Documentation studies — a wealth of information about Connecticut’s historical properties

There are few sources as rich in information about the state’s historical properties as the Connecticut Historic Preservation Collection (CHPC).  While its architectural surveys for about two-thirds of Connecticut’s 169 towns and over 1800 archaeological surveys are worthy of discussion, the documentation studies will be the focus of attention in today’s blog post.

Former White Tower Restaurant at 123 East Main Street, Waterbury, Connecticut. Photograph taken by Geoffrey Rossano, 2001.

Documentation studies are generated when a federal or state-funded project has to take into account its affects on historical archeaological resources. The studies document the “before” structure or when changes in the structure mitigate adverse effects of changing or destroying the building. If the building is considered irreplaceable or very important historically then the State Historic Preservation Office decides whether or not to allow the project to proceed. 

White Tower Restaurant in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, ca. 1930 (as the Waterbury restaurant would have looked in its heyday)
Industrial historian Geoffrey Rossano conducted a historical overview and assessment of current conditions of the former White Tower Restaurant, built in 1935, in Waterbury, Connecticut, in August 2001.  The report gives extensive information not only about this particular property in Waterbury, but also shows how the property was significant to the formation of White Tower restaurants (a copycat from the more famous White Castle chain), and to the history of fast-food service in the United States.  The survey tells us about the history of the neighborhood of East Main Street, and how the structure, possibly the last surviving example in the U.S. when the study was done in 2001, was an example of  “the ‘kitschy’ vernacular commercial architecture that has appeared throughout the [20th] century.” 
My fellow librarian Norma Holmquist, who works at the UConn Waterbury campus library, verified for me that the old White Tower building at 123 East Main Street is no longer standing.  Thanks, Norma!  Located on that spot is the Coop bookstore for the UConn Waterbury campus library (that information is courtesy of Janet Swift, another Waterbury campus librarian — thanks, Janet!). 
This documentation study is just one of hundreds in the CHPC, with historical details about many properties that held a special place in their towns and cities across the state.  For more information about the contents of the collection, visit the listing at
Laura Smith, Curator for Business, Railroad and Labor Collection

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