The Waddingham Mansion:
Exactly Where was It?
The April 18, 1991 article in “The West Haven News,” p. 15, by the late City Historian Harriet North gets the Mansion’s location mostly right. The east boundary was First Avenue and the west boundary was what is now Fourth Avenue (then called Albert Street). Mrs. North is less precise on the Mansion’s actual location on the property, saying it “would be where the stores are now on Elm Street,” presumably the Elm Diner Shopping Center, only about 100’ back from Elm Street.
Steve Hildrich respectfully disagrees with Mrs. North that a mansion of this size would be built so close to the street when the property front on Elm Street must have been about 800’ (First Ave. to Fourth), and even more along First Ave. The entire property must have been at least 10 acres. Hildrich believes he can reasonably PROVE that it was nearly 500’ back from Elm. He will stand corrected only if someone can produce a photo of the mansion taken from Elm Street, showing it far closer.
The reason the 1894 City Directory gave the Mansion’s address as “Elm Street across from Third Ave.” is that the driveway to the Mansion began at what is now Third Avenue north of Elm. It must have curved around to the northeast, and ended in some form of circular drive, partly visible in the photo [herein] in front of the lower front stairs. This may sound like mere speculation, but it is not.
Fortunately, this photo of the Mansion includes what is believed to have been the “Carriage House” (or what Hildrich had been told, the “Ice House”), and THAT BUILDING STILL EXISTS. Across the street from the last house of the “brick row” is what is now called the “Foundry Apartments,” 670 Third Ave., which was once known as “The Factory” – Newton-New Haven Die-Casting, Hildrich recalls. The one-story sections of the apartments are later additions to the factory. However, the 2 and ½ story section is the carriage house. [In photo of Mansion, note the Carriage House to the left rear.]
If you go to see the building, notice the complex dental work along the roof line, showing very expensive construction, something unusual for a factory. Note also the two gables at the roof line: the smaller one is to the right, just as in the Mansion photo. The reason you cannot see the first floor of the carriage house in the photo is that, unlike today where this area is very flat, you will notice in the photo of the mansion, the ground around it is raised several feet above the level of the driveway.
The Historical Society’s Images of America volume on p. 47 has the same photo of the Mansion that includes the Carriage House, which by a complex method I’ll not describe here, I estimate between 205 feet to 265 feet from the west front corner of the Mansion. An ice house can be close to a Mansion; a carriage house has horses, which produce manure, something Hildrich assumes Mansion owners would prefer not to be close to – thus the distance.
To Be Continued