Dennis Shea - Part 2
by Pete Zizka
After losing a trial in which the city claimed that his building was in violation of an ordinance, entrepreneur Dennis Shea quickly appealed to the Superior Court. Shea had been represented by his son, James A. Shea. James had been admitted to the bar in November, 1902 and by January, 1903 was appointed to the Probate Court and a month later was named Deputy Judge of the Police Court. In the Superior Court trial, the case was nolled and Shea then completed his building. (Many people will remember that in the 50s and 60s, Shea’s new building was home to Terry’s Kiddie Shop while Hallocks Restaurant was in the building next door.) It wasn’t long after winning his case that Shea was once again embroiled in a controversy with yet another of his buildings on Main Street. In January, 1907, Shea decided to put an addition on his building at 766 Main Street in order to increase the floor space of the stores. The addition was proposed to run from the rear of his building to the railroad’s property. To do so, he found that he would need to use the entire width of his property. A problem appeared since the adjoining property, the Sadd Block, was partly on Shea’s property – a mere six inches in front but three feet in the back. Sadd had been paying Shea $40 a month for rent. But now, Shea demanded that Sadd move his building so that the Shea could proceed with his addition. Six months after Shea served notice, Sadd had done nothing and Shea was getting anxious to have his property cleared. Sadd noted that in order to comply, he would lose one tenant and cut off a corner of the building which, at that time, was occupied by the Remington Company. The corner of a barn belonging to another person would also have to have a corner cut off. Sadd eventually began the work of building a new wall for the west side of his building. Excavations for the wall had been made and the project had come to a point where Sadd was ready to take down the portion of the wall that extended onto Shea’s property. But, now a situation was found that would allow Sadd to take the “legal proceedings” into his own hands. It was found that while the Sadd building was on Shea property above ground, the Shea building was on Sadd’s property underground anywhere from four to eighteen inches. And so Sadd now hired a lawyer to serve notice on Shea that he (Shea) needed to move his building from Sadd’s property underground. Sadd listed twenty witnesses who had seen the evidence and said he was ready to start proceedings against Shea. Shea responded that he would move the underground wall if it was shown that it was on Sadd’s property. The outcome was that the suits were settled amicably and Sadd replaced a frame wall with a new masonry wall on the rear west portion of his building. Interestingly, what was, even into the 1960s, referred to as “The Sadd Block” was actually owned by Sadd’s father-in-law, Leander Freeman. After being engaged in several joint ventures, Truman R. Sadd joined with Freeman in a joint stock business with Mr. Freeman as President. Sadd conducted the business until 1914 when the building was sold to the F.W. Woolworth Company and 760 became home to the “Five and Ten’s” first Willimantic location. Dennis Shea, in the meantime, had acquired another saloon and was still referred to as one of the wealthiest men in the city. In 1912, he moved his family back to Willlimantic after purchasing what was known as “The John M. Hall estate” at 125 Windham Road. Hall had been the president of the New York, New Haven and Hartford Railroad and became a judge on the states Superior Court. The residence was considered to be “one of the finest in the city…It is a beautiful building with excellent surroundings”. Dennis Shea had come to Willimantic in 1854 after serving in the Navy during the Civil War. He died in his Windham Road mansion in 1930. At his funeral Mass in Saint Joseph’s Church, his casket was draped with the American Flag and his pallbearers were the city’s leading Irishmen. Today’s photo was taken during a 1949 fire in the Sadd Block (left, occupied at that time by Sears and the J.F. Carr Company). The fire ruined the third floor of the Sadd Block, caused water damage to second floor apartments, and affected the first floor businesses The Shea building is on the right and was occupied by Southward Real Estate, Lewis Insurance and, on the ground floor, Sweeney’s Stationery).

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