Once known as Buttonwood Corner (after the sycamore tree that stood on the site until 1856), the intersection of State and Main streets was the heart of New London’s commercial district in the second half of the 19th century.  Throughout these decades, the area was transformed in extent and character.

Brandagee House

Brandagee House

 

 

Eager to locate businesses along this thriving commercial artery, entrepreneurs bought up and pulled down several of the gracious homes that had once graced the middle stretches of State Street.  At the same time, many of the wooden buildings that had housed New London’s businesses were replaced by large masonry commercial blocks.  Characterized by ground-floor shops sporting large plate-glass display windows, these blocks brought a new gentility to the shopping experience by separating delivery, storage, and bookkeeping functions from the spaces where customers examined goods.

Mariners Bank Facade

Glimpse of Mohican Hotel

 

Banks and hotels catering to “the better class” of travelers helped complete the  refinement of New London’s commercial core.

stereo-w-marble-block

Stereopticon

Bishop and Kenyon, photographers
American, Stereopticon, Public Library of New London

Taller and broader than even its three-story neighbors, Bacon’s Marble Block was further distinguished from those wooden and brick buildings by its classically-detailed marble façade.   Bacon operated a billiard hall in the building, offering “luxurious surroundings . . . genial companionship . . . and a fine stock of wines, liquors, and cigars” (according to an 1884 advertisement).

In the 1930s and 1940s, painter Beatrice Cuming lived and worked on the upper floors of Bacon’s Marble Block, often painting the vibrant street life she observed along State Street.

Located opposite Green Street (and visible on the 1850 map), the Brainard house was one of several substantial houses gracing the middle stretches of State Street in the early 19th century.  It stood close to the sidewalk, but used fencing, steps, and plantings to reinforce the boundary between the private space of the home and the public space of the street.  The house was torn down before 1868.

Post Office

Old City Hall

Also found on State and Main street were the Post Office and Old City Hall.

Celebrating Japanese Surrender on State Street