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Derby City


Derby City Hall is located at 1 Elizabeth Street, Derby CT 06418; phone: 203-736-1450.

Derby has one historic district (Birmingham Green) and five other properties listed on the National Register of Historic Places. These include: The John I. Howe House (Caroline Street), the Kraus Corset Factory (Roosevelt Drive at Third Street), Osbornedale (Hawthorne Avenue), the Sterling Opera House (Elizabeth Street at 4th Street) and the Harcourt Wood Memorial Library (Elizabeth Street).

Beginnings [1]

Derby was settled in 1651, named in 1675, and incorporated as a town in 1775. It extended some 10 miles up both sides of the Naugatuck River from its junction with the Housatonic River. Oxford was the first spin-off from this large area in 1798. Naugatuck and Beacon Falls were formed in part from Oxford. In 19th-century political and tax-related developments, Seymour and Ansonia were also divided from Derby, making Derby the smallest town in Connecticut, 55 square miles. The town became a city as well in 1893.

One of the events in this continuum of activity was the 19th-century development of the area in Derby called Birmingham by Sheldon Smith and Anson G. Phelps. Sheldon Smith (1791-1867), a Derby resident, owned land at the point where the Naugatuck and Housatonic Rivers come together, then called Smithville. He enlisted the cooperation of Anson G. Phelps (1781-1853), a Connecticut native who lived in New York City, to develop his holdings. Phelps already was interested in the area because he owned copper processing plants in the Naugatuck Valley which became a unit in the Phelps, Dodge Company. The area was in need of economic development because Derby had not recovered from the loss of the West Indies trade, which had brought prosperity to Derby, Hartford, and other river and coastal sea-trading centers in Connecticut until coming to an end in the years just before the War of 1812. Smith and Phelps' plan was to rescue Derby from the depression by encouraging participation in the industrial revolution, a pattern that was followed elsewhere in Connecticut as well.

  1. David F. Ransom, Consultant and John F. A. Herzan, Connecticut Historic Trust, Birmingham Green Historic District, Derby CT, nomination document, 1999, National Park Service, National Register of Historic Places, Washington, D.C.
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