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The Day – The building of The Day grew with the newspaper

Inch by inch, the last of the linotype machines, stripped of its small parts, rose slowly with block and hoist until it reached the fourth floor. Then it was tossed inside through a window and back up into the composing room.

With that, The Day, then in its 27th year, was ready for a milestone: the following afternoon, it would be posting for the first time from its own home. As of August 13, 1907, the house was at 47 Main St., New London, a building erected by publisher Theodore Bodenwein with an eye to the future.

This future lasted a long time, but it could not last forever. With his circumstances altered by the internet and the COVID-19 pandemic, The Day plans to leave his 115-year-old home, although he maintains his commitment to downtown New London.

But the building, much larger than at the start, has a story to tell. Its century-long metamorphosis has followed the fortunes of the newspaper, growing with it and reflecting its mission.

In the place where we cover the news, from time to time, news would reach us. The building was the target of an anarchist bomb threat. Hurricanes crippled his presses. Civil rights protesters marched past its gates.

But over the last decade of digital transformation, it gradually emptied out until there was too much space to hold onto. Now, about to go up for sale, the place is more than a building: it’s an artifact of The Day’s history.

* * *

In its first quarter century, The Day bounced around New London, occupying three sites on Bank Street and one on Main Street. Most were inadequate, but in 1893 the paper moved to a spacious new building which it shared with the Boston Furniture Co., occupying two floors and the basement.

It was The Day’s best house so far, but Bodenwein, who had bought the newspaper two years earlier, thought his business needed its own premises.

“The Bank Street surroundings including a lumber yard in the back and a furniture store beside and above us gave me shivers every time the fire alarm sounded”, he later recalled.

Adding to his concerns, the owner asked if The Day would be willing to leave if Frank Munsey, the publisher of a national magazine, decided to move his business there.

“It definitely gave me a pot,” Bodenwein wrote. “Of course, nothing ever came of it, but it gave me some restless nights.” In Munsey’s brief flirtation with New London publishing, he erected his own building, which became the Mohican Hotel.

Bodenwein began looking, and in 1904 purchased the site of a confectionery wholesaler on Main Street. Architect Dudley St. Clair Donnelly designed a “fireproof” four-story building, with arched windows and terracotta lion heads on the facade.

The first stone was laid on July 2, 1906, the day of the 25th anniversary of the first edition of the newspaper. The structure then rose between a plumbing company and a paint shop. The builders did not remove a large boulder when digging the foundation, but instead poured concrete around it. It is still there, crossing the basement like the tip of an iceberg.

The “Day Building”, whose name is carved in stone above the door, became a symbol of the newspaper’s progress, and for a time a picture of it adorned the page’s bear. editorial.

In 1911, when the newspaper launched a campaign to raise $100,000 for the Connecticut College Foundation, the building took center stage. A huge clock face, two stories high, was placed on the facade to track the progress of the campaign. In the days before the radio, crowds gathered outside during championship boxing matches to hear Associated Press updates relayed by megaphone from the third-floor newsroom.

Just seven years after moving in, the newspaper outgrew the space, which included an office rented by a dentist. The press, which printed a maximum of 16 pages, was no longer sufficient, so the company purchased a larger press to double the paper size. A new press room was the first of many expansions, a 60ft by 40ft wing facing Bradley Street, one block behind.

With the addition, on the site of a tailor’s shop, a model began. As The Day grew, his building gradually absorbed the surrounding neighborhood.

* * *

As smoke filled the first-floor business office on December 14, 1921, Bodenwein’s fear of a fire seemed to come true. But the flames were nearby and staff evacuated as firefighters put out the blaze. Bodenwein turned the close call into an opportunity and purchased the damaged building. Other purchases followed, including the BP Learned Mission house on Bradley Street, then renamed North Bank Street.

In 1927 Bodenwein decided to turn its holdings into two major expansions. First, a seven-bay traffic garage at the mission site. Then a team demolished the building where the fire had started.

This paved the way for a complex construction project: a second four-storey Day building was built next to the first, and then the two were designed into a single structure.

Architect Edward L. Scholfield designed a new facade with input from Bodenwein. Made of buff brick and limestone, it faced the two buildings and subtly followed the curve of Main Street. Above the first-floor windows, gothic letters spelled out “The New London Day”.

On May 6, 1929, The Day welcomed 1,000 visitors to the marble-lined lobby when the building opened. Linotype operators inscribed people’s names in keepsake-like slugs, Bodenwein greeted everyone in his wood-panelled second-floor office, and the press churned out copies of an eight-page “New Home” section.

“It seems,” Bodenwein reflected, “as if … we had provided space and facilities for all the growth (and) expansion likely to occur over the next quarter century.” His prediction was correct.

* * *

When Elizabeth Bodenwein Miles sank a golden shovel into the ground of North Bank Street on February 27, 1960, it had been 31 years since the last expansion, just slightly longer than her late father had expected.

“I wish he could be here now to see the beginning of a new construction that he hoped would one day be necessitated by the growth of this region and this newspaper,” said Barnard L. Colby, who will soon be appointed editor, at the inauguration of the works.

Since 1929, The Day’s circulation and staff had doubled. The planned two-story annex, which displaced H. Marcus & Co. and a few other businesses, created space for a new press, a larger typesetting room, and improved circulation facilities. The former composition room on the fourth floor has become a modern newsroom.

At the time, New London was about to launch the Winthrop Urban Renewal Project, which radically changed the city. The Day supported the effort and benefited from it. When the wrecking ball leveled nearly every building on Main Street, The Day and the New London Savings Bank were the only survivors.

The company has reached an agreement to sell the former North Bank Street police station, which it used for storage, to the city. In return, the city widened the street, where the newspaper’s loading docks were located, and provided land for further construction.

“The Day’s expansion in partnership with redevelopment has transformed North Bank Street from an area congested with shops, vacant frame buildings, bars and brothels into a cleaner but desolate service road for the newspaper “, wrote Gregory N. Stone in his book “The Day”. Paper.”

In 1968, after the city evicted the newspaper’s neighbors, the Salvation Army and Bishop Studio, The Day built an advertising wing, with a parking lot in front.

Within the white brick wall was a 400-pound stone rendering of the New London City Seal which formed part of The Day’s logo. It had been salvaged from the police station as a relic of a neighborhood that, by then, The Day had entirely survived.

* * *

In the 1980s, The Day’s fortunes soared when the full effect of Bodenwein’s will, which established trust ownership of the newspaper, took effect with the death of his last heir. With new revenue, the company added staff until each newsroom desk was shared by two people. It was again time to expand the building.

One day in 1986, employees were surprised to see a demolition notice in the front window. But the building wasn’t falling, just the traffic garage. It was replaced with a four-story addition which included a new garage, mailroom, and space for a larger press room and executive offices.

Then came a three-story, 6,000-square-foot building on Eugene O’Neill Drive to house a new press capable of printing color photos. Finally, the parking lot in front was transformed into a park named in honor of the retired Colby.

“This fine young park now bears a fine old New England name,” said publisher Reid MacCluggage at the 1992 grand opening.

That’s where things were when the internet arrived, disrupting the business models of newspapers around the world, including The Day. Broadcast and advertising revenue began to decline, and cost reductions followed. In 2011, the company turned over its printing to the Providence Journal and closed the newsroom. The newer part of the building was suddenly obsolete. Elsewhere, empty desks were increasingly common.

When the pandemic subsided, The Day became a mobile phone company overnight. For 14 months the building sat empty, and it has been only lightly occupied since.

The newspaper is now looking forward to a new chapter in a new home. It’s an unexpected turn, but one person might not have been surprised. In his will, Bodenwein anticipated this possibility, but even earlier, in 1929, it was in his mind.

Although the building then seemed poised to serve the newspaper’s needs indefinitely, Bodenwein, ever a visionary, acknowledged that sooner or later “The Day may have to move again.”

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John Smith

The author John Smith