleski, a native of Yalesville, was an Army Air Force lieutenant during World War II, who died in action on Dec. 20, 1943.

A marker was placed on the green on Nov. 11, 1949, near a memorial for those from Yalesville who served in World War I which was dedicated on Nov. 11, 1939. Both memorials were erected by the Yalesville Men’s Club.

The faith community is served by Baptist, Methodist, Episocial and Catholic churches, as well as a Jehovah’s Witnesses Kingdom Hall.

For all its character, Yalesville has lost some things along the way. The village formerly had a fire station, town hall, even its own Fourth of July and Memorial Day parades.

Founding

The land on which Yalesville now stands, like that of the rest of the Meriden-Wallingford area, was once home to the Mattabasett tribe. Planters from the New Haven Colony obtained the land in 1638.

Yalesville was founded on June 4, 1677, when residents voted at town meeting to build a mill for grinding corn at the Quinnipiac River falls, according to the 1933 report.

Jonathan Lothrop was the first miller and the town granted him 30 acres of land, thus making him the first citizen of Yalesville.

Yalesville was formally named in 1808 and owes its moniker to the manufacturing industry.

Charles D. Yale, once of Meriden, pioneered the production of pewter flatware and hollow tableware made of a composite metal — four parts lead, one part English block tin — known as Britannia. As business increased, the lead eventually was substituted.

Britannia’s silvery smooth appearance fit in with the silver factories prevalent in Meriden and Wallingford in the 1800s.

The Yales became the largest manufacturers in the country of an important line of Britannia hollow ware, which included such items as tea sets, as well as piano benches and coffee grinders.

Britannia products were manufactured in the building at Main and Church streets, owned by Charles Parker Co.

Britannia products were once manufactured in the building at Main and Church streets, as seen in this June 2001 file photo.

The multi-story brick structure, which also was used as an apple warehouse by the Barnes Apple Orchard, once housed the Parker Mill Shops complex and later the Britannia Spoon Co., which opened in 1981 as a restaurant and bar. In the 1990s, it became the Q River Grill. Today, it houses Westbrook Lobster.

Learning in Yalesville

In the early 1800s children as young as 3 years old attended a one-room schoolhouse at Hanover and Church streets, according to Record-Journal archives.

In 1837, the school district purchased a new location on Church Street and built a two-story wooden building. It was torn down to make way for the present, brick elementary school that was built on the same site in 1948.

Former Yalesville School, built in 1837 and torn down in the 1940s to make way for the current building.

Yalesville School closed in June 1987 due to building deterioration and declining enrollment. It was renovated as part of a $27 million project that expanded the town middle schools and reopened in September 1996.

The elementary school was renamed in 2017 to honor longtime state Rep. Mary G. Fritz, a Yalesville resident and former PTA president. While some people expressed concern the name change would diminish the village's identity and singularity, the transition to the new name was relatively seemless.

The Yalesville branch of the Wallingford Public Library, 400 Church St., was constructed in 1935. Its predecessor, the Yalesville Book Exchange, was established in 1918.

When then-Mayor Rocco Vumbaco cut the library budget request by 9 percent in 1977, the library board decided to move the children’s books to the Yalesville branch, and store duplicate Yalesville adult collection titles at the North Haven Library.

Judith Moore, part of the Wallingford Public Library circulation staff, returns a book to a shelf at the Yalesville branch, June 14, 2011. File photo

Patron use at the Yalesville branch dipped when the new main library opened in 1982, but changes to boost attendance saved the building from closure.

In 1983, the Yalesville branch reopened with an expanded, 15,000-volume collection but shortened open hours due to staffing problems, according to Record-Journal archives. Library hours—noon to 7 p.m. Tuesday and Thursday and 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday— have not changed significantly since.

Businesses

Yalesville is home to many well-known businesses. The BBQ Pit and Romano’s Pizza have come and gone, but others remain including the Corner Shoppe and Corner Cafe, the Yalesville Package Store, and Neil’s Donuts.

While the popular doughnut shop lies on the outskirts of Yalesville at 83 N. Turnpike Road, owner Neil Bukowski said Wednesday that it was the residents of Yalesville who patronized the shop when it first opened 18 years ago.

Neil Bukowski, owner of Neil's Donuts, talks about the popular business at 83 N. Turnpike Rd. in Wallingford, Tues., Nov. 19, 2019. Dave Zajac, Record-Journal

He said the separation of Wallingford and Yalesville used to be more prominent, with east-siders less willing to cross the railroad tracks and Route 5, but word-of-mouth and advertising spread and today people are drawn from all over.

The Yalesville Veterinary Hospital, 322 Church St. was opened in 1991 by Dr. Frank Kostolitz. The one-doctor practice has grown to a seven-doctor facility at its largest, with two renovations and expansion over the years.

Manager Kathy Grasso, of Higganum, said Wednesday that it’s important to keep a small-town, personal touch with clients as the neighborhood changes over time.

“We see a lot of the local residents,” she said, “and I don’t see a lot of change. I think it’s maintained its historical value. I think that people are just as comfortable.”

Landmarks

Pragemann Park, a 26-acre facility maintained by Wallingford Parks and Recreation on Oak Street, features baseball and softball fields with lights, a soccer field, basketball court, a pavilion, picnic tables, barbecue grills and a field house with restrooms.

Yalesville boasts two historic octagon houses, at 31 and 37 New Place St., both build in the 1850s.

A 19th century brownstone rail bridge spanning Route 150 is believed to be one of the first skew arch bridges built in the United States. The bridge is labeled as a skew arch because it meets Route 150 at 30 degrees, not a right angle.

A picture looking south at the Route 150 underpass in Yalesville from an undated postcard. Courtesy Wallingford Public Library

The bridge is perhaps best known for an accident involving one of America’s great sports heroes. On Oct. 2, 1920, then-25-year-old Babe Ruth collided with a truck while driving a new roadster, according to Record-Journal archives. Fortunately for the New York Yankees, who Ruth just completed his first season with, the Great Bambino left the crash unharmed and went on to hit another 611 home runs in his career.

The Meriden-Markham Airport property overlaps with the city of Meriden. The 137-acre airport on Evansville Avenue in Meriden runs into Hanover Street in Yalesville.

Most of the airfield is located in Yalesville, with the hangers and some of the main building in Meriden. The airport has been around since 1928.

“Yalesville is only a small piece of the Wallingford puzzle,” the Record-Journal wrote in 1995, “but without that piece the picture is incomplete.”

LTakores@record-journal.com

203-317-2212

Twitter: @LCTakores


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