While other New England towns were razing their city centers in urban renewal efforts, Waterbury was preserving the architectural relics of the past. The city's 60-acre Hillside Historic District, listed on the National Register of Historic Places, includes 310 structures, many of them the carefully preserved Victorian homes of Waterbury's captains of industry. The Mattatuck Historic Society sponsors walking and bicycle tours of the area. Noted for its distinctive architecture, Waterbury maintains a set of Cass Gilbert municipal buildings, the old Union Station building with its 290-foot Italian Renaissance tower, and row upon row of carefully restored downtown storefronts.
The Railroad Museum of New England operates an excursion train between Waterbury and Thomaston. The train consists of historic, New England-related passenger and freight cars pulled by historic New Haven and Maine Central locomotives.
The city's elegant, 3,600-square-foot Palace Theatre is a major performing arts center for Waterbury. In addition to international artists and groups, the Palace is host to the Waterbury Symphony. The Symphony, a professional performing orchestra, is considered the region's best. The Waterbury Chorale, the Curtain Players, and Seven Angels Theatre Group also perform in the area. Other performing groups in the city include the Brass City Ballet, Shake-sperience Productions, Siena Symphony Orchestra, Silas Bronson Library Playreaders Theater, and the various artists at the St. John's Concert Series.
The exhibits at Waterbury's Mattatuck Museum include a chronicle of the brass industry, a Connecticut Artists Collection including portraits and contemporary paintings, and industrial and local history displays. The museum, housed in a modern building facing the historic Green, is operated by the Mattatuck Historical Society. The museum also houses a 300-seat performing arts center. The new Timexpo, the Timex Museum, tells the story of Timex, dating back to the 1850s.
Many of Waterbury's celebrations reveal the city's rich ethnic heritage. Two festivals—the Lady of Mount Carmel Festival in July and the San Donato Festa in August—celebrate the city's Italian heritage. Outdoor parks are the sites of the Fourth of July Celebration. Several music festivals are held throughout the spring and summer.
The Waterbury Spirit baseball team of the Northern League East played its games at Municipal Stadium until 2001. Currently, the stadium stands dormant. Waterbury residents cheer for a variety of sports teams from other nearby cities.
Golfers can enjoy 18-hole golf at two public courses in Waterbury: East Mountain Golf Course, with a par of 68, and Western Hills Golf Course, with a par of 72. Other facilities include numerous tennis courts, public swimming pools, and a municipal beach. Boating, water sports, and ice skating are all available on the city's many lakes and ponds.
A large downtown shopping area featuring brick sidewalks, gas lights, old-fashioned benches, and turn-of-the-century storefronts is supplemented by several plaza malls located throughout the city. The Connecticut Store on Bank Street provides products by Connecticut manufacturers, craftsmen, artists, and authors. Malls in nearby Middlebury, New Haven, and West Hartford, and the antique shops that abound in the area, provide more extensive shopping opportunities.
New England seafood and Italian cuisine are the staples of Waterbury restaurant menus. The Westside Lobster House, with its restored Hotel Elton Ballroom, is noted for its fish dishes. Veal and pizza are mainstays of Italian eateries such as Dioro's, Bacco's, and San Marino Restaurant.
Visitor Information: Waterbury Region Convention and Visitors Bureau, 21 Church Street, Waterbury, CT 06702; telephone (203)597-9527; fax (203)597-8452