As soon as I landed a job at the Republican-American newspaper, I knew I had to shoot a vintage engagement in this space.
The third floor of the iconic news building in Waterbury, Connecticut has been abandoned for decades.
Gorgeous light pours in from large, dusty windows, illuminating old typewriters and office desks.
The building itself is a local landmark, once the city’s Union Station. It was built in 1909 to service the New York, New Haven and Hartford Railroad. It is graced with a 240-foot brick clock tower modeled after the Torre de Mangia on the Palazzo Pubblico in Siena Italy. The tower can be seen from the highway for miles.
The newspaper was founded in 1844 and the Pape family purchased the building in 1952 to house their newspaper business, which had grown from a four-page weekly to a daily with morning and afternoon editions.
The newsroom where I work on the floor below is still bustling, though like most newspapers, the staff has shrunk over the years.
I’m not sure when the third floor was abandoned, but it must have been soon after computer replaced typewriters and digital images replaced dark rooms. The floor remains a time capsule, stuffed with old Rolodexes, cash registers and filing cabinets. Metal photographic plates lie in piles on the floor and copies of old papers are stacked on tables.
Articles from the 1930s feature columns like “The Social Realm” and a section called “Short Skirts” featuring cartoon images of women in knee-length pencil skirts. My favorite column, published in the late 1920s, is called “From a Flapper’s Notebook.”
Society gossip is at its best in one engagement announcement, which reads, “After a three-day courtship, Constance Almy, dancer at the Silver Slipper Club in Miami, Fla, is engaged to Stanley Comstock, wealthy Detroiter, who has been reported as the latest fiancé of Peggy Hopkins Joyce. Smiles are Miss Almy’s and Comstock’s reply here concerning his former wife’s charges that his divorce was illegally obtained.” The blurb is titled, “Beating Peggy to It.”
It’s so deliciously salacious; You can’t make this stuff up.
Another column, “London Gossip,” brings us the important news that “five royal courts, not four, may be held this year.”
A serial story entitled “Rash Romance!” also ran in the paper.
The ads from the era are filled with “charming modes.” Borrowing the French word for fashion made them feel more sophisticated, I’m sure.
Browsing the old ads is a fashion lover’s paradise.
Men’s suits from Joseph’s on Bank Street are advertised for $34 (add a topcoat for $17.50, regularly $35!) You can get the season’s new handbags for 50 cents! Butlers is offering “fashionable spring silk frocks for $14.95”
Howard-Hughes, “Waterbury’s friendly department store” offers peasant dirndl skirts for $3.88 to $4.98 and sheer blouses for $3.98. “A wisp of a blouse with off the shoulder or square necklines, brief sleeves, velvet drawstrings. Sizes 32 to 38.”
All that style and frivolity is tinged with a hint of danger as everyday people struggled through the Great Depression. “Al Capone is Home Again” is the headline on one article.
In many ways, the era was similar to today as people seek to escape in a fantasy world of glitz and glam while struggling to put food on the table at home.
All this was the tableau Andrea and Christian’s engagement shoot, in this space where news was made. Their own apartment, where they love to entertain friends and ply them with homemade nibbles, was built in 1900 and features creepy wooden gargoyles in the corners.
We borrowed vintage clothing from the Little Black Dress Vintage in Naugatuck. Andrea Zola, who owns MBD Beauty, did her own makeup and Lolly Nicol of Glamour Art by Lolly changed up her hair between outfits.
Thanks to a fantastic team for such a great shoot!