The early roads- Lucy, Merritt, Manilla, Mettler, Landin

LUCY STREET

 toddler on lucy st. 1943

Lucy Street is probably the busiest quarter mile street in Woodbridge. Most likely, it originated before 1800 as a connector between Amity Road and Straits Turnpike (at that time Litchfield Turnpike was known as Straits Turnpike, and in 1810, the road to Litchfield was completed and was renamed Litchfield Turnpike).

A plot map in the town records titled, “Pleasant View Terrace”, and dated 1907, shows ninety-four parcels of land each with twenty-five foot frontage for sale on both sides of Lucy Street from Amity Road to Litchfield Turnpike and across to the west bank of the West River. The plots along Litchfield Turnpike extend one hundred feet north and one hundred feet south of Lucy Street, and they all had depths of one hundred feet to one hundred twenty-five feet. When the map was drawn up, there were several parcels already sold including eight along Lucy Street to the town of Woodbridge for the proposed Warner School. Other parcel owners were Mr. (first name) Facin (eight parcels), Joseph Longo (two parcels), Mr. (first name) DeMattie (two parcels), Frank Perrotti (four parcels), and Mr. (first name) Muzzi (about twenty-five parcels) along the south side of Lucy Street. The plot map names Paul Russo as the owner and proposed developer of the parcels. The map title, “Pleasant View Terrace” is puzzling, as The Flats have no terraces in that area, although, the view is pleasant!

perroti bros with truck

These are things I remember about Lucy Street in the late fifties. Patsy and Bessie Russo’s butcher store on the corner of Lucy and Litchfield. Across the street was the Woodbridge tavern operated by Shrimp Testa (this building still stands). Across Lucy Street from Patsy’s store was a seasonal vegetable stand run by Roger and Teresa DiLisio, where the present day cleaners now stands. In 1960, when John F. Kennedy was running for president, his motorcade made a spontaneous stop at Roger’s stand on its way to New Haven. Kennedy bought a basket of apples for five dollars (the actual price was two dollars). A crowd was assembled at the intersection of Lucy and Litchfield in anticipation of seeing the motorcade pass by. No one expected it to stop.

Continuing down Lucy Street, Albino Bucceri operated a butcher shop nearly midway down Lucy Street, and the Fasulo’s penny candy store was across the street. Next memory is of William H. Warner School (more on this subject later). At the end of Lucy Street, on the north corner of Amity Road, was (first name) Paluzzi’s store. It was a two or three story house with a store front which had very large windows and they sold candy and dry goods. One night during the depression, there was a robbery committed at the store’s gasoline pumps by two men in a black sedan with New York license plates. They shot and killed the store owner’s son, who was Tony Mastromarino’s best friend. Tony told me of this incident occasionally.

Finally, I remember a large field of assorted nursery stock, mostly evergreens, extending from the south corner of Lucy and Amity and encompassing all of the present day Crest Lincoln dealership. These shrubs were grown by Frank Perrotti, Sr., and were all dug and sold in one season to make way for Voloshin Cadillac.two men at farm

MANILA AND MERRITT AVENUES

In July 1899, Jacob Wilber (Wilbur?) of Everell (Everett?), Massachusetts, received from Cornelius Pierpont of New Haven, for the token sum of one dollar, the tract of land which lies from the Hamden-Woodbridge town line (atop West Rock), west to within two feet of the West River, north bordering the Hemingway property (West River field), and south bordering property owned by the Miller brothers, Frederick and Joseph, owners of Miller’s Grove.

In August of 1899, for another dollar, Jacob Wilber took ownership from Cornelius Pierpont of a narrow strip of land between the West River and Litchfield Turnpike near the present day entry to Merritt Avenue. This allowed his property road frontage along Litchfield Turnpike.

merrit ave 1942

Shortly after, Jacob Wilber laid out Merritt and Manila Avenues as access roads to his proposed development which he named “Westville Park.” Building lots were available on both avenues, but it wasn’t until 1909 that the first house was built. Five year later, in 1914, Francis Martino, aided by his son Italo, built a handsome two-story home out of fieldstone on Merritt Avenue, which still stands, is still handsome, and still has descendants living there. By the time I’m finished writing this collection of memories, the house will be one hundred years old.

Italo Martino’s interest in radio transmission began in 1909, at age fifteen as an amateur. By 1922, he had an electrical contractor’s license. In 1923, he joined Franklin Doolittle’s Radio Manufacturing Company in New Haven. At that time, Doolittle operated Radio Station WPAG. Those call letters were changed to WDRC in 1925. Mr. Martino was crucial to the construction and operation of Connecticut’s first FM Radio Station in 1939, and in 1941, his efforts resulted in the FCC issuing a regular broadcast license as WDRC-FM. Those call letters are still in use today.

Today, The Flats would be part of New Haven if it weren’t for Italo Martino! In 1931, the Woodbridge Board of Selectmen, led by First Selectman Clarence Baldwin, strongly proposed the annexation of The Flats to New Haven without any consent of the residents of this district. An article in the New Haven Register quotes Mr. Martino, Grand Juror and Leader of the nearly five hundred Italian residents of the section of the nearly five hundred Italian residents of the section, “the move for divorcement of The Flats section of Woodbridge has not originated among, nor is it approved by the people who are going to be affected by it.” “The section that the town seeks to get rid of is occupied almost entirely by persons of Italian extraction. It has been told to me that those who favor the divorcement plan desire to get rid of the people of my race as citizens because they fear we will run the town.” “The move is purely political.” Selectman Baldwin stated reasons for annexation (in the same article). “I am certain that the best interests of the persons living in the William H. Warner School district would be served by their becoming a part of New Haven. The construction of a sewer system would be necessary in Woodbridge if the district remains with the town. Therefore, if Woodbridge had to build a sewage disposal plant, it would have to be done in the lowest part of the town, and that is in the district in question.” Selectman Baldwin denied “that the move was actuated by politics” and that “democrats and republicans were side by side to accomplish it.” (Bi-partisanship for the ouster of The Flats?) Mr. Martino responded, “We ask for none of the improvements Mr. Baldwin has said we might enjoy if we became part of the city of New Haven. We only ask for equal rights and benefits with the rest of the taxpayers and electors of the town.”

Through Italo Martino’s persistence, The Flats is now still part of the original town boundaries as were set in 1784 when we became a town. I can’t imagine what The Flats would be like today if the annexation came to pass eighty years ago.

 

—METTLER STREET—

By 1910, Amity Road was still unpaved as it passed through the Flats. At that time it was shown as John Street on a plot map dated from that year. Mettler and Landin Streets appear on the same plot map and were also unpaved.

Mettler Street was named after Christine Mettler, who lived on the corner of Amity Road (John Street) and her namesake street in 1910. Although she owned several lots on Mettler Street, she purchased eight more parcels in 1912 from Minnie Goodrich of Norwalk with the stipulation that “no liquor sales be allowed on said property, and no houses to be built costing less than one thousand dollars.” She purchased most of the remaining parcels from Charles A. Warner in 1918. When the town of Woodbridge paved the streets in the area in the early 1920’s, Mettler Street became a town road and was officially named.

cropped-mettler-st-woodbridge-1948-cropped.jpg

View of Mettler Street taken from Warner School playground 1948 – Mettler Street was just a dirt road between the school yard and the farms.

warner-school-demo-woodbridge-1985

Warner School demo as seen across from 19 Mettler. The oak tree is still alive and in the courtyard of the current senior housing at this location.

—LANDIN STREET—

 

In July, 1911, a plot map entitled “First Section Valley View-Woodbridge, Ct.” was prepared by W.J. Wood for George and Estella Landin for whom Landin Street was already named. The plot mapping encompassed Selden Street and Hazel Terrace along with the property where the Amity Bowling Lanes and Peoples Bank now stand. Five parcels were proposed for dwellings on the up slopes of Selden Street and Hazel Terrace providing a “valley view.”

At that time, Selden Street could be accessed from Amity Rd. via Book Street which was directly across from Landin Street and was a steep hill. Atop the hill, a sharp left bend would bring the traveler south to June Street.

Selden Street and Hazel Terrace were also unpaved back then and another plot map dated August, 1912 names both as “private ways.” When they were paved along with Mettler and Landin Streets, they were officially named and became town maintained roads. Book Street has since vanished.

That same plot map from 1912 shows a curious jag on Landin Street, occurring about two hundred feet from it’s intersection with Litchfield Turnpike. At that point it was necessary to turn left (North) for about forty feet and then turn right (East) through what is now the Assumption Church parking lot to continue to Litchfield Turnpike. When Landin Street was finally made straight in the 1940’s, the elbow shaped old road still remained as a by-pass until 1962. At that time the Assumption Church purchased the property for the priest’s house and a parking area, and the by-pass was paved over. I remember it as being lined with Choke Cherry trees which would stain the road surface purple in August and September.