2004 Season

Litchfield, CT -- Contact: Janet L. Serra For Immediate Release 860-567-4506 lhcvbnwct@aol.com One of Northwest Connecticut's best-kept secrets is the surprising city of Waterbury, a historic industrial center now in the midst of a downtown renaissance that includes the restoration of the grand Palace Theater. In the 1860s, Waterbury was known as the "Brass Capital of the World." and was a pioneer in America's clock and watch industry. While those original factories may be gone, they produced great wealth and equally great generosity. The community's industrialists have been responsible for buildings by some of America?s top architects past and present, as well as two excellent attractions, the Mattatuck Museum and the Timexpo Museum. Waterbury's stately downtown is graced by a railroad station by McKim, Mead and White and a municipal complex that is a showcase of the talents of Cass Gilbert, the architect of seven state capitals and the U.S. Supreme Court building. Five Gilbert buildings on the city's aptly named Grand Street comprise Waterbury's Historic District. A major redevelopment project to revive interest in the downtown is the addition of a branch of the University of Connecticut. The real jewel of the downtown renaissance is the 1922 Palace Theater. The pride of the Loews Movie Chain in the heyday of cinema showplaces, the Palace is once again palatial after a $30 million restoration, its mix of Baroque and Art Nouveau architecture as good as new. It reopened in November 2004 as a non-profit community arts center, with Tony Bennett performing before a packed house. Coming up in 2005 are stars like B.B. King, Savion Glover and Bill Cosby, and Broadway shows from Jesus Christ Superstar to Chicago to Fiddler on the Roof. Family entertainment and children?s productions will also be on the schedule. Top-notch evening entertainment is also a regular event at The Seven Angels Theatre, now in its 14th season of productions starring equity actors, drawing on the same talent pool as plays that appear on Broadway. With so much to see and do by day and by night, Waterbury makes for a great winter weekend. First stop for most visitors is the Mattatuck Museum, housed in a former Masonic temple with a striking modern addition by Cesar Pelli. The museum will please both history and art buffs. Exhibits begin with "Brass Roots," a lively recount of the town's early legacies. A second multi-media exhibit tells the story of African Americans in early Connecticut through the fortunes of one slave, Larry, who lived in Waterbury in the 1700s. Upstairs are galleries of art by illustrious painters who have worked in Connecticut, including early artists like John Trumbull and Frederic Church and later masters including Yves Tanguy, Alexander Calder and Arshile Gorky. One fascinating exhibit is a room displaying some ten thousand buttons, a donation of the Waterbury Companies, and successor to a company that has been making buttons in Waterbury since 1812. The Timexpo Museum is a colorful history of watch making sponsored by Timex, the successor to the original Waterbury Clock Company. In the 1850s, the company was the first to make timekeeping affordable for working class Americans with shelf and mantle clocks with mass-produced brass movements. Waterbury Watch, a sister company, manufactured the first inexpensive pocket watch, the first wristwatch, and the first Mickey Mouse clocks and watches. Renamed U.S. Time Corporation, in 1950 the company introduced the reliable inexpensive wristwatch called the Timex, which continues to innovate and is one of the world's best selling watches. A Time Tunnel leads to an unexpected Timexpo display, an exhibit based on the ancient mound cultures of North America. No one should miss a downtown walking tour of Waterbury to see the exceptional architecture on Grand, Bank, Elton and Church Streets, and Exchange Place. Stop for lunch or dinner at the atmospheric Dorio's, 231 Bank Street and you will be dining in a city landmark since 1927. To complete a tour of Waterbury's past, stay overnight at the historic House on the Hill Bed and Breakfast (203-757-9901), an 1888 Victorian in the Hillside District. You?ll be among the city's finest early homes, built by the brass, watch and button moguls of the city's glory days. For more information on special packages and a free copy of UNWIND, a 40-page color guide to lodging, dining and all the attractions in the area, write to the NORTHWEST CT Visitors Bureau, P.O. Box 968, Litchfield, CT 06759, call (860) 567-4506 or visit their web site at www.litchfieldhills.com.