Connecticut history buffs tend to take a lot of interest in Cromwell and why shouldn’t they? With two historic districts within 10 minutes of The Landon, there’s a lot to explore if you’re looking to immerse yourself in stories of the past. Here are three things to know about the history of Cromwell, CT.
THE ROSE KING OF AMERICA CHANGES CROMWELL FOREVER
It’s hard to say whether Andrew N. Pierson knew that when he established A. N. Pierson Inc. and planted a small floral nursery in Cromwell in the late 1800s that he would one day become The Rose King of America. But one thing is for sure. Pierson’s budding enterprise would not only become the largest commercial grower in the country, it would also change the fabric of Cromwell forever. It’s true that Pierson’s rose company brought prosperity to Cromwell but the labor force needed in order for A.N. Pierson to operate was what really made Cromwell what it is today. The mostly immigrant workforce brought shifts to the town’s demographics that are still very much a part of Cromwell today. Additionally, Pierson’s workforce played a major role in the architecture of Cromwell’s Main Street Historic District where the company bought houses from the J & E Stevens Company and converted them into homes for Pierson’s workers. Colonial Revival-style cottages also began cropping up in the early 1920s. These houses became part of what was called the “Holy City,” alluding to Pierson’s Russellite religion.
J & E STEVENS COMPANY’S CAST IRON TOYS
As the story goes, when John and Elisha Stevens founded the J & E Stevens Company in Cromwell in the early 1840s, the business plan centered around producing mostly cast iron hardware, and some additional toys. But when Cromwell boys and girls got their hands on the J & E Stevens toys, they soon became so popular that the company had to change their business model, producing a majority of toys instead of hardware in order to keep up with demand.
Eventually, J & E Stevens Company would become the largest manufacturer of cast iron toys in the entire country. Read more at ConnicticutHistory.org.
A PARISH IN MIDDLETOWN
When Cromwell was first settled in 1651, the area was originally part of Middletown and was referred to as the Upper Houses due to the fact that it was on the other side of the Mattabesset River, separating the land from the rest of Middletown. In 1703, residents of the Upper Houses would often need to cross the floodplains of the Mattabesset to reach the rest of Middletown. Seeing this as more than just an inconvenience, the Upper Houses formed their own parish. Churches, schools and homes in the Upper Houses were from this point on taxed by the parish rather than Middletown. Over 100 years later, in 1850, the town split from Middletown and chose the name Cromwell over other names like Upper Middletown, North Middletown, and Glenwood.