ARDIS ABBOTT and the Vernon Historical Society received a 1949 photograph of the Elm Tavern with the notation that it was in Talcottville, CT. Investigation found no record of such a tavern in Vernon. A query to SUSAN BARLOW and friends in Manchester resulted in locating an Elm Tavern, 277 Main Street, in Old Wethersfield. Investigation found the building is still in use, although many of the original features are missing. No connection to the Talcott family was found and the photo has been given to the Wethersfield Historical Society.
I thoroughly enjoyed the mystery and process of identifying the building. It was good fun and took me back to rediscovering Old Wethersfield where one part of my family, the Wickhams, lived from 1645-1730. Following is the history of the building, or at least a bit of it. Even though it has nothing to do with Vernon or Talcottville each building has a unique story to tell and its own unique character.
Click on photos for full size.
The Elm Tavern was located on the northeast corner of Main Street (formerly High Street) and Hartford Road(on some maps called Sandy Lane). The lot was part of the original street layout of Old Wethersfield. The first owner may have been ROBERT ABBOTT, who in 1641 is listed as having a house and barn at this site.
The site went through a number of owners and probably structures. In the early 1800's it appears to have been the home of JAMES FORTUNE, the son of CAPTAIN JUKE FORTUNE, who was involved in the shipping industry.
John Amidon's Store
|Circa 1895: Note front steps & covered passage in the rear.|
Source: Wethersfield Historical Society
Around 1865 the property was purchased by JOHN AMIDON (1817-1891), from James Fortune or his heirs. John was a native of Ashford, CT who came first to Hartford and then to Wethersfield. At the outbreak of the Civil War he moved to New York City where he acquired a competence as a manufacturer of umbrellas. On his return to Wethersfield he built and operated a grocery store, erecting a large building on the Corner of Main Street and Hartford Avenue, a prime location for a store. This is the structure that would become the Elm Tavern and still exists.
It was a large building with a spacious store on the first floor. The store level was above street level so there was a flight of stairs across the whole front of the building. The grocery store occupied about half of the building, for at the rear was a high covered passage for wagons. This passage was very convenient for the store, allowing wagons to be loaded and unloaded under cover. In the floor of the covered passage were scales for weighing the wagons. The rear of the store was on about the level of the wagon bodies, which was also a great labor saver.
In the northeast corner was a drug store, selling nothing but drugs. This was managed after Amidon's death in 1891 by a man named Walkley, while EDWARD DAMERY managed the grocery end, the firm being Walkley & Damery. They carried on a considerable trade which had been built up by Amidon, who had acquired an estimable reputation.
In the course of time, JERRY MCCARTY came into the firm and it became known as Damery & McCarthy. Jerry was very ambitious and soon acquired a large following of Irish Catholic customers. Unfortunately, this proved the undoing of the firm for many customers were accustomed to the old method by which purchases were entered on the books and paid at a later date, while a new method of doing business on a cash basis was coming into practice. Mr. Walkley died and the business was closed. Mr. Damery moved across the street and ran a small grocery without any help. Jerry McCarthy became a bookkeeper for a plumbing supply company in Hartford.
|1949: Note first floor not at street level.|
Source: C. Kummer
Several persons tried to carry on business in the old store, adding to the meat business, but with no success. Many Wethersfield people became employed in Hartford and patronized Hartford stores. Eventually the building was sold and altered; the broad front steps removed and the rear passageway boarded up. A lower floor was put in and the upper floors divided into apartments.
I'm not sure at what point it became the Elm Tavern. A note in the August 8, 1936 Hartford Courant says, "Elm Tavern, Main Street has resumed serving their delicious 30c meals and tasty sandwiches." From the 1949 photo the tower was still in place, but the front porch and steps had been removed.
From the February 4, 1947 Hartford Courant, "Elm Tavern Sale Pending: A notice of intention to sell the business of the Elm Tavern, 277 Main STreet, was filed Monday by its owner and proprietor MICHAEL T. BEHAN. According to the notice, the business fixtures, open stock and good will, will be sold for $1500 to PHILIP J. POWERS and JOHN F. TANCREDI, both of Hartford."
If the date of 1949 is correct on the photo the business continued to operate as a tavern.
The Building Today
At some point in the 1950's or 1960's the building may have been empty and allowed to deteriorate. The photo accompanying the 1974 article shows that the tower has been removed, probably suffering from water damage and windows have been replaced. Interestingly, the 1974 published photo is a printing error as the building is flipped horizontally. The correct orientation is shown below.
By 2010 the building has been cleaned up and modernized with stores on the first floor and apartments upstairs. For 2014 it has a fresh coat of paint matching the next door restaurant.
If the old building could talk, the stories it could tell.
|1974, Source: The Hartford Courant
||2010, Source: Google Street View
||2014, Source: J. Roe
1- "Our Wethersfield: The Way It Was At John Amidon's Store," by John C. Willard; Wethersfield Post, September 26, 1974.
2- History of Ancient Wethersfield, Volume I, p. 568.
3- Thanks to DICK JENKINS for finding the Hartford Courant articles that identified the location and history of the Elm Tavern.