Going back to the Mallory Hat Factory

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Are there any fans of A&E’s Storage Wars on TV? I am. It’s mindless entertainment, and pretty hilarious sometimes. (When rent is not paid on a storage locker for three months in California, the contents can be sold by an auctioneer as a single lot of items in the form of a cash-only auction— Wikipedia) I tried, as much as time would allow, to find a good link  to this episode of the reality tv show for you, but came up short. Maybe some of you can help.

Well, anyway, In Season 2, antiques collector Barry Weiss went through the storage locker he outbidded others for in Hollywood, CA and what did he find? A top hat. When the treasure hounds on this program aren’t sure of something’s worth, they approach the experts. Weiss found a local haberdashery and brought in his new (old) beaver top hat. The hat expert valued it at around $250, this mid-1800s hat getting  immediately traced, in all  probability, to Danbury and the flourishing hat industry of the day, saying that a great percentage of the world’s hats came from right here in Danbury, CT, and kinda went on and on about it. Cool. The factories are all gone, but products and references to Danbury’s very biggest claim to fame keep popping up all over the place.

An old Danbury hat makes it big in Hollywood

An old Danbury hat makes it big in Hollywood

I’m familiar with the grounds of the last hat factory standing because my first adult real estate holding was a condo in Danbury whose back porch looked onto the factory itself before it was razed in 1998. It was hardly picturesque but thankfully we had a buffer of some very nice old specimen trees running along our side of the Still River to create a more tasteful backdrop to many an unharried evening on that back porch in clement weather. But the mighty chimney with the letters M-A-L-L-O-R-Y stacked top to bottom towered over all that.

A crane is positioned to begin knocking down the smoke stack of the Mallory Hat Factory. (Photo by Carol Kaliff)

A crane is positioned to begin knocking down the smoke stack of the Mallory Hat Factory. (Photo by Carol Kaliff)

Having had a childhood that started in Manhattan, and a true metropolitan mom that never needed a driver’s license before, my siblings and I grew up accumstomed to walking places, near and far. Downtown Danbury was the closest thing we had to what we knew so we trekked there often. And even though I wasn’t aware that passing the Mallory Hat Factory to get downtown turned out to be something of a presage, there was always something alluring and mysterious about it to me.The factory was still operational when I was very young. The Stetson Company stopped its operations there around 1965. But the Mallory Back Shop didn’t entirely close until 1987.

The singlemost mysterious thing to me was that occasionally in a recessed area in the open air below street level on Rose Hill Ave. in the middle of town with a chain-link fence protecting it, you would see a dark brown horse standing there. It surprises me that nobody ever seemed to know why it was there. But many years later it was conjectured that it was used for print advertising. Most likely some young Burt Reynolds-type model would be photographed atop the horse displaying the latest in Stetson. But I never got to see any male models, then or from my back porch years later.

An aerial shot of more industrious days on Rose Hill Avenue.

An aerial shot of more industrious days on Rose Hill Avenue.

In 1998, after we had moved on, the city tore the building down, then-mayor Gene Eriquez considering it a blight upon the neighborhood.
Lots of people say they don’t remember anything about that horse. Anybody out there remember it besides me?

I found his pencil drawing by Joyce Geleynse for sale as a postcard on Zazzle.com

I found his pencil drawing by Joyce Geleynse for sale as a postcard on Zazzle.com

If you’re like me and you enjoy skipping down memory lane, check this out: http://www.memorylanecollection.com/Results.cfm?PageNum_Results=3&category=6&secondary=0&keywords=hat

Thanks for tuning in…

“I just want to live happily ever after, every now and then.” — Jimmy Buffet

Categories: General

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