Abandoned Tobacco Shed In Glastonbury To Be Preserved

GLASTONBURY — At the height of the tobacco growing industry in town, the shaded fields of the Consolidated Cigar Corp. covered more than 1,900 acres across north Glastonbury. Barn-red sheds where the huge tobacco leaves were dried originally numbered in the hundreds.

Today only pockets of tobacco farming exist in town. The once-rich tobacco growing fields have developed into commercial and industrial centers and housing developments. And the last shed of the Consolidated Cigar Corp. sits lost in time next to the tobacco company’s abandoned factory complex at 131 Oak St. and at the mercy of the New England elements.

But not for much longer. Jim Bennett, executive director of the Glastonbury Historical Society, has reached an agreement with Dan Delmastro, the shed’s owner, to dismantle the structure this fall and put it in storage. The shed will be reassembled next spring on the grounds of the society’s Welles Shipman Ward House at 972 Main St. in South Glastonbury, joining several restored barns and period structures including a three-hole tavern privy.

Earlier this month, the Connecticut Commission on Culture & Tourism’s Historic Preservation Council approved the society’s request to put the shed on the State Register of Historic Places. A portion of the shed’s roof has collapsed, but the pine board and post and beam structure constructed with pegs is in relatively good shape, Bennett said.

“It needs some TLC,” Bennett said. “We want to get it down and stored for the winter and then seek grants to help pay for its reconstruction. We have a good collection of barns going. Barns are always being threatened. When farms are broken up, they are too costly to maintain and no one wants to park a car in them. So they are taken down.”

Bennett said once the shed is rebuilt it will help store historic horse-drawn vehicles and the Glastonbury Fire Department’s second-oldest fire engine, which was restored recently. The move to the shed would help free up storage space in the other barns and society buildings.

According to Bennett, the tobacco firm first appeared in town about 1920, leasing land to grow broadleaf tobacco. By 1924 it built a warehouse on Hubbard Street to store and pack tobacco and eventually built its headquarter on Oak Street. In 1957 the plant was appraised at about $2 million, with CCC being the top taxpayer in Glastonbury for years, representing 7.5 percent of the grand list. By 1976 the company owned about 1,900 acres of tobacco land in town, but by 1982 had sold all but 200 acres.

Delmastro, owner of Aero-Med Ltd., used to work in the tobacco fields when he was young and said he was always getting offers to sell the wood from the old shed. He not only donated the shed, he gave money to help move it.

“When I heard the plan, I thought it was great,” he said. “When you hear how it was built you can understand its historical value. And working the fields as a kid growing up, you become very familiar with these sheds. I was glad to help save a piece of the past.”

Eventually the factory complex will be torn down to make room for a new regional magnet school, erasing all evidence that the Consolidated Cigar Co. existed. Except for a lone shed in storage.

“Glastonbury has been very pro-active when it comes to preserving its history and educating people about its past,” Bennett said. “This shed will do a little of both.”

Copyright © September 23, 2009 The Hartford Courant

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