Eponymous Lydallville
by Susan Barlow, Manchester Historical Society

Henry Lydall (1831-1907) lent his name to Lydall Street, Lydall Brook, and Lydallville, a section of northeast Manchester still found on contemporary Google maps, although Mr. Lydall is long gone. Lydallville, like Buckland and Hilliardville, was eponymous, that is, the place takes its name from a person's name.

As manufacturing centers, many of these villages had their own store, one-room schoolhouse, and company houses. Cheeneyville, as it's spelled phonetically on the old maps, was the biggest of these in Manchester around the turn of the last century.

But Lydallville, though small, was an example of entrepreneurship and, in my opinion, some daring, back in the days when industrialists took big risks to build new industries, sometimes unrelated to their field of expertise. Henry Lydall moved from one industry to another, and from various areas of Connecticut to others.

Needles

Henry Lydall was well-known as a paper manufacturer when he died, but he had come to Manchester from New Britain in the 1860s, and began the manufacture of knitting-machine needles in a factory near the intersection of today's Lydall and Vernon Streets. That seems a big change from wire specialties to paper.

"Associated with him was his nephew, William Foulds [1846-1941], who had been engaged in the same business in England. At one time their output was 50,000 needles daily," according to Spiess and Bidwell's 1923 "History of Manchester," a well-thumbed book on any local historian's desk (also available at the public libraries or for sale online).

The needle business carried on, and in 1910 moved to the top floor of the former Carlyle Johnson company on Main Street, just north of St. Bridget Church. Needle-manufacturing no longer needed water power from the fast-moving Lydall Brook.

Eventually the needle operation itself was bought by the Torrington Company and later became a part of Ingersoll Rand. The factory building in Lydallville was sold in 1915 to Annulli Brothers, who intended to use the plant for the manufacture of concrete blocks.

Paper and Water

But Henry Lydall and his nephew had branched out into the paper manufacturing business. They built a mill at Parker Village, near the current intersection of Colonial Road and Parker Street, not far from Mather Street. The plant was "enlarged on several occasions and is now one of the town's foremost paper mills," according to Lydall's November 25, 1907 obituary in The Hartford Courant. "The plant here could not meet all the demands that was made upon it and they started a mill in Versailles [in eastern Connecticut, northeast of Norwich], which is known as the Lydall & Foulds Eastern Straw Board Company. Mr. Lydall was also largely interested in the Manchester Water Company, which supplies water to the North End. His wife died about ten years ago and since that time he has made his home with his son, Willis J. Lydall..." Other kin were E.A. Lydall, Walter E. Lydall, Charles Lydall, and Mrs. Hiram (Lydall) Oldershaw of New Britain.

The Manchester Water Company was incorporated by an act of the General Assembly in 1889. Its principals were Henry Lydall, William Foulds, Henry H. White, William H. Childs, C. Wells Keeney, and Arthur J. Straw. The company had one reservoir Risley Reservoir in Vernon, a pond that is still there on Lake Street near its intersection with Lydall Street. The enterprise supplied water to 3,500 people in the North End. It was also a source of protection against fire not that reservoirs could prevent fires, and paper mills were always at risk. In fact, during April, 1900, the Lydall & Foulds plant in Parkerville burned to the ground. A huge blaze, caused by burning brush, resulted in a loss of about $35,000. According to The Hartford Courant, "Sparks were carried by the wind to woods a half mile away ... the half dozen houses, all owned by the company, were threatened and it looked at one time as if the entire village would be wiped out." Fortunately, the village survived and no one was killed.

After Henry Lydall's death, the company continued to expand under William Foulds, who in 1923 was the active head of three paper companies: The Lydall & Foulds Paper Company, The William Foulds Company, and The Colonial Board Company. The three mills, according to Spiess and Bidwell, were located "in Parker Village, where about fifty years ago a mill was operated by Salter & Strong. The products manufactured are paperbox board, leather board and binder board. The total number of employees in the three mills when in full operation is 175. The combined daily capacity (twenty-four hours) is forty-one tons."

Years of Paper and Innovation

For many decades Colonial Board prospered, and in 1963, it became publicly traded. In 1969, Colonial Board merged with another company to form Lydall, Inc.

Lydall continued its mergers and acquisitions, and in 1977 was listed on the American Stock Exchange, with plants in New Hampshire and North Carolina. In the 1980s and 1990s, Lydall added operations in New York, Vermont, and France, and was listed on the New York Stock Exchange.

In 2001, the paper mill closed, not having been profitable in years, according to a Courant article, which also said that the aging facility needed expensive improvements that couldn't be afforded. There are still many handsome brick buildings there.

Lydall Today

Today, Lydall still has a presence in the Parker Street area of Manchester, although now it's the corporate headquarters of a global company that supplies "technologically advanced products for demanding specialty applications. Lydall's engineered products solve critical thermal and acoustical problems and meet sophisticated filtration and separation needs," according to the company website www.lydall.com.

Lydall's 1,400 employees serve customers via production operations in the United States, France, and Germany, and it has sales offices in the United States, Europe, and Asia.

Lydallville Today

When you visit Lydallville today, you will find neither needle factories nor paper mills, but you can still cross the fast-moving Lydall Brook, and you will still see several fine vintage homes. My favorite of the many charming houses is the old Lydall mansion, a delightful and spacious Victorian built in 1869 at the corner of Lydall and Vernon Streets.


A Note on the "Bird's Eye" Map and the Carlyle Johnson Machine Co. Images

To see the map and building online, go to memory.loc.gov/ammem/browse/ and type into the search box: Map Manchester. From there, you can select the 1914 aero view. This Library of Congress web site offers zooming capabilities on its maps. The old-style birds-eye-view maps were drawn by artists.